Urban Institute colleagues participated in a range of sessions at this year’s Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference 31 August to 3 September 2021. The international conference brought together hundreds of academics and researchers from around the world to focus on the theme of borders, borderlands and bordering. Jon Silver,  Vanesa Castan Broto,  AbdouMaliq Simone, Simon Marvin, Beth Perry and Lindsay Sawyer took part in a variety of ways, from presenters, to round table panelists and discussants.

Jon Silver was a discussant on the roundtable “Silk Road Urbanization: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), urban transformation and the shifting geographies of everyday lives” organised with Alan Wiig and Elia Apostolopoulou. Drawing on his GLOBALCorridor European Research Council (https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/social-sciences/news/geographer-awarded-erc-funding-unravel-scientific-mysteries-0) grant, Jon contributed to discussions on how understandings of Silk Road urbanization necessitate cross-border analysis that compares the diverse effects of BRI-driven infrastructure corridors and the lived experiences of urban dwellers facing these transformations within, across, and between distinct cities.

Vanesa Castán Broto participated in the session on “Global Urbanism: Knowledge, Power and the City” which marked the publication of a new edited volume, co-edited by UI Visiting Professor Michele Lancione (link), which brought together over fifty urban scholars and activists to examine the foundational relationship between the ‘global’ and the ‘urban’. Vanesa presented “On the deployment of scientific knowledge for the new urbanism of the Anthropocene”. Her paper focussed on how our time’s global urbanism was a climate one, motivated by collective anxiety about capacity to survive the global environmental crisis and grounded on joint efforts to understand the Anthropocene. In the context of an Anthropocene marked by global environmental assessments, Vanesa also explored the difficulties of human geographers and allied social scientists to intervene in the circuits of unequal knowledge and power which dictate how such assessments are shaped and to what effect.

AbouMaliq Simone also joined the session on Global Urbanism with his contribution “Out there/In here/Out here/In there” which questioned what would happen if unsettling is taken seriously as a predominant mode of urban inhabitation? Along with Simon Marvin, Maliq took part in “Cities after COVID-19: infrastructure, space and politics” in a panel asking whether the pandemic has shifted urban socio-technical configurations, what the consequences are for urban geographies, and how it has impacted on the nature of the urban political. Two further appearances from Maliq saw him take part as a discussant and roundtable panellist for a session on “Labouring Urban Infrastructure” (http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/mui/InfrastructuresZine191007.pdf) and the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography Lecture.

Drawing on the Whose Heritage Matters project in Cape Town, Beth Perry presented at a session on “The Displacement of the Researcher: Scholar-Activism Under COVID”. Along with co-presenters Rike Sitas (African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town) and Ukhona Mlandu (Director of Greatmore Studios, Cape Town), they offered three accounts from different perspectives in the project of how COVID has displaced but also recast forms of scholar-activism. The emphasis was not only on what has been lost, but also gained in relation to a commitment to co-production. Their contribution sought to examine questions of displacement not only from localised fields of practice, but from the perspective of comparative urban research and in the context of still troubling terrains of global research funding.

Associate Researcher Dr Lindsay Sawyer presented on “Peripheral Vision: Researching the Tacit Aspects of Southern Urbanisms” in the panel on “Urban geography otherwise? Decentering knowledge production, pedagogy and academic praxis”. The paper reflected on the methodological and conceptual shifts undertaken as part of a just-completed 3 year Leverhulme Fellowship. She proposed a ‘tacit’ approach to researching the widely evident yet unspoken aspects of southern urban contexts, using the role of traditional authorities in urban governance in Lagos as an example.

If you’d like to find out more about our contributions at the conference, please contact the relevant team member.