November 16, 2016, by Matt
RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016
Jake Hodder blogs about this year’s RGS-IGB conference
Under the beautiful, late August sun, hundreds of geographers (myself included) descended on the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). The RGS-IBG is the UK’s learned society and professional body for geography, founded in 1830, and its annual, international conference is the centrepiece of its academic programme. This year it ran from 30th August to 2nd September.
True to its name, the conference is especially good at drawing an international crowd, helped in no small part by its favourable location in the heart of London. It is held at the RGS-IBG itself (spilling over to a handful of seminar rooms and lecture theatres in neighbouring Imperial College) which sits on Exhibition Road, overlooking Hyde Park to the north and the Natural History, Victoria and Albert, Science Museums to the south.
This year I took part in several ways. I co-convened and co-chaired two sessions alongside Mike Heffernan (also at Nottingham), entitled “Where next? Historical geographies of the future” which sought to think beyond historical accounts of ‘the future’ shaped by ideas of the ‘distant future’, either in the sense of time (the future of ray guns and spaceships), or in the sense of ideals, realised or lost (the future of utopias and dystopias). Instead, a range of fantastic papers sought to explore the way in which people have conceptualised the ‘knowable future’; a future which attends more closely to imagination, expectation, anticipation and prediction than to fantasy and utopia. I also presented my own paper on “Martin Luther King Jr. and the brave new age of ‘geographical togetherness’” in a session on the “Historical geographies of nonviolence” and attended the annual general meeting of the Historical Geography Research Group (HGRG), for which I’m Newsletter Editor. I’m delighted to be able to report that the group is in fine health. In the evening I also got the chance to participate in the HGRG’s inaugural, and notably well-attended, peer-mentoring session – unexpectedly in the role of both mentee and mentor.
The conference always draws a large audience and a collection of remarkably high calibre papers and sessions, this year being no exception. Besides the chance of catching up with friends old and new, for me, highlights included two sessions on the “Geographies of decolonisation”, Charlie Withers’ Progress in Human Geography keynote entitled “Trust – in geography” and a remembrance for the late John Urry (1946-2016). The accompanying book launch of two, new texts by Urry (What is the Future? and A New Industrial Future? 3D Printing and the Reconfiguring of Production, Distribution, and Consumption – co-authored with Thomas Birtchnell) was a stark reminder, not only of the energy and intellect of a man who leaves behind over forty books (many of which were at the forefront of new research agendas), but also of the sense of surprise and shock that the news of his unexpected death brought to so many.
My thanks go to the School of Geography’s Research Committee for generously supporting my attendance.