The Chair of Conference, Professor Jonathan Rigg (University of Durham), has introduced the theme of the conference and the overlapping areas of debate for delegates.
New geographical frontiers
The conference theme in 2013 is ‘New geographical frontiers’. This is one of those labels that is fairly open and can, therefore, be interpreted in a variety of ways. The frontier can be employed as a concept, a metaphor or as a point of empirical focus – and while it is a classic geographical preoccupation that has rightly been problematised, it should still command our attention. There is a set of underpinning questions which can be seen to come, loosely, under the rubric of ‘new geographical frontiers’: Where are the frontiers in geographical theory and methods and what contributions and innovations is geography making to wider debates and practices? Have we fully come to terms with the continuing call to think and research in inter-disciplinary ways, and can geography play a leading role in that initiative? What is geography’s impact and how can we further promote the role and place of geography in society and economy? Where are we, collectively, making a contribution but, equally importantly, where should we be making a contribution?
These questions relate to three, over-lapping areas of debate. First of all, to how we theorise (think) and practice (do) our geography. Occasionally gradual, incremental change can hide from view quite fundamental transformations in methodological approach or conceptual framing. The second area of debate concerns geography’s contribution to addressing the challenges that humanity faces, from climate change to international development. And third, these questions highlight the possibility, perhaps the need, to go beyond disciplinary boundaries and geographical frontiers to research new topics in innovative ways.