Wednesday's plenary speaker, Caroline Faria (left) and a compilation of images shared on social media of conference sessions, fieldtrips and film screenings (right - with thanks to Gulnar Hasnain, CURDS Newcastle, Billy Clayton, Julian Dobson and Sol Gamsu for images tagged #RGSIBG22).
Following on from the chair’s reception yesterday, day two of the conference continued with a packed programme of events.
In the Curtis Auditorium there were two journal sponsored lectures which sparked interesting questions and debates in the room. The first was The Geoforum lecture: A Pregnant Pause? Waiting, Reproduction and Silences in the Everyday Life of Austerity, given by Sarah Marie Hall (University of Manchester), and the second, Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography lecture, Abyssal Geographies, delivered by Jonathan Pugh (Newcastle University) and co-authored with David Chandler (University of Westminster).
Alongside this, today’s chair’s plenary, co-sponsored by Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, was given by Caroline Faria (University of Texas) on Manufacturing zones, Marinas, and the ‘order form above’: the marshes of state-private land development in Uganda and co-authored by Brenda Boonabaana (University of Texas/ Makerere University, Uganda).
Caroline’s lecture began by introducing the research team, and the seven research sites based around Kampala in Uganda. These sites are key locations of gentrification and financialisation, but the research is not just interested in these changing urban forms, but also the racial and gendered dynamics that surround these luxury developments. The stories from these sites varied, but they all involved the displacement of people and activities that had previously driven the economy and social life of the city, fundamentally changing the nature of the places.
The marshlands are increasingly being fenced off and privatised, meaning people have to pay for many of the resources that they used to get for free. This is having a broad effect, not just on the economic life of the residents, but also impacting their social, familial, and spiritual ties between generations. In place of these communities, luxury developments are rising. These homes are highly exclusive and will host around 15,000 people when full.
Yet this reclaiming of wetlands is not new. There were similar schemes in place during the period of British colonialism, and under Idi Amin, and is part of an attempt to neoliberalise Uganda since the 1970s. It is also tied up with Government support, which is crucial to developers feeling confident to go ahead with their developments. What can be seen in all of these cases is a renewal of practices whereby colonial ideologies continue to erase indigenous and subsistence-based communities and economies and reinforce gendered power relations.
Caroline summarised with a series of intellectual questions – asking how the stories of dispossessed peoples might be brought together to better understand not only the processes of dispossession for those living in marshlands, but also the lives that happen after this. Similarly, she queries what might we learn more broadly by thinking from Uganda.
Alongside the lectures in the theatre, today also saw the first session of the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies research team, 'Levelling Up and Recovery' policy stream (1): The politics of levelling up and recovery. Featuring Jamie Driscoll (Mayor, North of Tyne Combined Authority) in conversation with Emma Ormerod (CURDS, Newcastle University).
Today also saw the first two fieldtrips, with a walking tour led by Shabana Marshall (Durham University), titled, Curry on my chips: Memories of racism, community and belonging growing up on Elswick Road, and a trip called Reducing Food Waste - visit to Magic Hat Café led by Jess Miller (Magic Hat Cafe).
In the Northern Stage theatre on campus, Chair of Conference, Rachel Pain, organised for the showing of three researcher-made films: Volviendo a vivir (Back to Life), I Remember When I Was A Window (Frame One) and City of Long Stay. Each of these was accompanied by a dynamic discussion session afterwards.
A number of activities are happening this evening, including the Chair’s Drinks Reception at ‘By the River Brew’, a creative container settlement, from 19.00.