Geographies of 'Area'

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Geography has long been ambivalent about the development of area specialisms. The study of areas was both the intellectual inspiration of the discipline and the source of its limitation. Beyond the discipline, the geographical construction of areas has had problematic consequences for social and political relationships at different scales. The ways in which such areas are delimited, described and analysed has also profoundly influenced quotidian academic practice, shaping both disciplinary boundaries and theoretical proclivities.

In recent years, there have been diverse reassessments of regional expertise and knowledges. Following the postcolonial turn, some scholars have investigated the links between the emergence of Area Studies and the construction of state-sanctioned geopolitics, particularly during the Cold War. Other geographers have looked to Area Studies for inspiration against the detached and universal abstractions that have sometimes been characteristic of geographical work. These arguments have often called for the embracing of particularity, but perhaps at the expense of theorisation and comparison. Others again have re-imagined areas and regions as open, mobile, networked, fluid spaces that contaminate one another.

Linking across political geography, historical geography, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, International Relations and Area Studies, this one-day workshop offers a set of substantive papers from a group of leading interdisciplinary experts on different geographical regions. Participants are invited to reflect upon the construction of particular regions in intellectual thought and the political consequences of these interventions.



09.30 Registration
10.00 Introduction
10.15 Richard Powell (University of Oxford) 'Writing the North: the politics of Circumpolar depiction'
11.00 Mike Heffernan (University of Nottingham) 'Inventing the Region: a 19th Century Franco-Russian Survey of "New Russia"'
11.45 Tea/Coffee
12.05 Patricia Daley (University of Oxford) 'The north/south divides in African area studies: what direction for radical scholarship?'
12.50 Emma Mawdsley (University of Cambridge) 'Framing the new geographies of wealth and poverty in the Global South: re-ordering the spaces of development'
13.35 Lunch
14.30 James D. Sidaway (National University of Singapore) 'Comparative postcolonialisms'
15.15 Richard Phillips (University of Sheffield) 'Serial Area Studies: Connections and Curiosities'
16.00 Tea/Coffee
16.20 Roundtable with Discussants: Andrew Barry (University College London); Fiona McConnell (University of Oxford); Felix Ciută (University College London)
17.30 Drinks Reception


Further Information

Organisers: Dr Ian Klinke and Dr Richard Powell

Workshop supported by the Transformations: Economy, Society and Place, and Technological Natures: Materialities, mobilities, politics research clusters, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford.

This event is free and open to all, but pre-registration is required (please contact Dr Ian Klinke ( before 19 December 2014).


Environmental Humanities

Audience: Open to all


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