The conference of the American Association of Geographers is the largest gathering of academic geographers in the English-speaking world and this year in Boston USA (5-9 April) it:
[W]ill feature over 6,900 presentations, posters, workshops, and field trips by leading scholars, experts, and researchers. (AAG, About the Meeting)
This time there are ten of us going from Maynooth. This includes graduate students presenting on their current research: Louise Sarsfield Collins on her work on legal geographies and LGBT rights, Gisele Connell on her work on AIDS quilts, Lorna O’Hara on her work on feminist activism, and Michael Murphy on his work on new geographies of suburbanisation. In each case this will be an opportunity to try out ideas, receive feedback and revise work for inclusion in thesis or publication. Other people attend conferences to report from ongoing collaborative research projects. Thus Liam Heaphy a postdoctoral researcher at Maynooth’s National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis is presenting a paper that comes from a project, The Programmable City, funded by European Research Council and directed by Rob Kitchin; and Rob is presenting himself on this work. Lidia Manzo is giving a paper (with Sinéad Kelly) based on her postdoctoral research into post-crash gentrification. At this conference Mary Gilmartin will answer a panel discussion on her recent book, Ireland and migration in the twenty-first century (Manchester University Press, 2015). Mary also presents a paper on Irish citizenship and BREXIT. Karen Till will report on her work on Wounded Cities, and particularly on recent theatrical work in Dublin from ANU Productions with place-specific works that relate to the centenary of the Irish Revolution (1916). This work comes from a long-standing research project on Mapping Spectral Traces that has produced sessions and exhibitions for earlier AAG conferences. Together with Simon Reid-Henry of Queen Mary University of London, I have organised two sessions on Vital Geographies (1 and 2), the subject of a earlier paper by us for the journal of the AAG (Vital Geographies: Life, luck and the human condition, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99:3 (2009) 554-74). In these sessions, I also present a paper from my current research on the cultural politics of HIV-AIDS.
Such conferences are opportunities to learn about current debate in other communities of geographers. It gives a sense of the continuity and also the displacements within the development of the discipline, giving a chance to reflect upon the contributions of earlier scholars such as Bill Bunge and Doreen Massey, for each of whom there are memorial sessions. Such a conference also gives an opportunity to see presentations from some of the most influential scholars in our discipline – at this conference David Harvey is giving a lecture, Derek Gregory has organised a session, Gillian Rose is giving a paper, Rachel Pain is giving a paper – and there are many more I want also to hear. The conference sees Geography to reach out to scholars and cognate fields for discussion and at this conference Noam Chomsky is speaking, as is the climate scientist, James Hansen.
For Maynooth Geographers these international and interdisciplinary conversations have a particular focus since this year we are looking for a new Professor in the field of Geographies of Justice. We will also shortly be advertising for and seeking a new Lecturer in Environment-Human Interactions (Coastal/Ocean Systems and Dynamics). The conference is a chance to assess the leading issues in these fields and to prepare ourselves for evaluating the many applications we hope to receive. There will be social events too. The journal, Irish Geography (edited by Ronan Foley of our Department), celebrates its 50th anniversary with a reception (see below) and Maynooth is joining as a guest the illustrious Wildcats AAG Party hosted by the University of Arizona and the University of Kentucky (see below).
The AAG has increasingly served as a leading international conference for Anglophone geography and this is reflected in the change of name from Association of American Geographers to American Association of Geographers, a change of focus that obviated the need for altering the logo and acronym. Of course, this year the conference is under a cloud for the USA is now less welcoming to foreign visitors than once we had believed. It is also less respectful of science than once we had believed. The attempted travel ban on people from some predominantly Muslim countries may be in abeyance but the sentiment remains expressed. The attack on science is not in abeyance with plans to dismember the Environmental Protection Agency, to make research on race and housing a less effective federal concern, and to relegate climate change to the op-ed pages well away from the authority of federally funded scientific endeavour. Many colleagues have decided that under these circumstances they can no longer countenance meeting as an American Association of Geographers inside the USA (for examples, search Crit-Geog-Forum listserv under boycott). Prompted by some members, the AAG has acted on some of these issues and: offered conference refunds to people affected by any travel ban, joined other learned societies in protesting the restrictions on research into race and housing, has protested proposed budget cuts to federal science agencies, and has endorsed a national day of action to insist that science is a human right. The Geographical Society of Ireland endorsed the AAG statement on the travel ban.
As scholars and citizens, we desperately need such international meetings and I had fondly imagined the USA to be a welcoming host. We will see how far the Trump administration allows the USA to continue as an international centre of free inquiry. If it closes down this culture in the interests of polluters, xenophobes, or know-nothings, then, the American Association of Geographers will truly need to change both name and logo to reflect the national chauvinism imposed upon it.
Gerry Kearns, 27 March 2017
Maynooth at the American Association of Geographers’ Conference, Boston 8-9 April
Wednesday 5 April, 1.34. Louise Sarsfield Collins, Law, Empire, and LGBT Rights: A historical perspective, in session: Legal Geography and Social Justice III, MIT, Marriott, Third Floor, 12.40-2.20
Wednesday 5 April, 1.20. Liam Heaphy, Articulating the smart city and the turn towards smart urbanism in Dublin, in Session: Situating Smart 1: Spatial and Material Politics of Smart Urbanisation, Beacon D, Sheraton, Third Floor 12.40-2.20
Wednesday 5 April, 3.40. Gisele Eugenia Connell, Performances of Precarity in Irish AIDS Quilts, in Session: Vital Geographies 2, Room 304, Hynes, Third Level, 2.40-4.20
Wednesday 5 April, 4.00 Gerry Kearns, Defending Life by Queering Spatial Metaphors, in Session: Vital Geographies 2, Room 304, Hynes, Third Level, 2.40-4.20
Wednesday 5 April, 7.30 pm, Geographical Society of Ireland, Irish Geography reception, Lir Irish bar, 903 Boylston Street., Boston (walking distance from AAG Conference venue)
Wednesday 5 April, 8.00 pm till late, Kentucky Arizona Wildcat Party with Special Guests: MIT Beavers Nat’l Univ. of Ireland – Maynooth Hennessy’s Bar (Upstairs) 25 Union St, Boston, MA 02108
Thursday 6 April, Mary Gilmartin, 8.00 Irish Enough: Changing Narratives of Citizenship and National Identity in the context of Brexit in session: Practicing Citizenship I: Political Subjects and the Re-articulation of Rights, Room 310, Hynes, Third Level, 8-9.40
Thursday 6 April, Lidia Manzo, 10.20. Lived experiences of resistance and solidarity among working-class communities in Dublin’s post-crash gentrification, in Session: Crisis Modes 2: logics, practices, rearticulations, Dartmouth, Marriott, Third Floor, 10-11.40
Friday 7 April, 8.00, Rob Kitchin, Smart cities, data silos and enclosures, data commons and sharing, and data governance, in Session: Is another smart city possible? Technologies of data governance in a digital age (1), Nantucket, Marriott, Fourth Floor, 8-9.40
Friday 7 April, 11.00 Lorna O’Hara, Feminist art and activism: a study of pro-choice resistance in Ireland, in Session: Social Media and Activism: Media and Communication Geography Session IV, Beacon D, Sheraton, Third Floor, 10-11.40
Saturday 8 April, 10.00 Mary Gilmartin, Book Panel on Mary’s “Ireland and migration in the twenty-first century” Room 304, Hynes, Third Level, 10.00-11.40
Saturday 8 April, 4.00 Michael Murphy, Beyond the City: Towards a suburban research agenda, in session: Regional Development and Urban Planning Series IV, Vermont, Marriott, Fifth Floor, 3.20-5.00
Sunday 9 April, 8.52. Karen E. Till, ANU’s 1916-2016 Triptych: Emplacing Ireland through the Female Body, in Session: Sense as a field’s experience in geography of arts: methods and tools, positionality and teaching, Suffolk, Marriott, Third Floor 8-9.40