HGRG Practising Historical Geography Conference

Official Summary:

The 18th Annual Practising Historical Geography conference took place at the beginning of November 2012 at the University of Hull, and was attended by 36 delegates and speakers from 13 different institutions. Four Glasgow University post-grad geographers attended, as well as one staff member. The conference provides postgraduate students of Historical Geography a taste of the breadth and vitality of work in the sub-discipline, as well as providing a welcoming environment for students to learn, experiment and expand their own theoretical and methodological skills to further their own research.

Furthermore, the conference also serves to provide a friendly environment for students to network and converse about their shared experiences of working and studying in Historical Geography.  This year, this was started the night before the conference, when many of the students and academics met for a meal. This was a fantastic way to spend the evening, as most people were in Hull that night anyway, and it provided the perfect opportunity to meet fellow Historical Geographers in a relaxed atmosphere.

Again breaking from tradition, this year the conference started with two small-group practical workshops. This year, these were facilitated by Hilary Geoghegan (UCL), who helped us engage and explore our passions for the research process and work dissemination through her session “Loving Historical Geography: enthusiasm as part of the research process”, and Kevin Milburn (University of Nottingham) who opened up the possibilities of different research sources and methods through his session “Sonic Histories and Aural Geographies”. These small-scale workshops help open up dialogue between students, allowing engaging and interesting discussions to unfold, as well as learning a little more about a number of different topics.

This year, the keynote papers were given by Uma Kothari whose paper was titled ‘Contesting Colonial Rule: politics of exile in the Indian Ocean’, (University of Manchester) and Elizabeth Gagen who presented: ‘From muscular health to emotional intelligence: historicising governance in mind/body relations’, (University of Hull). Both speakers gave empirically rich, substantive and thought provoking papers which together demonstrated the diversity of historical sources and approaches available to students. This was further evident in a fascinating short presentation given by recent undergraduate dissertation prize winner Tom Crawford (University of Bristol) titled ‘Production, Power and Performance in the Atlas Novus of 1645 by W. and J. Blaeu’. Tom’s presentation covered a range of theoretical areas, and was empirically rich and was extremely well presented, many people urged him to continue researching within the field of Historical Geography, as he clearly has a real flair and passion for the subject.

The day also includes a postgraduate voices session, a question and answer forum which allows current postgraduate students to listen to recently completed PhD candidates on all manner of their experiences. This year’s speaker was Cheryl McGeachan (University of Glasgow) who spoke about different opportunities and tools available to students to help boost their academic profile and learning experience, from teaching, to reading groups, to writing workshops. Cheryl’s enthusiasm is infectious, and it was great to have the opportunity to hear about different skills that could be gained throughout the research process through various, often creative, methods.

The day as a whole provided an opportunity, over lunch, refreshments and in sessions, to engage with Historical Geographers, and Historical Geographies, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the speakers for their interesting presentations, Carl Griffin (QUB) for providing some funding for the evening refreshments, and a special thanks to Lucy Veale for both chairing the sessions, and organising another fantastic Practising Historical Geography conference.

Kim Ross (HGRG Postgraduate Committee Member)

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