RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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33 Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Lecture: Thinking complex interconnectivities: transition, nexus and geography
Convenor(s) Robyn Dowling (University of Sydney, Australia)
Chair(s) Robyn Dowling (University of Sydney, Australia)
Timetable Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Session abstract With the proliferation and institutionalisation of anthropogenic climate change discourse a multitude of new concepts have entered academic geography’s lexicon, and ‘sustainability transition’ and ‘water-energy-food (WEF) nexus’ feature prominently among those. Having come to geography via disparate routes and at different moments, transition and nexus thinking have at least three things in common. They first of all share a grounding in systems thinking. Both also insist on the crucial significance of theorising and studying the complex connections among heterogeneous elements and across domains that are often kept separate in research and governance. In so doing, they thirdly evoke varied responses and ask a range of questions from human and environmental geographers. Using comparison as method and informed by the writings of Alfred North Whitehead and Isabelle Stengers, I will first analyse those responses, charting both the heterogeneity in each individual case and some striking similarities across the two cases. The latter will be explored through the triad of dismissal, addition and rethinking as a simple, provisional and heuristic tool. Each position relative to that triad asks specific questions from geographers and geography as a discipline about how they relate to themselves and to cognate disciplines and research fields. I will explore some of those questions by drawing on research in which I am involved on transitions – and their absence – in urban transport/mobility. This suggests that a response of dismissal is no option and that addition and rethinking are more likely to affect and make a difference beyond geography if certain pathways are taken: connections across disciplinary boundaries depend on how transitions in the interconnectivities that characterise and enable urban mobility are theorised and examined. The paper concludes with wider reflections on geography’s relations to new concepts, including transition and nexus, in the context of anthropogenic climate change.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Thinking complex interconnectivities: transition, nexus and geography
Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford, UK)
With the proliferation and institutionalisation of anthropogenic climate change discourse a multitude of new concepts have entered academic geography's lexicon, and 'sustainability transition' and 'water-energy-food (WEF) nexus' feature prominently among those. Having come to geography via disparate routes and at different moments, transition and nexus thinking have at least three things in common. They first of all share a grounding in systems thinking. Both also insist on the crucial significance of theorising and studying the complex connections among heterogeneous elements and across domains that are often kept separate in research and governance. In so doing, they thirdly evoke varied responses and ask a range of questions from human and environmental geographers. Using comparison as method and informed by the writings of Alfred North Whitehead and Isabelle Stengers, I will first analyse those responses, charting both the heterogeneity in each individual case and some striking similarities across the two cases. The latter will be explored through the triad of dismissal, addition and rethinking as a simple, provisional and heuristic tool. Each position relative to that triad asks specific questions from geographers and geography as a discipline about how they relate to themselves and to cognate disciplines and research fields. I will explore some of those questions by drawing on research in which I am involved on transitions – and their absence – in urban transport/mobility. This suggests that a response of dismissal is no option and that addition and rethinking are more likely to affect and make a difference beyond geography if certain pathways are taken: connections across disciplinary boundaries depend on how transitions in the interconnectivities that characterise and enable urban mobility are theorised and examined. The paper concludes with wider reflections on geography's relations to new concepts, including transition and nexus, in the context of anthropogenic climate change.
Discussant 1
Jenny Pickerill (The University of Sheffield, UK)
Discussant
Discussant 2
Zarina Patel (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Discussant