2020 History and Philosophy of Geography (HPGRG) Undergraduate Dissertation Prize

Despite the particular circumstances of the ongoing international Covid-19 pandemic, the History and Philosophy of Geography (HPGRG) Undergraduate Dissertation Prize is going ahead this year (deadline: Monday 13thJuly 2020).

2020 is a special year for the HPGRG. Founded in 1981 as a History and Philosophy of Geography Working Party, the group became an official History and Philosophy of Geography Study Group of the Royal Geographical Society in 1985-86. The Group’s annual prize has been running since 2008. Details of previous award recipients, commendations and dissertation titles are listed on the HPGRG website: https://hpgrg.org.uk/dissertation-prize/.

Winning and commended dissertations, whilst focusing on historical and philosophical geography, have encompassed physical and human geography and associated fields, and themes as varied as rap music, the Northwest Passage, non-representational theory and documentary film, military cartography, river landscapes, flood management and decolonising academic writing, amongst others. Several of them are available to download.

Recent years have seen a focus on historical female explorers and travellers who were connected to the RGS-IBG. For further dissertation inspiration and information about the RGS-IBG archives and material and image collections see the Society’s website: https://www.rgs.org/about/our-collections/and do not hesitate to contact the RGS-IBG Foyle Reading Room team if you have any questions.

Please think of sharing these details with colleagues around the world. We encourage international nominations as the prize is open to students from all countries (not just the U.K. but the dissertations needs to be for a first degree and written in English). The recipient will receive £50 (or equivalent) for outstanding original work in the history and/or philosophy of human geography, physical geography or associated fields. In addition, SAGE will provide the prize-winner with a year’s free personal journal subscription – either Progress in Human Geography or Progress in Physical Geography.                      

The HPGRG committee looks forward to reading nominated dissertations which examine geographical knowledge, discourses and practices in academia, but also within schools and the public sphere.

How can you nominate a candidate? Dissertation Supervisors or Heads of Department should advise the HPGRG of nominees. The dissertation should have been completed within the past two years and be written in English.

Contact: Dr Emily Hayes (Oxford Brookes University) for further information.

And please circulate widely.








Newsletter 2020 # 1 out now

We just published and distributed the first HPGRG newsletter of 2020. It is going to be a special year as the HPGRG exists 35 years! See the newsletter for an announcement of the celebrations you can download it here. It contains an reports from the 2019 RGS-IBG conference  and announcements of the exciting sessions that the HPGRG will be sponsoring this year at the RGS-IBG 2020 conference (Sept 1-4 in London) .

RGS-IBG 2020 CALL FOR PAPERS: EURODAC, hotspots, repatriation routes: (trans)formations of socio-technical assemblages of the European border regime

Organizers: Jacopo Anderlini (University of Genoa, jacopo.anderlini@edu.unige.it)and Silvan Pollozek (Technical University of Munich, silvan.pollozek@tum.de)


The goal of this session is to examine the material and socio-technical dimensions of the European border regime and its transformations. Far from the idea of uninterrupted lines that divide sovereign political entities typical of the Westphalian model (Zaiotti 2011, 46), we understand borders as complex and dispersed socio-technical assemblages enacted and (de)stabilized by the interplay of multiple actors, technologies and infrastructures. The session explores mundane modes of European migration and border control and seeks to shed light on both the material manifestations of border assemblages andon their contingent, preliminary and sometimes even ‘experimental’ character with all their frictions, contestations and work-arounds. How are mundane socio-technical border assemblages, such as the EURODAC system, the so-called Hotspots or Frontex readmission operations brought into being and stabilized (Callon 1984)? In which ways and forms do they proliferate? And how do contestations, objections or controversies affect their shape?

This session invites contributions that critically analyse past, present and transforming manifestations of European border assemblages. We encourage research papers that focus on genealogies of mundane European border assemblages and their socio-technical set-ups, that address recent developments and are based on qualitative fieldwork on European borderlands, border control measures and initiatives and their administrative ecologies, or that critically discuss how such mundane border assemblages affect and generate (new) issues of sovereignty, citizenship and mobility.

Topics / keywords

European border regime; socio-technical assemblage; materiality; mundane forms of governing; de/stabilization; transformation; contestation of migration and border control

RGS-IBG 2020 Call for Papers: Non-representational geographies: approaches, methods and practices

Organizers Amy C. Barron, (The University of Manchester, amy.barron@manchester.ac.uk) and  Andrew S. Maclaren (The University of Aberdeen a.s.maclaren@gmail.com)


This session brings together scholars who draw on, advance and empirically use non-representational theories and methodologies, in all their diversity.  Non-representational theories serve as a springboard for exploring the affective geographies of a multitude of phenomena from ageing, to nationalism and geopolitics, to name a few.  Various approaches, methods and theoretical lineages reflect and infuse this diversity, bringing together a concern for how places, subjectivities and identities are enacted, felt and mediated.  The session also presents an opportunity for the ‘borders’ within the various subdisciplines of geography to be reconsidered with respect to non-representational theories and to reinforce the interrelations within and between subdisciplines in the use, development and engagement with this diversifying approach.

Topics in this session might include, but are not limited to:

–           What non-representational geographies are emerging within the subdisciplines of geography, the arts and wider social sciences?

–           How does place feature and matter in/to non-representational work?

–           How are different bodies part of the nature of affective places/non-representational geographies?

–           How are specific ‘types’ of places affective e.g. urban or rural places?

–           How might scholars engage with the non-representational methodologically?

We are interested in engaging with perspectives from academics at all career stages.

RGS-IBG 2020 Call for Papers: Unknowing Geographies: Situating ignorance, inattention and erasure

Organized by: Dr Jeremy Brice, London School of Economics and Political Science (j.brice@lse.ac.uk)

Emerging interdisciplinary scholarship in ignorance studies and agnotology has excavated complex entanglements between knowledge production and the generation of illegibilities, lacunae and ignorance (Gross 2010; McGoey 2019). However, geographers remain marginal to these discussions and extant studies of unknowing rarely focus explicitly on spatiality, temporality, scale or location (Frickel & Kinchy 2015). As a result, the geographies of unknowing – the places and moments which produce and shape ignorance, the mobilities of non-knowledge, and their role in ordering spaces, networks and circulations – have yet to receive sustained examination. Fundamental questions also remain about why certain places remain unmapped, some histories are forgotten and particular futures go unanticipated, and about how the making of these unknown geographies might be entwined with the selective erasure of risk, violence and inequality or the effacement of indigenous and vernacular knowledges.

This session aims to situate critical engagement with the politics, ethics and economies of ignorance through bringing together papers examining both spaces, mobilities and practices of unknowing and times, places and experiences which are rendered unknowable by dominant knowledges. Building on geographies of scientific, indigenous and (post)colonial knowledges, it will explore how geographies – as both spatio-temporal orderings and disciplinary knowledge practices – are implicated within and productive of processes of unknowing. In so doing it seeks especially to acknowledge and scrutinise the historical and contemporary role of geography’s own disciplinary institutions, theories and methodologies in engendering ignorance, imperceptibility and disavowal of marginalised knowledges. This session thus aims to enrich scholarship on the history and philosophy of geographical knowledge through stimulating enquiry into the genealogies, politics and implications of specifically geographical modes of unknowing.

RGS-IBG 2020 Call for Papers: Worlds of wisdom: ontology, immanence and transcendence in geography, philosophy and geosophy

Organizer: Emily Hayes, (Oxford Brookes University, ehayes@brookes.ac.uk)


Over the last decades critical scholarship has laboured to shift Geography’s theories and praxes. In spite of these efforts the discipline continues to be associated with the oft-told associations of topographical exploration and imperialism and its crimes. Yet such a view of geographical practice is partial, lazy and chronically damaging. Imaginative measures to lift this veil are an ethical imperative in order to confront the denial of the conceptual might and philosophical essence of geographical practices.


As well as the temporal and spatial connections, material mechanisms of exchange and circulation between what were until the nineteenth century geographical, philosophical and geosophical ways of knowing, rather than separate disciplinary fields, are becoming more clearly apprehended. Recent scholarship on the Enlightenment has been particularly insightful concerning emergent natural philosophical communities and practices. This scholarship has brought both historical-geographical precision as well as added dimensions to global histories of science and understandings of universal knowledge. In addition, the examination of the relations across the shifting, but common, borders of the two ancient fields of knowledge, Geography and Philosophy, has begun. Inquiries into ethics and morality have been growth areas within the discipline. However, the incorporation of Philosophy and histories of Philosophy, from those of Ancient Greece and Rome to Philosophies of Anthropology, into routine geographical and historical geographical teaching, practice and parlance remains shallow.


Surveying Geography’s bridging, ie. its inductive and transformative, role between the sciences and humanities, this session will explore the ways in which geographical knowledge, materials and cognitive, physical, visual practices constitute an untapped reservoir of wisdom. The session seeks papers which theorise that the discipline’s histories constitute resources for exploring, learning and teaching historical and contemporary routes towards virtuous living. The latter helped to develop diverse viewpoints from which to observe and debate what might constitute good, or better, ways to live. In seeking to foster interdisciplinary exchange and to deepen understandings of the geographies of philosophy and the philosophical value of geography, this session aims to encourage dialogue between practitioners in these respective fields by asking the following:


–       Where have Geography and Philosophy been located within diverse schemes of faith, knowledge and science? Where, when and how have knowledge-makers contributed to both Geography and Philosophical communities?

–       What common and distinct cognitive concepts, visual and aesthetic tropes and linguistic terms have been developed by practitioners of the aforementioned disciplines? Where were the limits of this common ground?

–       How have shifting languages and concepts of space and geographical perceptions been used by philosophers? How have diverse geographical practitioners harnessed philosophical knowledge and practices? What social constituencies, practices and technologies were harnessed?

–       What future directions should this joint venture between Geography and Philosophy take?

RGS-IBG 2020 Call for Papers: Drawing the line. Theories and Practices of Boundary Delimitation in European and Colonial Territories (Eighteenth-Twentieth Century)

Organizers: Federico Ferretti (University College Dublin, federico.ferretti@ucd.ie), Jacobo García-Álvarez and Paloma Puente-Lozano (Universidad Carlos III, Madrid).


Recent geographical scholarship on territory, sovereignty and borders have pointed out the need for questioning and exposing in historical perspective a number of “myths” and “political fictions” embedded within modern state-making and its discursive and material makings. Within this theoretical framework, processes of boundary delimitation and demarcation have proved to be a particularly relevant locusfor examining the complex entanglements of modern conceptions and theories of territory, sovereignty and borders within practices of statehood.  This session aims at analyzing the complexities and variety of theories and practices of boundary-making across Europe and colonial territories from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and how they related to wider assumptions about sovereignty and statehood. We are especially interested in hearing about comparative methodologies and transnational approaches that allow for overcoming typical shortcomings of nation-centered historiographies, as well as in exploring the multiscalar nature of these processes of border-making and the heterogeneity of the actors involved in them.

We welcome presentations that align with these themes in diverse ways. This might include, but is not limited to the following topics:

-Cultures and traditions of delimitation and boundary-making across European or colonized/decolonized countries: variety of delimitation criteria, different organization and composition of boundary commissions, work dynamics and procedures in boundary-delimitation, etc.

-The role of geographic descriptions, maps, land surveys and other types of geographical knowledge in boundary-making practices and theories.

-Dynamics among actors involved in boundary-making (such as local communities, states representatives, technical experts) and the interplay of their conflicting territorial visions.

– Historical transformations of state territoriality and sovereignty.

-Conceptions of border, territory and sovereignty as displayed in demarcation processes.

-Methodological and epistemic issues involved in doing research on the history of territory.

RGS-IBG 2020 Call for papers: Speculative Thinking

Organizers:  Nina Williams (UNSW Canberra, nina.williams@adfa.edu.au) and Thomas Keating (UNSW Canberra, thomas.patrick.keating@gmail.com))


Writing about the environmental, political, and financial catastrophes that define the first part of the C21st, philosophers Didier Debaise and Isabelle Stengers (2017) call for a new ‘speculative’ mode of thought capable of responding to a crisis of “lazy thinking”, “false problems” and a rising “inability to think that what we care about might have a future”. Today, destruction at different registers of the mental, social and environmental ecology demonstrate all too clearly that these crises of thought continue apace.

Against this backdrop, speculative thinking would be a call to develop a sense of openness – in the most expanded terms possible – to “what, in this situation, might be of importance” (Debaise & Stengers, 2017). Against convention, speculative thinking here would not be a call to think more ‘abstractly’ but would be an open question of how to take care of the alternative as the sense of possibility within a given situation.

This focus on speculation (see Woodward, 2016) comes at a time when Geography is developing exciting work into alternative and imperceptible registers of experience and ontology through notions of the elemental (McCormack, 2018), the pluriverse (Collard et al., 2015), encounter (Wilson, 2017), technological sense (Gabrys, 2019), post-humanism (Williams et al., 2019), post-phenomenology (Ash & Simpson, 2019), minor theory (Katz, 2017), and the micro-political (Sharpe, 2019). Parallel to this, a range of speculative interventions in philosophy and the social sciences offer different understandings of spacetimes and temporality beyond traditionally linear and successive modalities (Connolly, 2019; Savransky et al 2017).

In this session we are drawn to speculation as a response to the crisis of possibilities in an era of increasingly destructive governance and ecological degradation. Specifically, we are concerned with the speculative techniques and methods current environmental problems give rise to, the histories that shape and constitute a speculative perspective, and the technologies required to do speculatively thinking at a time when new questions are being asked about earthly collapse (Danowski & De Castro, 2017) and the “shifts in metaphysical assumptions” (Connolly, 2019, p.10) implied therein. We invite contributions that seek to engage in speculative modes of thinking, sensing and writing about the ecological world. These contributions may be interested in, but would not be limited to, the following:

  • Methods and (anti-)techniques for sensing and attuning to speculative forms of experience and ecological process;
  • Engagement with technologies and media for creating an expanded sensing, listening, perceiving, and attuning to the earth;
  • The role of speculative thought in the creation, contestation, and transgression of borders and borderlands;
  • The politics of speculation as a response to specific kinds of ecological problems e.g. the climate emergency, austerity politics, or the rise right-wing populisms;
  • Critical engagements with speculative philosophies, geographies and the question of abstraction;
  • Anti-, De- and Post-Colonial engagements with speculation and the question of who gets to speculate;
  • Conceptual work to speculate with creative processes at non-representational and micropolitical registers of thought;
  • Speculative geographical accounts of landscape, the future, digital space, and temporality.


RGS-IBG 2020, Call for papers: Friedrich Engels and Geography

Organizers: Camilla Royle (King’s College London, camilla.royle@kcl.ac.uk)


Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) was Karl Marx’s closest collaborator. Although mentioned less often than Marx in geographical discussions, he was an important theorist in his own right. With his pathbreaking work, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), he analysed the social drivers of poverty, ill health and environmental pollution in urban areas (Clark and Foster, 2006), concerns he returned to in his later work on housing (Larsen et al, 2016, Smith, 2008, p179). Influenced by the Chartist movement, the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune he was a political organiser and journalist. His wide ranging work addressed science, anthropology, philosophy, military history and more (Hunt, 2010).

Engels worked closely with Marx, his economic thinking influenced Capitaland he edited the second and third volumes after Marx’s death. However, some have questioned whether Engels’ interpretation of Marxism gave it a deterministic, economistic or dualist slant alien to Marx’s own thought (Carver, 2003; Smith, 2008, pp34-5, 87). They have suggested that this was partly responsible for reformist and authoritarian versions of socialist practice in the 20thcentury.

This paper session takes the bicentenary of Engels’ birth as an opportunity to examine his contribution to geographical thinking today. Possible themes might include (but are not limited to):

  • Engels as a philosopher and as a Marxist
  • Geographies of workers’ and peasant struggles and revolutions
  • The housing question today
  • Engels on social epidemiology, health and urban life
  • Engels on women, gender and the family
  • Engels on science, nature and the environment
  • The relevance (or otherwise) of Engels to geography in the 21stcentury


Please send abstracts (maximum of 250 words) for a 15-20 minute paper presentation to Camilla.e.royle@kcl.ac.ukby 10 February. Include a proposed title and affiliation.

Skype presentations will be considered where scholars would find it difficult to attend in person – please email the organiser to discuss.

The NERFC fellowship

The Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library and the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education at the University of Southern Maine invite historical geographers, historians of cartography, and scholars working in related fields to apply for fellowships in the 2020–2021 New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC). The NERFC fellowship offers two dozen awards of $5000 to spend at least two weeks at three Consortium member institutions. The Leventhal and Osher collections, both NERFC member institutions, represent two of the most significant collections of cartographic material in New England, while many of the NERFC’s other 28 member institutions also hold cartographic and geographic objects in their collections. By developing a proposed NERFC itinerary at the Leventhal and Osher collections plus one additional member institution, scholars working at the intersection of geography and history will have an opportunity for a unique research opportunity.

More information: https://www.leventhalmap.org/nerfc-fellowship/  The deadline for applications is February 1, 2020.


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