Preconference Abstracts

Submit your abstracts by Feb. 1 for the Political Geography Specialty Group’s 30th annual Preconference at Harvard University. Our gathering this year will be on April 4, 2017 (a Tuesday) and is hosted and supported by Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis, the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, and the Department of Government.

Abstracts of 250 words or less should be submitted to and are best submitted as attachments in MS Word. That document should also include your name, department, institutional affiliation, and e-mail address as you want those items listed in the program. This year we welcome both paper and POSTER presentations so please clarify in your abstract document (as well as your submission e-mail subject line) the type of presentation for which you would like to be scheduled.

For additional details and inquiries:
or e-mail:

You may also contact organizers individually:
Natalie Koch, PGSG President <>
Kenneth Madsen, PGSG Secretary/Treasurer <>

Please do not contact local hosts.

Achievement Awards (non-student)

Nominations are also currently being solicited for the following awards.

* Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award
* Virginie Mamadouh Outstanding Research Award
* Stanley D. Brunn Young Scholar Award
* Richard Morrill Public Outreach Award

The deadline for the Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award is Jan. 15 (this coming Sunday!); all other deadlines are Feb. 15.

For additional details:

Submit nominations to: Natalie Koch, PGSG President <>

Student Awards

PGSG’s student members are invited to apply for:

* Alexander B. Murphy Dissertation Enhancement Award
* PGSG Student Paper Awards: (a) Undergraduate; (b) Master’s; (c) PhD

The deadline for both of these awards is Feb. 15.

For additional details:

Applicants should submit to the appropriate committee members as listed on the Student Awards page.

Student Travel Awards

Student members are encouraged to apply for our specialty group award to help fund travel to the PGSG Preconference and/or the AAG Annual meetings in Boston next year. Applications are due December 15.

Looking ahead, applications to the Alexander B. Murphy Dissertation Enhancement Awards and the Student Paper Awards (available at undergraduate as well as Master’s and Ph.D. levels of study) will be due February 15.

Details are available at:

CFP AAG 2017: Contextualizing the effects of the European Migration “Crisis”

Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)

Session title: Contextualizing the effects of the European Migration “Crisis”

The sudden increase in the number of migrants destined for Europe in 2015 was so startling it has been commonly labelled as a migration “crisis”, and has thrown the EU and its member states in disarray over how to appropriately cope with the influx of asylum seekers. In its second year now, the “crisis” is changing its characteristics. Migration routes have shifted further south in the Mediterranean to places like Egypt and Libya and become even more deadly. Tens of thousands of refugees are stranded in a legal limbo in precarious refugee camps mainly in Greece and Italy. Barbed-wire fences and militarized border guards are becoming emblematic, again, of European borders. Public discourses and attitudes toward refugees are hardening along ideological lines, while European governments are incapable of working together to provide comprehensible solutions to refugee issues. What is remarkable here is the depth to which this sudden surge in refugees, as significant as it might be, is affecting the European project and European societies to the point of tearing them apart. Equally remarkable are the transformative effects the European response has on upholding the legitimate needs of people in need of international protection and on governing the movement of people across borders.

The aim of this session is to critically examine the effects of this migration from a primarily theoretical perspective. We are interested in contributions reflecting on a variety of developments surrounding current migratory flows to the EU, including security arrangements, identity and representation issues, border changes, legal and economic issues, international organizations activities, and migrant agency. In this CFP, we invite papers that investigate the aforementioned topics as well as topics including, but not limited to:

–       Contestation surrounding EU or member-state regulations governing migration and refugee status, including external pressure on EU member-states to accept refugees

–       Role/impact of Brexit on perceptions and legislation governing refugees

–       Conflicts at borders and challenges faced by both migrants and receiving member-states

–       Policies or beliefs that make certain member-states more desirable destinations than other EU member-states for migrants

–       Investigation of geographic tropes, discourse(s) and global imaginaries that contribute to perceptions of this surge of migrants as a “crisis”

–       Relationship between of migrants’ actions and strategies and reactions and attitudes in receiving states and societies

This session is sponsored by the Political Geography and European Specialty Groups. Please send proposed titles and abstracts of no more than 250 words by email to Gabriel Popescu ( and Kara Dempsey ( by Wednesday, October 26, 2016.

CFP AAG 2017: The Contact Zone II & II: Where Species Meet

Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)

Session title: The Contact Zone II & II: Where Species Meet

Co-Organizers: Jenny R. Isaacs (Rutgers University) and Kathryn Gillespie (Weslyan University)

The goal of these sessions is to reflect upon the influence and continued relevance of the concept of the “contact zone” in “more-than-human”/posthuman research, political ecologies, and other multispecies geographies. Twenty five years ago, Mary Louise Pratt coined the term “contact zone” to describe spaces where “cultures, meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today (1991, 1992)”. With the animal turn’s interest in hierarchy among animals/species (Emel & Wolch 1995 & 1998, Plumwood 1993), Pratt’s concept was soon applied to critical discussions of encounters, meeting spaces, and uneven multispecies power relations– prompting reflexive investigations within animal writings/research/ethics (Sundberg 2006, Haraway 2008, Kirksey & Helmreich 2010, Ogden 2011, Collard 2015). The concept continues to have purchase today as always unfinished cosmopolitical projects demand a furthering of the arts of the contact zone in order to understand, learn from, and more fully allow political agency for the nonhuman “other”.

This conversation follows previous AAG sessions attentive to ethical concerns, critical and creative methodologies regarding the problem of where and how to engage with and let the “animals themselves” be heard in ways that do not reflect, rely upon, or reinscribe anthropocentric, asymmetrical, Western humanist structures of power and control. This is necessary because debates continue around shifting norms in human-animal relations within contact zones; including expanded rights, personhood, citizenship, grievability, access and privacy, conservation measures, and humane care standards/certifications.  For example, in everyday contact zones hegemonic human institutions of “science,” “food,” “pet-keeping,” and “entertainment” routinely subordinate nonhuman animals– displacing, violating, and often killing them to advance human ends; these institutions and their embodied effects remain controversial and continue to be directly challenged by scholars and activists who view these mundane, daily encounters as violent violations of animal lives. Conversely, power is exercised when certain endangered animals’ lives are labelled as more valuable than others, including humans, such as those on IUCN Red Lists and those surrounded by legal, protected area boundaries (Neumann 2004, Collard 2014, Braverman 2015a &b, Benson 2015).

The contact zone, then, is a site where ambivalent encounters occur between humans and other species, and often where violence and uneven power relations continue to be enacted. It is in these contact zones that humans and other species are made visible and where they encounter each other in an embodied way. Collard explains, “to look at animals and to be looked upon by animals often entails accessing an embodied proximity to them. Depending on the animal, this proximity may demand a degree of control over and manipulation of the animal,” concluding that the concept of the contact zone is an “apt frame for this reciprocal looking” (2015:4). This “reciprocal looking” demands ethical reflection and suggests a politics at the heart of geographical analyses of multispecies contact zones. Further, as zones of co-constitution, for Pratt and others, (Ahmed 2004, Haraway 2012, Collard 2013), meetings in the contact zone should be examined for their productiveness and transformative effects, without a priori assumptions.

In these sessions, we seek to intentionally “map” or focus on the spatial aspects of human-animal contact zones– transcultural zones, natural-cultural borderlands, frontiers of biological discovery, and places of witnessing–to investigate the locations, terms, affects, and conditions where species meet.  We seek to foster critical discussion about and share researcher experiences addressing the following questions:

  • Why is the concept of contact zones useful for geographers and other scholars who study relations with nonhumans? What have/can/should animal, post/more-than-human, and environmental geographers add/ed to discussions?
  • What are the trends and new places, spaces, and locations of multispecies contact, and how are these impacting norms of exchange between humans and nonhumans?
  • What ontologies and theories of science are enacted in multispecies research in contact zones, with what effects? How and where does more sophisticated technology affect interactions in this zone? How and where does indigenous and traditional knowledge challenge or better inform institutional knowledge?
  • Have the affective, speculative, nonhuman, and emotional turns transformed relations in multispecies contact zones? How do grief, rage, and other emotions operate within these contact zones as modes of politicizing the multispecies encounters occurring in these spaces?
  • As an alternative to biologists and ecologists acting as proxies for nature, how have/might the humanities served as a bridge between species? What genres and forms have or are being used for co-witnessing and to facilitate transductive learning (see Kirksey & Helmreich 2010, Gordon 2014)?
  • What are the disparate, sometimes contradictory human-to-animal ethics within contact zones? How have these shifted over time and how are these changing today in research, law, and practice? Where might these ethical framings be headed in the future?
  • How is cosmopolitical citizenship negotiated, configured, denied or more fully realized at the contact zone/site (Stengers 2010, Donaldson  & Kymlicka 2011, Gabrys 2016)?
  • How does scale function or collapse in the contact zone? Does the contact zone as research site represent or serve as a nexus point to study extended networks– for instance, lively commodity chains– or does it problematically reduce/oversimplify complexity and the myriad connections to more distant geographies? (Whatmore 2002, Collard 2013, 2014, Collard & Dempsey 2013)
  • Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “If a lion could speak, we would not understand him” (1968:223). If contact zones are places of always imperfect translations, what are the limits and burdens of researchers dedicated to multispecies exchange, conflict resolution, and solidarity?
  • What can the “contact zones” framework contribute to enacting more radical,  liberatory relationships between humans and other species? In what ways do the fraught power relations emerging in multispecies contact zones inform our understanding of animal life and commodification in late-modern capitalism? What does it demand politically of the researcher-as-witness (Sundberg 2015, Gillespie 2016)?
  • How do encounters within the contact zone transform parties, create “hybrid zones” and hybrid forms? How might these contacts lead to positive and/or negative mutual transformation? What are the productive aspects of contact zones for better or worse? Do we see and/or anticipate effects of appropriation and/or assimilation between species?

We would like to have one panel and one paper session on this topic. If you are interested in participating in either a panel discussion or presenting a paper on this subject, please get in touch and specify whether you are interested in being a panelist or presenting a full paper. For papers, please send an abstract; for the panel, please send a short description of how you are thinking about the legacy and continued relevance of “the contact zone” within Geography as well as within the context of your own research, with particular attention to what you might contribute to the conversation. Please send to Jenny R. Isaacs ( and Kathryn Gillespie ( by October 20, 2016.



Ahmed, S. (2004). Collective feelings or, the impressions left by others.Theory, Culture & Society, 21(2), 25-42.

Benson, Etienne. (2015). “Endangered birds and epistemic concerns.” in Vidal, Fernando, and Nélia Dias, eds. Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture. Routledge, 175-194.

Braverman, Irus. (2015a).”Is the Puerto Rican Parrot Worth Saving? The Biopolitics of Endangerment and Grievability.” In Lopez, Patricia, and Kathryn A. Gillespie, eds. Economies of Death: Economic logics of killable life and grievable death. Vol. 199. Routledge, (2015: 73-94)

_____________ (2015b). “En-Listing Life: Red is the Color of the Threatened Species List.” In Gillespie, Kathryn, Rosemary-Claire Collard, eds. Critical Animal Geographies”, Routledge/Earthscan (2015:2015-001).

Collard, Rosemary-Claire. (2013). Animal traffic: making, remaking and unmaking commodities in global live wildlife trade (Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia).

______________ (2014). “Putting animals back together, taking commodities apart.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 104.1:151-165.

______________ (2015). “Ethics in Research Beyond the Human.” In Perreault, Tom, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy, eds. The Routledge handbook of political ecology. Routledge. 127-140.

Collard, R. C., & Dempsey, J. (2013). Life for sale? The politics of lively commodities. Environment and Planning A, 45(11), 2682-2699.

Donaldson, Sue, and Will Kymlicka. (2011). Zoopolis: A political theory of animal rights. Oxford University Press.

Gabrys, Jennifer. (2016). “Sensing Climate and Expressing Environmental CItizenship” in Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gillespie, Kathryn. (2016). “Witnessing Animal Others: Bearing Witness, Grief, and the Political Function of Emotion.” Hypatia 31.3 : 572-588.

Gordon, Joan. (2014). Animal Viewpoints in the Contact Zone of Adam Hines’s Duncan the Wonder Dog. Humanalia 5:2.

Haraway, Donna, J. (2008a). When species meet (Vol. 224). Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press.

________________. (2008b). “Training in the Contact Zone.” in  Da Costa, Beatriz, and Kavita Philip. Tactical biopolitics: art, activism, and technoscience. Mit Press, 445.

________________. (2012). Species Matters, Humane Advocacy: In the Promising Grip of Earthly Oxymorons.” In Marianne DeKoven/Michael Lundblad (Hg.), Species Matters. Humane Advocacy and Cultural Theory, New York: Columbia, 17-26.

Kirksey, S., & Helmreich, S. (2010). The emergence of multispecies ethnography. Cultural anthropology, 25(4), 545-576.

Ogden, L. (2011). Swamplife: People, gators, and mangroves entangled in the Everglades. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press.

Neumann, Roderick P. (2004). “Moral and discursive geographies in the war for biodiversity in Africa.” Political Geography23.7: 813-837.

Plumwood, Val. (1993). Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. Routledge.

Pratt, M. (1991). Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession, 33-40.

Pratt, M. L. (1992).  Imperial eyes: travel writing and transculturation. NY: Routledge.

Stengers, Isabelle. (2010).  “Cosmopolitics I.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sundberg, Juanita. ( 2006). Conservation encounters: transculturation in the `contact zones’ of empire. Cultural Geographies, SAGE Publications, 13 (2):.239-265.

______________ (2015). “Ethics, Entanglement and Political Ecology” in Perreault, Tom, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy, eds. The Routledge handbook of political ecology. Routledge. 127-140.

Whatmore, Sarah. (1999) “Hybrid geographies: Rethinking the ‘human in human geography.” Human geography today: 22-39.

______________ (2002).  Hybrid geographies: Natures cultures spaces. Sage.

Wolch, J., & Emel, J. (1995). Bringing the animals back in. Environment and Planning D abstract, 13(6), 632-636.

Wolch, J. R., & Emel, J. (1998). Animal geographies: Place, politics, and identity in the nature-culture borderlands. Verso.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. (1968). Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe. Reprint of English text with index. Oxford: Blackwell.

CFP AAG 2017: The Contact Zone I: Navigating the Contact Zone

Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)

Session title: The Contact Zone I: Navigating the Contact Zone

Co-organizers: Jenny R. Isaacs (Rutgers University) and Ariel Otruba (Rutgers University)

Mary Louise Pratt introduced the term “contact zone” to refer to spaces wherein “cultures, meet, clash and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they lived out in many parts of the world today” (1991).The goal of this session is to consider the impacts of various conceptualizations of the “contact zone” within Geography, over time, in the field, and across subfields. Participants may reflect on how this concept (both Pratt’s “Contact Zone” [capital C] and other ideas of a contact zone [lower case c]) has influenced theory and methods across subdisciplines and remains a useful critical tool.

For scholars interested in exchanges at, across, and about (past, present, or potential) sites of uneven, shifting relations between actors of disparate influence, attention to  the contact zone is essential. Pratt’s “Contact Zone,” for instance, focused on how subjects are constituted “in and by their relations to each other. It treats the relations among colonizers and colonized, or travelers and ‘travelees,’ not in terms of separateness or apartheid, but in terms of co-presence, interaction, interlocking understandings and practices” (Pratt 1992:7). Her call for a refining of the “arts of the contact zone” (1991) to help navigate these places of friction, where “the other” is encountered, configured, and made vulnerable, continues to generate debate across various disciplines (Bizell 1994, Cahill 2007, Haraway 2008, Schorch 2013, Collard 2015).

As a term adopted into Geography specifically, we hope to draw out the generative and determinative spatial aspects of these transcultural places of meeting, encounter, and exchange–geopolitical zones, multispecies natural-cultural borderlands, frontiers of exploration and development— in order to focus on the locations, terms, conditions and outcomes of contact. In our discussion we hope to consider:

  • Who is using this term, how does it figure in research, for what purposes, to what effects?
  • How has this concept impacted the work of Geographers? What can/should Geographers (especially) add to discussions of contact zones as spatial entities of investigation? What is it about these liminal and relational places and contexts that determines the conditions and outcomes of exchange? How easily should contact zones mix material and metaphor (Smith and Katz 1993)?
  • In twenty five years, what have we learned about Pratt’s “Contact Zone”/ and its “arts” (capital C)? How might more general or alternative uses of the words “contact zone” (little C) in other fields/subdisciplines (de-colonial studies, political geography–border studies, biogeography) improve upon or cordon off Pratt’s specific usage?
  • How is a “contact zone” distinctive and a more useful term than other geographical terms like border, boundary, frontier, ecotone, edge, attachment site, node, etc.?
  • How have various theoretical “turns” impacted and sharpened the concept of the “contact zone”?
  • How and why is the contact zone an essential/potential site of importance for those critical geographers interested in radical political change and cosmopolitical paradigm shifts? How does the theoretical and methodological framing of research taking place in a “contact zone” rather than “in the field” modify the production of knowledge and potential incorporation of non-western epistemes? Rather, how do “contact zones” offer a site or location of hybridity, a place for destabilizing and disrupting the status quo and binaries?  In what ways does mobilizing the term contact zone support and/or limit decolonial action research? Does the use of the term “contact zone” support the creation of more horizontal relationships between investigators and co-investigators?
  • How does scale and space-time converge/function in the contact zone? Does the contact zone as research site represent or serve as a nexus to study extended networks– for instance, lively commodity chains– or does it problematically reduce/oversimplify complexity and the myriad connections to more distant geographies?
  • Where do we locate contact zones? How does one delimit physical boundaries of a contact zone? How far might the concept extend “the field”? Or are we ever not in a contact zone?

If you are interested in participating in our panel on this subject, please send a short description of how you are thinking about the legacy and continued relevance of “the contact zone” within Geography as well as within the context of your own research, with particular attention to what you might contribute to the conversation. Please send statement of interest to Jenny R. Isaacs ( and Ariel Otruba ( by November 1, 2016.


Ahmed, S. (2004). Collective feelings or, the impressions left by others. Theory, Culture & Society, 21(2), 25-42.

Bizzell, P. (1994). ” Contact Zones” and English Studies. College English,56(2), 163-169.

Cahill, C. (2007). The personal is political: Developing new subjectivities through participatory action research. Gender, place and culture, 14(3), 267-292.

Collard, Rosemary-Claire. (2015). “Ethics in Research Beyond the Human.” In Perreault, Tom, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy, eds. The Routledge handbook of political ecology. Routledge. 127-140.

Haraway, Donna, J. (2008). When species meet (Vol. 224). Minneapolis:U of Minnesota Press.

Pratt, M.L.(1991). Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession, 33-40.

Pratt, M. L. (1992). Imperial eyes: travel writing and transculturation. Routledge, New York.

Schorch, P. (2013). Contact zones, third spaces, and the act of interpretation. Museum and society, 11(1), 68-81.

Smith, Neil and Cindi Katz. (1993). “Grounding Metaphor: Towards a Spatialized Politics.” Place and the Politics of Identity. Eds. Michael Keith and Steve Pile. London: Routledge, 67-83.

Sundberg, Juanita. ( 2006). Conservation encounters: transculturation in the `contact zones’ of empire. Cultural Geographies, SAGE Publications, 13 (2):.239-265.

______________ (2015). “Ethics, Entanglement and Political Ecology” in Perreault, Tom, Gavin Bridge, and James McCarthy, eds. The Routledge handbook of political ecology. Routledge. 127-140.

CFP AAG 2017: Populism, Democracy, and Expertise in Technological Worlds

Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)

Session title: Populism, Democracy, and Expertise in Technological Worlds

Kai Bosworth, University of Minnesota
Laura Cesafsky, University of Minnesota

Liberal and radical geographers and political theorists alike discount populist movements, right and left, for political commitments deemed too irrational, too contradictory, or too general. Populist movements, it is argued, bury difference and exclusion beneath imaginations of a singular and unified ‘people’. The feeling is mutual: for their part, ‘peoples’ the world over seem increasingly incredulous of the experts and intellectuals who claim to be officers of their interests. These too-easy dismissals of the people or the elite fail to grapple with key problematics at the heart of mass politics as a critical, conjunctural and proliferating reaction to the concentration of power and expertise in contemporary societies: Why populism now? How might our technologically saturated lifeworlds compel populist movements by mediating communication, or by allowing peoples to realize themselves via technological imaginaries or collective reactions against perceived technological harms? What is the legitimate place of knowledge and expertise in the governance of democratic societies? Must we as critical geographers limit ourselves to “deconstructing the inevitable hierarchies and exceptions without which no people has ever been capable of constituting itself” (Bosteels 2013, p. 3), or can we affirm the articulation of peoples as a fraught but necessary step in the march toward democracy and justice?

We suspect that geographers have much to say about the spatial, technological, and environmental aspects of contemporary populist movements, from Latin American leftisms to Syriza and Podemos, from the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, to eco-populism to resurgent nationalist movements. Debates about populist movements in geography are few, but have tended to critically analyze the constitution of political identity, especially through a desire for a nationalist cohesion (e.g., Hart 2013). By contrast, Swyngedouw’s work on ‘climate populism’ (2010) provides an important – if limited – departure point for understanding the fraught relationship between popular politics and science and expertise. We seek to reignite this conversation by inviting papers that critically investigate the conditions, limitations, and possibilities of populism, especially as seen through, alongside, and as the politics of technology and expertise.

Possible paper topics include but are not limited to:

Fear of elites, especially scientists, engineers, and planners
Masses, crowds, peoples, publics and parties as figures of the popular
Infrastructure, development, and technology
Eco-populism (“neither left nor right but forward”)
Populism and socialism
Right-wing and nationalist populist movements
Political organizing and the internet
Public participation and direct democracy
The “tradition” of populism in Latin America
Popular decolonization movements
Populist anti-intellectualism

We invite interested participants to send their title and 300-word abstract to Laura Cesafsky ( and Kai Bosworth ( by October 15th.

Relevant references:

Bosteels, Bruno. 2013. “Introduction.” In What Is a People? New York: Columbia University Press.
Dean, Jodi. 2009. Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.
———. 2016. Crowds and Party. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.
Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems. Athens: Swallow Press, 1927.
Fischer, Frank. Citizens, Experts, and the Environment: The Politics of Local Knowledge. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.
Hart, Gillian. Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2013.
Laclau, Ernesto. On Populist Reason. London: Verso, 2005.
———. “Why Constructing a People Is the Main Task of Radical Politics.” Critical Inquiry 32:4 (2006): 646–80.
Mann, Geoff. 2013. “Who’s Afraid of Democracy?” Capitalism Nature Socialism 24 (1): 42–48.
Swyngedouw, Erik. “Apocalypse Forever? Post-Political Populism and the Spectre of Climate Change.” Theory, Culture & Society 27:2–3 (2010): 213–232.
Swyngedouw, Erik, and Japhy Wilson, eds. The Post-Political and Its Discontents: Spaces of Depoliticization, Spectres of Radical Politics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Whatmore, Sarah J. “Mapping Knowledge Controversies: Science, Democracy and the Redistribution of Expertise.” Progress in Human Geography 33:5 (2009): 587–98.
Žižek, Slavoj. “Against the Populist Temptation.” Critical Inquiry 32:2 (2006): 551–574.

CFP AAG 2017: Demographic fantasies and fever dreams: taco trucks, lesbian farmers, burkini bans, and the basket of deplorables

Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)

Session title: Demographic fantasies and fever dreams: taco trucks, lesbian farmers, burkini bans, and the basket of deplorables

Following recent calls for critical and feminist human geographers to take demographic change seriously (Robbins & Smith 2016), we are inviting submissions about the origins of demographic fever dreams and fantasies. We’re interested in the work that they do, the danger that they pose to building solidarity across difference, but also the potential for play and subversion that is embedded in their vivid specificity. Traditionally, critical human geography has overlooked or ignored demographic change, and yet global demographic shifts are animating and inspiring political movements worldwide. Often, these shifts are mobilized in political discourses through specific demographic fantasies to instill anxiety and fear of perceived threats to the success of nations. These fantasies rely on normative ideas of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious difference, but also invent compelling narrative justifications for those ideas and a means for them to mutate and multiply.

In the 2016 US election cycle, for example, we have recently been privy to a deluge of  dreams and fantasies: a migration-engendered epidemic of “taco trucks on every corner,”[1] an Obama-sponsored invasion of lesbian farmers to undermine red state agricultural strongholds,[2] and a “basket of deplorables” containing half of all Trump voters. We describe these as fever dreams and fantasies because of their strikingly specific and dream-state features that leap from numerical measures and policy into a surreal and multivalent landscape of threat…or delight.

As we consider the political purpose of these demographic fantasies, the fears underlying them, and how the vivid imagery ties into fears of white masculine decline and panic, we wonder how we can unravel these oddly specific imaginaries. Beyond the US election, we also read an underlying element of demographic fantasy in worries about the presence of burkinis on French beaches, attempts to ban “sharia law” across the southern US and Europe, the rhetoric surrounding the Brexit, and numerous other global cases. In each of these instances, a vivid and fantastic fiction is used by figures with political power to amplify, imagine, and obscure demographic patterns of migration, birth, or mortality to consolidate political power or to dismiss or undermine class tensions and create fictions communities of homogeneity.

While it is easy to be smugly dismissive of fears about an unlikely takeover by “others,” here we hope to more carefully consider the content, deployment, and mechanisms of these vivid demographic imaginaries of threat. In so doing, we hope to build on, but also disrupt and complicate theoretical explorations in feminist political geography, which evoke the embodied life of territory and borders and the political life of demography (among others, Baldwin 2012; Bialasiewicz 2006; Dixon and Marston 2011; Fluri 2014; Gilmartin and Kofman 2004; Gökarıksel and Smith 2016; Jones and Johnson 2016; Massaro and Williams 2013; Pain and Staeheli 2014; Roberts 1998; Robbins and Smith 2016; Silvey  2005; Smith, Swanson, and Gökarıksel 2016; Smith and Vasudevan in progress).

We invite papers exploring demographic fantasies through political speech, popular culture, government policy, or other venues, and engaging with questions such as the following (but not limited to these):

  • What political and cultural work do demographic fantasies do, and how do they do it?
  • What role do gendered, sexualized, and racialized body politics play in demographic fantasies?
  • What are effective responses to demographic fantasies? What is the potential for play and subversion (e.g., the social media responses to taco trucks on every corner, and the “basket of adorables”)?
  • How do demographic fever dreams travel across contexts and political lines?
  • How do demographic fantasies explicitly or implicitly engage with temporal and metanarratives and geographic imaginaries (such as the dangerous and uncertain future, and porous borders)?
  • How might we respond to or understand the flights of demographic fantasy that emerge from rumors, exaggerations, or denials of seemingly incontestable truths? Especially when drawing attention to the fallacy only fuels the fantasy?

Please send abstracts to Sara Smith (,Banu Gökarıksel ( Chris Neubert (, by October 17th, 2016.

Baldwin A, 2012, “Whiteness and futurity” Progress in Human Geography 36(2) 172–187

Bialasiewicz, Luiza. 2006. “‘The death of the West’: Samuel Huntington, Oriana Fallaci and a new ‘moral’geopolitics of births and bodies.” Geopolitics 11: 701-724.

Dixon, Deborah P., and Sallie A. Marston.2011.”Introduction: Feminist engagements with geopolitics.” Gender, Place & Culture 18: 445-453.

Fluri J L, 2014, “States of (in)security: corporeal geographies and the elsewhere war” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space32(5): 795–814

Gilmartin, Mary, and Eleonore Kofman.2004. “Critically feminist geopolitics.” Mapping women, making politics: Feminist perspectives on political geography.: 113-125.

Gökarıksel, Banu and Sara Smith. 2016.  “Making America Great Again”?: The Fascist Body Politics of Donald Trump.” Guest editorial for Political Geography. In Early View.

Jones, Reece, and Corey Johnson. 2016. Placing the border in everyday life. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Massaro, Vanessa A., and Jill Williams. 2013. “Feminist geopolitics.” Geography Compass 7.8: 567-577.

Pain, Rachel, and Lynn Staeheli.2014. “Introduction: intimacy-geopolitics and violence.” Area 46: 344-347.

Robbins, Paul and Sara Smith. “Baby bust: Towards Political Demography.” Early View at Progress in Human Geography.

Roberts, Dorothy. 1998. Killing the Black body. New York: Vintage.

Silvey, Rachel. 2005. “Borders, embodiment, and mobility: Feminist migration studies in geography.” A companion to feminist geography: 138-149.

Smith, Sara and Pavithra Vasudevan. In progress. Introduction and themed section, “Race, Biopolitics, and the Future.” ForEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Smith, Sara, Nathan Swanson, and Banu Gökarıksel. 2016 Introduction and themed section: “Territory, Bodies, and Borders,” Area 48: 258-261.

Tyner, James A. “Population geography I: Surplus populations.” 2013. Progress in Human Geography 37: 701-711.

[1] Chokshi, Niraj. September 2, 2016. “‘Taco trucks on every corner’: Trump supporter’s anti-immigration warning” New York…

[2] Erbentraut, Joseph. September 4, 2016. “These lesbian farmers aren’t here to take over America. They want to grow it.” Huffington…

CFP AAG 2017: Geographies and Counter-geopolitics of Humor amid Adversity

Call For Papers
AAG 2017 Boston (April 5-8, 2017)

Session title: Geographies and Counter-geopolitics of Humor amid Adversity

Organizers: Lisa Bhungalia (Pittsburgh), Jessie Clark (Nevada), Jennifer Fluri (Colorado),  Azita Ranjbar (Penn State) 

Geographers draw on the geopolitics of vulnerability, precarity, biopower, homo sacer, and bare life (Agamben 1998, 2005; Butler 2006, 2009; Foucault 1978, 1980) to critically analyze gender, race, class, conflict, violence, and marginalization. Vulnerable bodies living in situations of conflict, abuse, acute violence, and displacement have simultaneously used humor and humorous acts and actions as an everyday form of counter-geopolitics. This session addresses the use of humor by vulnerable bodies in spaces and situations of continual and protracted adversity, especially through the lens of feminist geopolitics and emotional geographies. We seek papers that draw on ethnographic encounters with humor as an embodied and affective practice of coping, resisting and surviving adversity.

Humor amid adversity has been the subject of geopolitical research on political conflict and social justice. Geographers analyze and describe humor as a geopolitical tool of social movements (Routledge 2012) and a form of political satire in popular geopolitics (Cameron 2015, Dodds and Kirby 2013, Dittmer 2010, 2013, Kuus 2008), both deployed to contest and undermine hegemonic power. In a discussion of the subversive power of the Czech literary character, Švejk, Kuus suggests that humor “offers a lens through which we can think about agency of the margins without romanticizing their weak power position” (Kuus 2008, 259). Humor undermines rather than opposes power regimes (Kuus 2008) and calls attention to serious issues of power and inequality (Cameron 2015). Conversely, Billig (2005) describes “unlaughter”, “a display of not laughing when laughter might otherwise be expected, hoped for or demanded” (192) as another technique used to initiate critique, parody or resistance, particularly in situations that are not humorous (Hammett 2010).

In these examples, humor creates a distinctive and shared sense of place, a social bond, consolidates group identities and borderlines, and offers methods for creative opposition (Ridanpää 2014). Much of this research to date, however, has focused on the macro-scale and discursive expressions of humor as a form of resistance (Mehta 2012, Richards 2014) and political performance, while the everyday and affective engagements with humor in geopolitics are under-examined. Dittmer writes that geopolitical assemblages produce affective experiences – humorous and otherwise – that facilitate consensus building and debate (Dittmer 2013, Routledge 2013). And, Horn (2011) and Macpherson (2008) describe the everyday use of humor by vulnerable bodies as a coping mechanism and method to subvert stereotypes. Building on these insights, the papers in this session evaluate the embodied sites of humor from the voices of individuals/groups living in situations of uncertainty and conflict. We invite papers that draw on feminist geopolitics and/or emotional geographies (affect) to examine humor as a geopolitical coping mechanism, a form of resistance, and tactic of survival amid adversity.

Please submit abstracts to Jessie Clark ( and Jennifer Fluri ( by October 15th.

Selected Sources

Askins, K. 2009. ‘That’s what I do’: placing emotion in academic activism. Emotion, Space and Society 2, pp. 4-13.

Billig, M. 2005. “Laughter and unlaughter”. In: Billig, Laughter and ridicule: towards a social critique of humour. London: Sage Publications, pp. 175-199.

Cameron, J. 2015. Can poverty be funny? The serious use of humour as a strategy of public engagement for global justice. Third World Quarterly 36(2), pp. 274-290.

Dittmer, J. 2005. Captain America’s Empire: reflections on identity, popular culture , and post-911 geopolitics. Annals of the Association of American Geographers95(3), pp. 626-643.

Dodds, K. 2010. Popular geopolitics and cartoons: representing power relations, repetition and resistance. Critical African Studies 2(4), pp. 113-131.

Dodds, K. and Kirby, P. 2013. It’s not a laughing matter: critical geopolitics, humour and unlaughter. Geopolitics 18(1), pp. 45-59.

Flint, C. 2001. The geopolitics of laughter and forgetting: a world-systems interpretation of the post-modern geopolitical condition. Geopolitics 6(3), pp. 1-16.

Gibson, C. 2013. Welcome to Bogan-ville: reframing class and palce through humour. Journal of Australian Studies 37(1), pp. 62-75.

Hammett, D. 2010. Political cartoons, post-colonialism and crtitical African Studies. Critical African Studies 2(4), pp. 1-26.

Hernann, A. 2016. Joking through hardship: humor and truth-telling among displaced Tumbuktians. African Studies Review 59(1), pp. 57-76.

Horn, K. 2011. ‘Stalag happy’: South African prisoners of war during World War Two (1939-1945) and their experience and use of humour. South African Historical Journal 63(4), pp. 537-552.

Kuus, M. 2008. Svejkian geopolitics: subversive obedience in Central Europe. Geopolitics 13(2), pp. 257-277.

Macpherson, H. 2008. “I don’t know why they call it the lake district they might as well call it the rock district!” The workings of humour and laughter in research with members of visually impaired walking groups. Environment and Planning D: Social and Space 26, pp. 1080-1095.

Manzo, K. 2012. Geopolitical visions of climate change cartoons. Political Geography 31, pp. 481-494.

Mayo, C. 2008. Being in on the joke: pedagogy, race, humor. Philosophy of Education 2008, pp. 244-252

Mehta, H.C. 2012. Fighting, negotiating, laughing: the use of humor in the Vietnam War. The Historian 

Nickels, C.C. 2010. Civil War Humor. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

Richards, C. 2014. Wit at war: the poetry of John Wilmot and the trauma of war. Eighteenth-Century Fiction 27(1), pp. 25-54.

Ridanpää, J. 2014a. Geographical studies of humor. Geography Compass 8(10), pp. 701-709.

—. 2014b. Seriously serious political spaces of humor. ACME. 13(3), pp. 450-456.

Routledge, P. 2012. Sensuous solidarities: emotion, politics and performace in the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. Antipode 44(2), pp. 428-452.

Swart, S. 2009. “The terrible laughter of the Afrikaner” – towards a social history of humor. Journal of Social History. Pp. 889-917