The Geography Department at UNC Chapel Hill invites you to join us in a discussion about the future of the political. As struggles around the world capture our collective imaginations, the legitimacy of existing social orders and previously acceptable avenues of political action have been called into question. What comes next? What connections between body and world, knowledge and practice, and reclamation and revolt are working through and beyond the limits of the current moment? What future worlds are emerging from the conflicts, contradictions, and movements that characterize the now? While informed by our mutual commitment to developing new knowledge and practice that responds to these struggles, our task is to commit focus to the discordant realities that inform our research and political engagements with the world. We invite a wide range of academics, non-academics, activists, and artists to present on these volatile times and the possibilities they portend.

The conference will take place November 2-4, 2012 and will be hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. On Friday, November 2nd, our opening plenary will feature Heidi Nast (DePaul University). Arturo Escobar (UNC Chapel Hill) will host a brunch conversation on possible political futures on Sunday November 4, 2012, as our closing event.

Work, Collaborate, Present This year, the conference will be organized around four broad themes that foster inquiries into the near future (see themes below). We encourage you to propose panels that speak to the issues described here to foster dialogue and collaboration. If your panel crosses more than one theme or asks new or different questions, let us know and we will work with you to make accommodations. Please let us know as early as possible if you require additional technical support or if you have questions about the conference.

Join us in extending the traditional conference proceedings by submitting proposals for your work in a wide range of formats. We encourage paper presentations, panel discussions, interactive workshops, collaborative roundtables, visual presentations of film, dance and art, and alternative offerings that generate new theory, practice and opportunities for future work. Deadline for submissions is Friday, August 31. Abstracts or proposals should be 250 words. Please include contact information, titles, and institutional/organizational affiliations. Also include information on which of the themes below (1 through 4) your panel addresses. We strongly encourage you to think about how your proposal can build better connections between research and practice, particularly with non-academic audiences.

Proposals can be sent to:

Additional information about the conference is coming soon. Please check back for additional information about conference programming, and details regarding logistics and accommodations.

We look forward to seeing you in November!

Themes (1) Occupation and Decolonization in the Current Crisis Three years after the peak of the financial crisis of 2008, people took a cue from the Arab Spring uprisings and took to the streets of major US cities, highlighting the plight of the 99% while denouncing the concentrated power of the 1%. We invite papers and panels that address the following: What are the contemporary dynamics of this crisis? What is the relationship between the often-highlighted sector of finance in this crisis, and the broader functioning of capital as a whole? What is the composition of the contemporary struggles responding to this crisis? And how might an attempt to shift the theoretical and empirical focus from occupation to decolonization assist or impede the conversation about building a movement that is most likely to enact profound social change?

(2) Living and Dying in a Material World Political ecologies, bio/necropolitical analyses, and materialist engagements explore the making and intertwining of social and natural worlds. Central to these inquiries is the stuff of political life: how the political is constituted and redefined around things/bodies and through contests over ontology and meaning, and how this informs struggles over spaces, resources, rights and territory, life and death. In what ways do engagements with things/bodies allow us to rethink and address current moments of crisis, be it financial, ecological, energetic, institutional, or territorial? We invite work that provides a forum for these debates and engagements, including but not limited to questions of circulation and the movement of value, energy, waste, decay, and consumption, metabolisms of nature and capital, and geographies of crisis.

(3) Embodied Knowledge as Practice Feminist geographers, queer theorists, and a wide range of non-representational scholarship have situated the body as a complex yet crucial focus of geography, calling to task the political, economic, and social imbrications that are tied up in the creation of bodies. Just as importantly, work around the body brushes against the limits of the translatable, raising both theoretical and methodological difficulties yet also untested potentials, as bodies everywhere form new knowledges, practices, and actions to meet the challenges of contemporary precarity and flux. We invite work that either uses the body as a site of empirical research or seeks to embody research-as-practice in ways that push the boundaries of traditional research exploration and presentation.

(4) Territories of Resistance Over the last decades we’ve witnessed a series of revolts on the world stage, ranging from El Alto in Bolivia to the Arab Spring. We’re interested in papers that inquire into these tremors, specifically: their relation to prior struggles, neoliberalism, occupation, global colonialism, war, and austerity; the geopolitical implications of their international encounters; and the conceptions of space, claims to territory and subjectivity, and visions of collective life at work in them. We’re also interested in papers situated domestically, where anti-neoliberal struggles – largely informed by the continued legacy of race radicalism – have centered on the construction of just cities. Often, communities of color are seen as mere objects of neoliberal policy; in contrast, we are interested in papers that recognize them as producers of viable post-neoliberal forms of urban life.