EUGEO 2011 – Geography’s stake in Europe: People, environment, politics

The third congress of EUGEO, the Association of European Geographical Societies

Dates: 30-31 August 2011
Location: London, UK at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

EUGEO congresses are held every two years and provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of policy relevant research on and about Europe, engaging researchers and policy makers. EUGEO 2011 was organised around three central themes:

  • Sustainability and the Environment
    Session topics include: climate change; energy, water and food production and security; biodiversity and habitat; conservation; environmental management
  • People, Politics and Place
    Session topics include: rural and urban policy issues like migration, social division and cohesion; rural reorientation; regional economic development; identity of places and spaces
  • New World, New Europe, modernity and globalisation
    Session topics include: Europe’s global position, territoriality in the new Europe; multilevel and cross-boundary governance;  geopolitics; geoeconomics; transformations of identity in modern Europe

The EUGEO 2011 Congress included the following social activities:

  • Monday 29 August 2011 – a walking tour of central London redevelopment, from Southbank to Tower Bridge and through to Docklands and Canary Wharf, including a trip along the Thames on a river boat.  The walking tour starts at 13:30 at the main reception of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), or you can join at 14:00 at Temple tube station.  The walk ends at 18:00 followed by an informal drinks reception.
  • Tuesday 30 August 2011 – the Congress dinner will take place on Tuesday evening at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), starting at 19:30
  • Wednesday 31 August 2011 – the Congress will end with an evening drinks reception at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

Postgraduate Forum Annual Conference Training Symposium (PGF-ACTS)

Postgraduate EUGEO delegates were invited to attend a training and skills workshop, held from 1:30pm to 5:30pm on Tuesday 30th August. The symposium offered a supportive environment where postgraduates could begin to establish professional and personal networks amongst postgraduate peers. The afternoon included plenary speakers, panel discussions, workshop activities and opportunities for Q&A.  The afternoon was split into two parts, each led by established academics and professional geographers:

  • Communicating Research – led by Professor Klaus Dodds (Editor, The Geographical Journal) and Professor Kevin Ward (Editor, Area).
  • Careers after your PhD – led by Professor Peter Jackson, Dr Gail Davies, Kate Amis, and including a panel discussion with geographers working outside academia.

Find published presentations:

The monumental building of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in South Kensington, London
Report on the EUGEO 2011 Congress and the RGS-IBG Annual Conference
in the Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 61 (1) (2012) pp. 81–87.
The turn of August and September of 2011 offered a unique opportunity for European geographers: the conferences of EUGEO and the British Royal Geographical Society were held together in London. This meant that more than 1400 professionals gathered together to discuss their ideas and most recent researches. The conferences took place at two nearby locations: the RGS-IBG building and Imperial College.

EUGEO is the society of European geographical societies with members from 21 countries. This year’s congress was the third – following the ones in Amsterdam and Bratislava. The scientific program of the Congress started on Tuesday, August 30 but the day before a study tour was organized in London. As a part of the scientific program more than 20 sessions, 6 plenary lectures and a poster session took place on August 30 and 31. The overall number of presenters was nearly 200. This year’s conference had three key topics: sustainability and environment; people, politics and place; and new world, new Europe. Within these topics the climate change and its consequences and the related risks got special attention.

The plenary lectures covered wide ranges of geographical knowledge. For example Merje Kuus from the University of British Columbia analyzed the role of symbolic capital in the everyday work of the European Union showing that there is still an East-West di- vide among experts and decision makers. Peter Mehlbye, on behalf of ESPON presented the new trends and problems of European territorial dynamics. He stressed that the com- petitiveness depends greatly on global cities and metropolitan regions but because of the importance of connectivity rural areas can integrate into the global economy as well. Boleslaw Domanski from Jagiellonian University, Poland introduced the mechanisms and patterns of local and regional development in the post-socialist European countries using an evolutionary perspective. A very stimulating roundtable discussion dealt with “open” geographic information.

Hungarian geography was represented by nearly 20 researchers with eight pres- entations showing the versatility of Hungarian research topics. For example Károly Kocsis (University of Miskolc and HAS Geographical Research Institute) discussed the questions related to ethnic identity and territorial autonomy in Carpatho-Pannonian region. Viktória Blanka (University of Szeged) analyzed the consequences of the extremely humid year of 2010 in Hungary. Lajos Boros (University of Szeged) showed what kinds of conse- quences the extreme weather conditions might have on most deprived social groups. Gábor Hegedűs (University of Szeged) introduced the socio-spatial effects of gated communities in Hungary, while Gábor Dudás and Péter Pernyész (University of Szeged) analyzed the spatial characteristics of the changing airline industry and its effects on the hierarchy of world cities. Zoltán Kovács (University of Szeged) chaired the session on “Governance and geo-economics”.

The RGS-IBG Conference had 318 sessions with more than 1200 presentations in them. These impressive numbers demonstrate that the meeting is one of the most important geographical conferences in Europe. When the event started on August 31 there was a one day overlap with EUGEO Congress. The key theme of the meeting was the “Geographical imagination” which meant that a lot of presentations analyzed how we see and understand the world around us – and how we represent it. Peter Hulme from the University of Essex explored how artists, writers and geographers have imagined Cuba and its relations with the United States. Some sessions focused on changing urban and rural landscapes empha- sizing the role of geographical imagination. But several sessions and lectures dealt with the forms of imagination in physical geography or cartography. Steven Wainwright (Brunel University) analyzed scientific writings to show the role of geographical imagination in relation to hydrography.

Out-migration and returning migration were also discussed extensively, focusing not on only the socio-spatial characteristics of these processes but their narratives as well. Thilo Lang and Robert Nadler (Leibnitz Institute for Regional Studies, Leipzig) presented the theoretical and methodological framework of an extensive research about returning migration into the post-socialist countries. A few presentations analyzed the narratives of refugee (re-)migration and the imaginations of migration as well.

Maybe the most anticipated lecture was Jamie Peck’s one, entitled “Beyond the neoliberal zombieland” in which he presented the nature of neoliberalism claiming that despite the recent crisis its logic and functioning haven’t really changed. According to Peck, neoliberalism acts and looks just like zombies: it does not react to communication and is very tenacious, wants the brain (mind) of the living and its appearance is disheveled. He also analyzed the emergent, Latin American notion of “post-neoliberalism” and the pos- sible politics related to it.

As usual, a book and journal exhibition with the presence of the most influential publishing companies enriched the two events, too. The exhibitors offered their latest textbooks and journals which also helped to get familiar with the latest research trends and results.

The two meetings were both extremely inspiring and thematically rich. The joint organization gave an exceptional opportunity for networking and gathering new impulses. The next EUGEO Congress will be held in Rome in 2013 while the RGS-IBG Annual Meeting will be in Edinburgh in early July of 2012.

Lajos Boros