Following on from the enlivening chair’s opening session, day two of the conference continued strongly with a further 229 sessions held across 29 stages.
Today marked the start of the journal and publisher sponsored sessions, with the RGS-IBG book series holding their meet the editor’s session, and Area, holding the first of its three sponsored sessions on working with the spoken word. Antipode also held their annual lecture, Taking Renewables to Market: Prospects for the After-Subsidy Energy Transition delivered by Brett Christophers. Alongside this there were sessions by publishers, Wiley, on Getting published in academic journals: Wiley’s tools and resources for authors, and from Bristol University Press, on Bristol University Press: Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities.
The first of today’s plenary sessions was chaired by Parvati Raghuram and where Johny Pitts delivered his talk, The B-side: Slowness and the subaltern. The talk itself was something of a ‘bricolage’ and centred around two concepts. The first was Afropeanism, a concept that Johny’s work has examined for some time and is used to capture the hybrid identities that emerge for Black Europeans of African descent. The second was the B-side which is meant to capture the vernacular experiences of life, particularly for Black people in Europe, which are otherwise hidden from mainstream presentation of place and identity. The B-side is also a mode of survival, through which Black culture carries on, despite the repeated attempts to erase, or cancel it over the last few centuries. The B-side is powerful because it can’t be faked. It’s real. It’s not a veneer. It’s authentic. As Johny said, “We can’t pretend something is B-Side when it isn’t.”
The B-side can help transform the A-side into something that is more caring and more nurturing, but the key is not to turn the B-side into the A-side. The B-side itself is a bricolage – it can be kitsch and counterintuitive. It is “built from the rubble of empires and the backwash of capitalism.” Together then, Afropeanism and the B-side are about finding a way to celebrate blackness in Europe, and creating a trajectory that does not separate Blackness for other identities and cultures, but draws them closer together. The talk ended by Johny showing a short film that captured both Afropeanism and the B-side.
Johny’s talk was hugely well received both in the audience, and online:
Moving, provocative & prescient stuff on the ‘B-side’, slowness, shadows, & the subaltern from the fantastic @johnypitts this afternoon. Great @RGS_IBG plenary, & so good to hear this in person. Wonderfully chaired by @ParvatiRaghuram #RGSIBG2021 pic.twitter.com/5oHLnKuitr— Tariq Jazeel (@rikjaz) September 1, 2021
Moving, provocative & prescient stuff on the ‘B-side’, slowness, shadows, & the subaltern from the fantastic @johnypitts this afternoon. Great @RGS_IBG plenary, & so good to hear this in person. Wonderfully chaired by @ParvatiRaghuram #RGSIBG2021 pic.twitter.com/5oHLnKuitr
B-side photography and bricolage - fantastic exploration of the simultaneous shakiness and power of the flip-side in this plenary from @johnypitts @RGS_IBG #RGSIBG2021 pic.twitter.com/N7nO478nRD— Pip Thornton (@Pip__T) September 1, 2021
B-side photography and bricolage - fantastic exploration of the simultaneous shakiness and power of the flip-side in this plenary from @johnypitts @RGS_IBG #RGSIBG2021 pic.twitter.com/N7nO478nRD
Other attendees have also taken to social media to share their experiences of their first time at our conference:
This is my first time attending the @RGS_IBG conference and I have to ask - has it always been so cool? 🤨— Ariadne Collins (@YolandaAriadne) September 1, 2021
This is my first time attending the @RGS_IBG conference and I have to ask - has it always been so cool? 🤨
Really enjoying attending my first @RGS_IBG conference (online) and the vast variety of amazing research being discussed #RGSIBG21— Christina Harrison (@KewEditor) September 1, 2021
Really enjoying attending my first @RGS_IBG conference (online) and the vast variety of amazing research being discussed #RGSIBG21
The afternoon’s highlights included a session from the team behind Stay Home Stories, which saw five speakers come together to discuss various aspects of life under lockdown. The afternoon also saw a roundtable, organised by Pat Noxolo, on supervising Black PhD Students, and the author meets critics session for Ashok Kumar’s Monopsony Capitalism: Power and Production in the Twilight of the Sweatshop Age, all of which touched on important, if very diverse, issues.
The second keynote, chaired by Nina Laurie, was by Alison Mountz titled, Asylum’s afterlives. Alison’s talk started with a reflection on the current moment in Afghanistan, and the ways in which geopolitical forces interplay with the processes of creation and resettlement of refugees. From here, she talked more generally about the numbers of people displaced - 82.4 million people globally. Yet countries in the Global North are becoming more restrictive in their resettlement programmes, leaving more refugees proportionally in the Global South. In this context, borders, both land and sea, have become increasingly politicised.
Alison then talked through the ways in which asylum and asylum detention emerged. This was a process that began with islands, and the movement of boats, which in turn helped to develop the methods through which the US and others sought to deal with asylum seekers. This was a process driven by racialised notions and anti-Black racist attitudes. Haitians for instance were framed as ‘economic migrants’ rather than asylum seekers, and faced significant inequality and hardship when they sought asylum in the US. Asylum seekers were therefore sought to be kept away from US shores, with the most famous example of this being Guantanamo Bay
And from here, these kinds of asylum deterrence policies have spread throughout the world, including on Christmas Island (Australia) and in the Pacific Islands (USA), on Gibraltar and Ascension Island (UK). This shows the ways in which asylum policies have themselves migrated. Through these processes, asylum has become more difficult and rare. Which leads Alison to the question, what happens to people when asylum is no longer accessible, and what happens to people when they have lived in the systems of asylum for so long?
One thing that happens is a movement from asylum seeking as something centred around the idea of the safe-haven, to one that is about detention and punishment. We also need to think about the intimate geopolitics that govern the lives of people who have previously been detained or employed in the detention industry. What lives on in them, particularly in terms of racialised violence and family separation? Finally, we need to think about the ways in which geopolitical deals are made, which seek to arrange the ways in which asylum seekers move, and which govern asylum seekers lives intimately. The final thing to arise however, has been activism, which Alison noted gave her hope that both the systems and lives around asylum seeking might become better in the future.
Find out more about the conference
Today we welcomed delegates to the first day of this year’s Annual International Conference.
To mark 40 years since its inception, the Society’s History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group (HPGRG) are holding an anniversary celebration event on Tuesday 7 September.
The 2021 global ranking of academic subjects, by ShanghaiRanking, has placed seven UK university departments in the top 10 higher education institutions globally for studying geography.
This week, one of the Society’s journals, Area, has published a new special section, Geographies of labour in a changing climate.
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