Welcome to our new ‘pop-up’ page that’s not a pop-up!
As we all know, us postgrads don’t have the opportunity to do enough writing (!!), so we’ve put together this temporary page to feature some blogs from and about the recent and very wonderful Mid-Term Conference. To document the unforgettable conference, we’ve collected four pieces of writing:
To start off with we’re sharing one from the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group. Following on is a piece from Janu Muhammad, an MSc student at the University of Birmingham. Then we have Participatory Geographies Research Group‘s contribution, and the Social and Cultural Geography representative Jamie Halliwell (Manchester Metropolitan) updating you on his undertakings. Rich Gorman (Cardiff University) offers his thoughts on the Rural Geographies session. Thanks for letting us re-post it :-). Finally, after having reflected until July, Federico Bellentani from Cardiff University reflects on his experience.
This being a blog, his piece now comes first on the page!
RGS Postgraduate Midterm Conference: a multidisciplinary, international and interesting event!
Federico Bellentani – PhD candidate, Cardiff University
A couple of months later, I can see the real potential of my attendance at the RGS Postgraduate Conference, organised at Cardiff University in April 2017. I see now that the contact with new colleagues and friends I met during the Conference is becoming more and more fruitful. Beside research purposes, a conference should serve this need: to create a network of new friends that can advise on research and an academic career.
The RGS Postgraduate Conference represented a very good opportunity for me – in the final stage of my Ph.D. – to come up with new perspectives for future research. I thank the SCGRG for sponsoring my bursary to attend this multidisciplinary and international event!
The RGS Postgraduate Conference included papers in all the branches of geography and contributions connecting geography with other scientific domains. For example, my paper aimed to find connections between analytical frames in the field of cultural geography and semiotics on the basis of which to study the interpretative aspects of the built environment.
On Friday morning of the conference, I presented my research exploring a specific part of the built environment: monuments. Monuments are built forms with commemorative as well as political functions. They can articulate selective historical narratives, focusing attention on convenient events and individuals, while obliterating what is discomforting for an elite. While articulating historical narratives, monuments can set cultural agendas and legitimise political power. Elites thus use monuments to convey the kinds of ideals they want citizens to strive towards. Nevertheless, individuals can differently interpret and use monuments in ways designers might have never envisioned.
My presentation explored these ideas through a case study: the multiple interpretations of monuments in Estonia, the northernmost of three Baltic countries. Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2004, Estonia enthusiastically joined the EU and NATO. Since then, Estonian national elites used monuments as tools to fill the built environment with specific cultural meanings through practices of redesign, reconstruction, restoration, relocation and removal. These practices have sparked broad debates and have resulted in civil disorders.
I was very glad to present my research in an international context. The RGS Postgraduate Conference included postgraduates of several nationalities doing research in universities from all over the UK and even participants from Ireland, Italy, Singapore and Switzerland. Had a great few days at the RGS Postgraduate Conference 2017! Hope to meet all the friends I met there in the next one!
Rural Geography at the RGS-IBG Postgraduate Midterm Conference, Cardiff University
The 2017 RGS-IBG Midterm Conference was hosted by Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning, in the stunning Glamorgan building, a feature which graced the front-cover of the programme in a beautiful illustration by a member of the organising committee. The programme itself was packed full of interesting talks and sessions that highlighted the diverse range of themes which early career researchers within geography are currently tackling.
The conference aimed to provide a comfortable and constructive atmosphere for postgraduate students to present their emerging findings and ideas, as well as an opportunity to build important future networks of peers, collaborators, and friends.
The Rural Geographies session, sponsored by the RGRG (Rural Geography Research Group) of the RGS contained some exciting presentations, and proved popular, attracting a large audience.
First was Alison Caffyn, from Cardiff University, discussing her work at the intersections of rurality and tourism in a paper entitled ‘Chickens and Tourists: New Contestations in Scenic Rural Areas’. Alison skilfully traced how a proliferation of industrial approaches to agriculture and food processing were affecting multi-sensory changes to areas previously held as rural idylls, and how these changes came to produce tensions between different geographic imaginations of the rural, particularly in regard to a mobilisation of the ‘tourist gaze’ and the economies of rural visitation. Alison’s paper was well received and prompted an interesting discussion amongst the audience regarding the value in taking a multi-sensory approach to rural geographies.
Following Alison, Robert Geary Griffin, from Leicester University, presented his paper on ‘The Farm Shop and the Family Farm: A Mixed Methods Approach’. Robert discussed in detail his work attempting to understand and typologize the geographies of farm shops in the UK. Robert’s presentation highlighted the challenges of exploring these often liminal enterprises, as well as exposing some of the gendered politics that are often enrolled in the production of ‘the farm shop’. Robert’s mixed methods approach also generated a vibrant debate about the challenges and opportunities of different approaches for engaging participants within rural geography research.
The final presentation of the Rural Geography session, was my own paper, entitled ‘Changing Ethnographic Mediums: The Place-Based Contingency of Smartphones and Scratchnotes’. The paper was prompted by my experiences and reflections from conducting fieldwork within a rural farming community. I had realised that by taking my fieldnotes on my smartphone, rather than the more traditional paper note-book and pen, I was making certain statements and affectations that came to re-shape my interactions with participants, and the events and relationships I was observing. I went on to argue that how we write our notes is as consequential as what we write in our notes, and that we should be aware of the statements of privilege, power, and culture that even the most ostensibly mundane aspects of research can create (for those interested, this is an argument that I expand on in doi:10.1111/area.12320).
Finally, Keith Halfacree, secretary of the RGRG, chairing the collection of papers, closed the Rural Geographies session by summating the themes and intersections between the papers, and their links with wider debates and discussions within rural geography as a whole. The session drew together a useful network of emerging researchers within rural geography, and it was excellent to see the wide range of topics and trends developing within the field as a direct result of postgraduate research.
Looking ahead, the RGRG looks set to continue to create important opportunities for researchers active in the field of rural geography, with a diverse set of sessions at the main RGS-IBG conference later in the year: Rural Geography Research Group Sessions.
About the Author
Rich Gorman is a PhD student at Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning. Rich’s research explores ideas of ‘therapeutic spaces’, and the roles of animals within various caring and therapeutic practices, seeking to understand how animal life can help form spaces of positive health and wellbeing.
A reflexive account from the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
It’s been a month since the RGS-IBG held its mid-term postgraduate forum which was held between 19th and 21st April. The honour of hosting the event went to Cardiff University and attracted over 100 international postgraduates and early career researchers. For me, this was my first RGS related event which gave me many opportunities to network with other postgraduates, researchers and academics in a relaxed and more intimate atmosphere. I thank the SCGRG for sponsoring my bursary to attend this excellent event.
My PhD Research and conference presentation
— RGS MidTerm 2017 CU (@RGSmidterm2017) April 21, 2017
On the Friday morning of the conference, I presented my research which explores the construction of identities through Eurovision Song Contest fandom. I presented preliminary findings and data which I had collected through interviews with Eurovision fans at the contest in Vienna in 2015 and through interviews that I conducted over Skype. I also discussed my proposals on how I intend to continue my research. This will involve engaging with digital research methods, such as netnography, and use social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp to explore how Eurovision fans engage with the contest on an everyday level and how their identities are constructed through the contest. Fans also create their own fan websites and blogs, which also intersect with social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This is as a result of the increased use and development of internet and smartphone technologies, which provide fans with greater spatial mobility in interacting with the contest and with other fans. Eurovision fan websites are an interesting research area, as they allow fans to accrue cultural and subcultural capital and assist in creating fan communities. As a member of a fan website, there are many opportunities to attend the Eurovision Song Contest and its spinoff events as a ‘fan journalist’. This involves meeting and greeting with Eurovision artists, interviewing them for fan websites and attending their press conferences. During the main Eurovision event, fan journalists also have access to country rehearsals and they occupy the same backstage spaces (known as the ‘press centre’) with other fan websites and official journalists from country state broadcasters, such as the BBC.
The press centre was the main space where I conducted my interviews in Vienna and one of my key arguments and questions is to deconstruct the contest’s perceived representation as a ‘gay event’, even though it is not constructed as such. Where contest organisers are increasingly acknowledging and producing narratives aimed at a gay audience, gay men that I interviewed explained how it causes internal conflicts with their identities. Some felt that gay narratives through the contest weren’t entirely representative but subjective, making them question their own gay identity. Gay men also identified the difference in atmosphere between the contest and inner city gay clubs. One respondent believed he felt other gay men constructed impressions of the way he dressed and looked. As opposed to Eurovision event spaces as appearing less sexualised and the collective interest in Eurovision helped break the ice when conversing with other fans. Moreover, there was evidence to suggest the negotiation of Eurovision fandom between Facebook and Twitter by heterosexual male fans. Fandom was seen to be restricted to Twitter which provided more freedom to produce Eurovision-related content and engage with other fans, whereas Facebook is seen as a platform where fandom is restricted. Facebook is seen to be used more for everyday social organisation and these fans believed that their families and friends who can view their Facebook profile would not be interested in their Eurovision fandom. This may also suggest a ‘closeting’ of fandom from Facebook, as their heterosexuality maybe challenged, given the common perception of the contest as a gay event.
The Postgraduate mid-term conference, Cardiff University 19th – 21st April 2017
The conference provided ideal opportunities to network with other delegates, academics and RGS-IBG research groups. On arrival, I met up with fellow social and cultural research geographers during the research social before attending the first keynote lecture by Dan Raven-Ellison. A keen guerrilla geographer and face of the National Geographic, he has explored how moving through different spatial environments impacts on his body and stress levels. He is also campaigning to designate London as a the first ‘National Park City’.
— Jamie 🇬🇧 (@ShadyEuroFreak) April 20, 2017
The Thursday morning saw another keynote lecture from Professor Mark Jayne of Cardiff University discussing his research into geographies of alcohol and violence and the socio-cultural underpinnings of drinking cultures. These activities were likely to take place on a ‘night out’ in the inner city to attend clubs, drink excessively and engage with binge drinking. Jayne showed the audience clips of these activities, some of which involved drunk working class males performing hyper-masculinity when getting into fights with other drunken males.
The postgraduate presentations took place across the Thursday and the Friday, which ran across parallel sessions. Luckily they all took place within the Glamorgan building within the geography department, so you didn’t have to travel far if you wanted to go to different sessions! Some postgraduates presented their proposals for their PhD research, share their ideas and feedback on their presentation or on how to develop their ideas. As well as the presentations, we also had workshops on a variety of topics; one that I attended was the thesis proofreading by Dr Bertie Dockerill. This was an excellent workshop and gave me insight into the proofreading process, Dr Dockerill was an effervescent and dynamic communicator and definitely perked the audience up! The conference also had a big social media presence which helped to promote everyone’s research and document the conference.
— Jamie 🇬🇧 (@ShadyEuroFreak) April 21, 2017
We also were treated to three presentations on Estonia, here’s one of them…!
— Jamie 🇬🇧 (@ShadyEuroFreak) April 21, 2017
I was the only postgraduate to represent my university (Manchester Metropolitan), but with all the social events associated with the conference (as well as the conference dinner on the Thursday evening, many of use went for food and drinks after the conference on the Wednesday and Friday!) it was easy to chat and share ideas with other delegates. From attending the American Association of Geographers conference in Boston, USA two weeks previously (which attracts around 4,000 delegates each year), it was nice to come back to the UK for a smaller and intimate conference. The Cardiff University and Postgraduate forum organisers were fantastic, everything ran smoothly and they were always happy to help! I would definitely recommend attending this conference to anyone and I will hopefully be there next year!
— Jamie 🇬🇧 (@ShadyEuroFreak) April 21, 2017
Original post found here
Participatory Geographies at the PGF-Mid-Term Conference
The RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference took place on the 19th-21st April 2017 hosted by the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University. The Conference brought together PhD students from different universities in the UK and abroad in a friendly and supportive environment that allowed the exchange of research projects in a vibrant way. Networking and liaison with researchers working in related-topics was one of the main highlights of the event. Geography never disappoints you in the variety of topics included as object of analysis!
Furthermore, it was my first participation in the Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference made possible by the sponsorship of the Participatory Geographies Research Group, a research group of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Therefore, it was an opportunity to present some ideas that are in the methods chapter of my thesis titled ‘Geographies of Dispossession: Territory, Law and Race in the Last Palenque, Colombia.’ My presentation during the Conference addressed the role of geographical participatory research methods in supporting territorial claims of Afro-descendant communities in Colombia in the context of the Peace Agreement signed between the Government and the FARCs-EP in 2016. The feedback of the audience and colleagues was very positive including the Chair of the Panel, Dr Andy Williams. In this sense, I received questions that made me think more on my own positionality and the importance (highlighted during my presentation) of interdisciplinary work, for instance, in my case study, I combine Geography and Law.
I was inspired by many other presentations especially those which described work with un-represented groups and stressed the importance of the impact, that many times is underestimated, in the lives of our research participants from the so-called Global South. Moreover, the workshop ‘From Majors to Minors: Proofing your thesis to minimise amendments’ gave me new skills for facing submission, making me aware of timing and preparation prior to handing in, of which I was not having in mind before. In this sense, I would also like to highlight the workshop on ‘Publishing in Geography’ that clarified many ideas and gave reasons to start publishing during the PhD. We are all capable to do it and it is worthy to try!
Once again, I am grateful with the Participatory Geographies Research Group for making my participation possible in this Conference. I would like to encourage other PhD students to join the next one!
See you there for more fruitful discussions…
Ana Laura Zavala Guillen, PhD Candidate, Geography Department, University of Sheffield
PGF Mid-Term Conference 2017: Never too Young to Speak
“No need to explain your current degree status, as long as you have a willingness to present your idea, just do it!” (Fiona Nash)
Presenting research at an international conference has been one of my dreams when studying abroad. I believe that it will give me not only an academic experience but also a new network. To achieve this goal, I started my pathway by becoming a Young Geographer at the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers). I was amazed at this society because of its strategic role in developing passionate young scholars like me by providing a lot of conference and research opportunities. Through it I also found information about the Postgraduate Forum Mid-Term Conference 2017 at Cardiff University. After reading all the information on the website, I decided to submit my abstract and my bursary application.
A few days later, I got notification that my abstract has been accepted. I was very grateful because the Urban Geography Research Group also provided a bursary for attending! I was excited and optimistic about representing the School of Geography, Earth, and Environmental Science at the University of Birmingham. And the journey began.
After arriving at Cardiff University, I met an Indonesian colleague. We had a small reunion as we were both alumni of an exchange programme in the United States a year ago. In the afternoon, I was so early visiting the registration desk, there was no one there! I walked around the park in the front of Glamorgan Building and saw a lot of tulips which I had never seen on my campus. After that, the registration for participants officially began. I spoke with some delegates from different universities and perhaps also various background in human geography. “Hi, I am Janu from Birmingham and this is my first and last year in the Master’s Programme,” I said to anyone who asked me. I wondered whether I was the only Master’s student or whether there were any others there. Most of the delegates were PhD candidates and had a lot of experience in conducting research. I was impressed at being able to connect with them.
Starting at 6.30 pm, Daniel Raven from the Greater London National Park City Initiative shared his experiences exploring the world’s largest cities. He had completed an expedition to walk 1,686km across all of the UK’s national parks and cities. I was inspired by his stories, they were absolutely amazing! By the end of the first day, I thought that I should be grateful to meet Simon from Royal Holloway, Tafta from Southampton (from Indonesia too), and others delegates! One more thing to remember, the organising committee was so professional in managing this event, they made our first day full of hospitality.
On Thursday, the first session started by an opening address from Professor Milbourne, Head of Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning as well as from Dr Evans, the Royal Geographical Society’s representative. These two institutions have made the forum well-organized and hopefully will bring good impacts to strengthen the postgraduate forum in for now and upcoming years. After that, Professor Jayne presented his research ‘Violent geographies: theorizing alcohol related disorder’ and his session has given me new understanding about cultural geography. I would say this is very new topic for me to talk about – Interesting!
There were two sessions which I attended, the first one was migration and citizenship and the second one was transport geography. These sessions allowed me to learn about migration trends in China, Russia, the Philippines, and France which brought a very deep geographical perspective. Thank you, Simon, Jonathan, Sabina, and Maddy for sharing your research! It was completely amazing. Furthermore, the presentation from Duy (from Birmingham as well), Wilbert, and Lucy has provided me a better understanding about transport geography, from its system, the cycling research, to utilitarian mobilities in Africa.
In the same day of the conference, I took part in two workshops. The first workshop was presented by Dr. Dockerill about the importance of proofing a thesis to minimise amendments, while the second was about publishing in Geography by Dr. Nash from the RGS. The workshops motivated me to do more research and submit for publication to journals. At the end of the workshop I asked how to start publishing a paper. “Is there any minimum degree for the author?” Dr Nash answered, “No need to explain your current degree status, as long as you have a willingness to present your idea, just do it! I will always remember this advice. Besides joining the workshops and paper sessions, I also attended the Urban Geography Research Group meeting and met Dr. Deverteuil, the chairman of this scientific group. We talked about current research and the possibility of attending the upcoming conference in London. Thank you Dr Deverteuil for connecting us here. In the evening, we had fun and a great dinner at city centre. Everyone was happy to taste the delicious food and it was a fun, sharing evening.
Friday was an unforgettable day for me as I presented my current research on Rotterdam. This has been my starting point for researching gentrification and its impacts on the waterfront in Rotterdam (Netherlands). I got some questions and feedback from the delegates and it was really helpful for me in terms of helping make my research better. Thank you Dr. Kythreotis, Wilbert, Mas Tafta, and everyone who came to my presentation.
Here are some lessons I learnt from this conference:
- It is necessary to be confident in presenting our idea into an international forum
- A conference always brings benefits for connecting young scholars and sharing research experiences.
- Regardless of the seriousness of the conference due to the large number of presentations, this conference has motivated me to develop my skill in research.
To conclude, I would like to express my gratitude to all committees from Cardiff University, all participants, the Urban Geography Research Group of Royal Geographical Society with IBG who provided me with a bursary, and the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) which has always supported my research and study. I’d like to recommend the Mid-Term Conference to any young scholars who want to get new academic experience in geographical research. Looking forward to seeing all of you at the next event!
About the writer:
Janu Muhammad is an MSc student of Research in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham. Currently, he is a Young Scholar for Urban Commission of International Geographical Union and Young Geographer of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). His research has specifically focused on gentrification and how it has become celebrated among urban leaders in today’s major cities. He can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter @janu_muhammad
GHWRG at the PGF Mid-term Conference, Cardiff.
Our postgraduate representatives for the GHWRG, Gareth Griffith (University of Bristol) and Cornelia Van Diepen (University of Portsmouth) attended the RGS Postgraduate Mid-Term Conference in Cardiff. They had this to say about the event:
The RGS Mid-Term was great. It was an excellent coming together of a great number of enthusiastic and friendly early-career researchers eager to connect with each other and find out about each others’ work. The atmosphere of the conference is especially good for those new to post-graduate academia, being populated mostly by PhD and Masters students presenting findings from their projects. It didn’t necessitate findings to be of use, however, several fascinating and hugely beneficial presentations put forward the initial plans and ideas of the project that the student was yet to embark upon. This allowed them to receive relevant advice, ideas and contact info for interested peers.
Gareth explaining mental health through emojis (Photo: @Kim 24501)
The health geographies session was a great opportunity to connect and discuss our work with others in the field and showcased a wide range of topics, perspectives and methodologies which highlighted exciting and diverse research emerging in and around the geographies of health and wellbeing, including:
Farouk Umar (University of Sheffield) on healthcare in Kano (Photo: @PGF_RGSIBG)
Phil Emmerson (University of Birmingham) discussing laughter with care (Photo: @PGF_RGSIBG)
The keynote speakers were great, and the presenters friendly and welcoming, as were the informal networking meetings for the research groups which presented a great opportunity, again, for early career researchers to meet peers in their field. The delegates all engaged really positively with the work presented, although I’m generalising from the sessions I attended – and feedback was constructive, informative and helpful. Given the audience I actually edited my presentation the night before to take out some of the hard line quantitative visuals, and add some more relatable non-technical language, as an experiment to see if I could pull it off. It went down really well, and provided confidence for me going forward with presenting that kind of stuff. I’d really recommend being ambitious or trying something different with the presentations, as it is rare to get such a friendly and forgiving audience to trial ideas in front of!
On top of this, there are really helpful workshops run for early career researchers, including publishing, writing and data scrutiny courses. In fact, the only criticism of the whole would be the usual one with conferences, that because there are so many interesting sessions concurrently – you might not see all that you intended. I returned home with an interest and increased knowledge in topics including but not limited to: Guerilla Geographies, Community Housing Projects, Street Children, Zimbabwean food culture and British Somali FGM attitudes. Moreover, all the people who talked about these topics were chatty and willing to put up with my initial ignorance of their topic.
If it wasn’t already transparent – I’d definitely recommend the Midterm to any early career researcher looking to get a feel of the academic scope of geographical research, as well as scoring some presentation practice and meeting some wicked people along the way. GHWRG looks forward to seeing you there next year!