CFP: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018 – Global Challenges and Assemblages

Global Challenges and Assemblages

Session conveners:

Anthonia Ijeoma Onyeahialam, Francesca Fois, Michael Woods (Aberystwyth University, UK)

 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018, Cardiff University, Wales. Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 August.

Global challenges are understood as major issues that our planet is facing that confront the global community (Sandler 1997). They converge around issues of food security, water supply and management, energy resources, climate change, population growth, increasing migration, crime and diseases. These issues transcend national borders, creating networks, connection and engagements at multiple scales. As being global in scope, these challenges require a coordination of global responses, a multi-disciplinary approach and an alignment of policy makers, scientific community and private sectors to work on shared priorities and collective actions (Woods 2013). The recent years have seen a rise of discourses from a range of government bodies, think tanks, NGOs and research institutions attempting to address these challenges, however they tend to be pitched at the abstract level and are rarely grounded in the specific localities or not often transcending boundaries in their application.

We are interested in analysing global challenges using an assemblage approach to uncover their diverse entanglements at different scales.

  • Firstly, we are interested in contributions that look at global challenges as assemblages. By acknowledging their complex dynamics, we question how global challenges emerge, re-emerge and their continuous process of becoming. In understanding their multiple networks, one way could be to look at how global challenges relate to each other and how they trigger each other. For instance, how are issues of water supply related to climate change? Or how are issues of food security linked to water or energy?
  • Secondly, the emphasis could be on how places emerge as local assemblages to address global challenges. How do such local assemblages combine material and immaterial elements to respond to issues of food security for example? How are they coded and decoded? Which are the actors locally and non-locally engaged in addressing such global issues?
  • Thirdly, another possible focus is on local and/or translocal conflicts arising from institutional responses to address global challenges or from development programs that do not address these issues. Which sort of social movement emerges to protest in favour of these issues? How do they mobilise (i.e. globally, locally and/or online)? Which types of alternative strategies are proposed by such assemblages to address key global challenges?

We are open to contributions that explore one or more of these approaches or any other way that employ the different influences of assemblage as an influential lens in understanding global challenges and their entanglements. In so doing, we encourage contributions that look at climate change, food security, energy stability, water management and/or disease in the global north and south. We are keen on engaging with research that relies on primary and secondary data sources, that has employed mixed methods, qualitative methods, quantitative approaches, and innovative uses of assemblage.

Deadline:: Tuesday 6th February 2018

Abstract should be approximately 250 words and include title, author’s name(s), affiliation(s), email(s), indicating the main presenter and submitted to the following:

Francesca Fois (frf4@aber.ac.uk);

Anthonia Ijeoma Onyeahialam (aio@aber.ac.uk)

Michael Woods (zzp@aber.ac.uk)

Assembling Newtown Exhibition – last few days

Over the last week, members of the public in mid Wales have had the chance to find out more about some of the GLOBAL-RURAL research at a pop-up exhibition reporting back on the in-depth fieldwork on ‘everyday globalization’ that we’ve been carrying out in the market town of Newtown for the past two years.

The exhibition tells the story of Newtown’s development and its global connections, from the pioneering mail-order business of Pryse Jones to the global business of textile firm Laura Ashley in the 1980s, to interesting business and cultural connections today. Panels describe some of the engagement in global networks that form part of everyday life in the town, including findings from a door-to-door survey of residents, and there’s a wall giving voice to the thoughts and recollections of Newtown people. Visitors are challenged to think about Newtown’s future, and to decide which icons of globalisation they would boost or bin.

There’s also opportunities to listen to some of the conversations specially recorded with people in Newtown for us by artist Caitlin Shepherd, and to view a series of short films documenting key moments in Newtown’s history.

The exhibition is open to this Saturday, 30th September, at Glanhafren Market Hall, Newtown, between 10am and 4pm.

Stop the world?

The presentation by Michael Woods to Devon Communities Together’s Rural Futures Conference, ‘Stop the world I want to get off? How rural communities respond to globalisation’ is now available on the ‘publications and presentations’ page.

Check out presentations from earlier conferences and lectures on this paper, including from this summer’s European Society for Rural Sociology and Royal Geographical Society conferences.

 

Assembling Newtown – Survey Report

In September 2016 Aberystwyth University conducted a rapid face-to-face survey of residents of Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn, in Powys, Wales. These involved indepth discussions of on average 45-60 minutes with 162 residents (supplemented by an additional 72 shorter surveys). The report below provides a summary of some of the findings as they relate to Newtown.  We do not claim statistical representativeness but we hope it provides some useful insight and data that the town can use as it navigates a new period of economic and political change.

Key points:

Broadly speaking residents of Newtown seem to like it! It is a nice place to live and there is a reasonable level of satisfaction with many aspects of town life. It provides basic services for the community, appears to have a good degree of social cohesion and seems outward looking and engaged with wider issues beyond the immediate area. Overall people seem optimistic about its future. It also seems the town has, or is developing a ‘do it ourselves’ culture, evidenced by initiatives such as Newtown Unlimited, the town council led Big Lottery Fund proposals, and efforts to proactively plan a post-bypass future.

Like many “New Town’s”, Newtown does face challenges. It has some divisions; the needs of some areas may be masked by the relative affluence of others and some people are quite pessimistic about the future. The provision of services is a major issue for many – most starkly around healthcare, but more generally over the decline in other services in the town – reflecting wider rural concerns. There is an underlying concern about economic decline, specifically the availability of good quality jobs and the lack of opportunities for younger people.

Included in the report are sections covering:

  • Local perceptions of the town
  • The sense of community
  • Site specific requests for enhancements
  • The tourism offer
  • Views on globalisation
  • Hopes and fears for the future

Whilst written for Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn specifically rural researchers might find material of relevance and interest.

Please feel free to download the report and share as appropriate.

> > NEWTOWN & LLANLLWCHAIARN REPORT < <

Newtown exhibition seeks residents’ views on globalization

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The residents of Newtown are invited to come and discuss their views on the effects of globalisation on the town at a new exhibition. Assembling Newtown: Moving with the Times is a ‘pop-up exhibition’ based at Newtown’s Market Hall and runs from Tuesday September 19th until Saturday September 30th (open 10am til 4pm every day except Sunday).

As part of the GLOBAL-RURAL project, researchers have been examining ‘everyday globalization’ in Newtown. Since 2015 members of the research team have been finding out more about Newtown through interviews, focus groups and fieldwork research.
They have been researching the past, present and future of Newtown, trying to find out what it takes for a small town to survive in a global age. Areas covered include migration to and from the town, the trading relationships of the town’s businesses, awareness of global events, and international influences on food, shopping and culture.

The findings of a large survey conducted by staff and students from the University in autumn 2016 were presented in the form of a report to Newtown Town Council in July.
‘The exhibition marks an ending of the Newtown phase of the wider project’ says Dr Marc Welsh, a member of the GLOBAL-RURAL team, but it is also a chance to shape the next phase which will include a book to be written next year about Newtown.

“Newtown is in many ways an archetypal small market town, common to many parts of the UK and Europe and further afield. Like all these other towns Newtown is also totally unique, with its own history, its own mix of people and businesses and buildings, and its own problems and opportunities for the future in a rapidly changing world,” said Dr Welsh. “Our work over the past two years has focused on the local to global relationships that characterise modern life, and enabled us to build a picture of Newtown and try to tell its story. This exhibition is our opportunity to tell this story back to the people of Newtown and ask them whether it makes sense to them, and whether they identify with it.”

“And”, said Dr Welsh, “with the new bypass currently being constructed around the town, we hope the exhibition also gets people thinking about the changes that are coming, the opportunities and threats these pose, and how they can influence the future development of their town.”

A central feature of the exhibition will be “Voices of Newtown” a wall of quotes from members of the local community, and exhibition organisers are hoping that people will take this opportunity to post their own thoughts.

Artist Caitlin Shepherd has also been working with the team through her ‘Listening to Newtown’ project that gives the voices of local people centre stage through new audio artworks. Caitlin will host a special recording session on the final day of the exhibition.
The exhibition also poses a number of provocative questions, including; “Imagine you had £50m to spend on Newtown, what would you spend it on?”

Often referred to as the ‘oldest new town’, Newtown/Y Drenewydd traces its roots back to 1282. Being the birth place of the globally influential industrialist and social reformer Robert Owen and the home to the first modern international mail order business (Sir Pryce Jones’ Royal Welsh Warehouse), Newtown has some claim to being truly ‘global’ for hundreds of years. Driven by extensive rural depopulation between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, which saw mid Wales lose up to 40% of its inhabitants, Newtown became the focus for an ambitious and controversial economic regeneration project during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Under the auspices of the Mid Wales Development Corporation and subsequently the Development Board for Rural Wales, new industrial estates and new housing estates were developed to attract new businesses as planners sought to double the town’s population.

The Newtown study forms part of the wider GLOBAL-RURAL project, funded by the European Research Council, which is exploring the impacts of globalization on rural areas around the world and the responses of rural communities.

Notes from Shaping methods, shaping voices and the engagement of discourses in an age of uneven rural change – XXVIIth ESRS Congress organised session

It has been a busy summer, and I thought I should get in this summary from our just concluded XXVIIth ESRS conference before the new academic year and our Newtown Exhibition (Venue – Market Hall, Newtown, Powys County 19th to 28th September 2017, 10 to 4pm) starts next week.

It was a very fruitful deliberation on new and innovative methods for rural research in our ESRS organised session titled – Shaping methods, shaping voices and the engagement of discourses in an age of uneven rural change.

Dirk and Gary  call for rural research to expand the frontiers of multi methods that cater to rural challenges comes at no better time when more studies are sharing stories of their application. Dirk and Gary paper is based on a review of methods used in rural research from two journals (Sociologia Ruralis and Journal of Rural Studies). In their review, talk about the significant use of qualitative methods above quantitative methods and very limited use of mixed methods despite the advantage mixed and interdisciplinary methods have in handling the challenges – from remoteness of rural places, to ethics, and topic types specific to rural research.

Presentations across this session have not only used mixed methods, but brought to light the adaptive ways researchers are embracing methods within and across disciplines to respond to the peculiarity of doing research, making policies and communicating outcomes in rural settings. Researchers have refined existing methods, developed new ones, mixed methods in innovative ways while keying into community knowledge and voices through co design, co-development, co-production of projects and co-responses to rural issues.

Katrin Prager critically reflects on the pros and cons of using visual methods (minicam, video camera, audio recording and touchtable map with embedded photos) to co-produce knowledge amongst stakeholders that could be translated into action to foster better management of marginal lands in western Scotland. The visual technologies yielded a number of outputs – video clips, films and an ecological survey that were useful in workshops and stakeholder engagements and helped build new relationships and trust between stakeholders. Katrin’s presentation also highlighted some of the challenges and tensions of the methods, from the lengthy negotiation processes to power plays, limited technical skills of the stakeholders, poor weather conditions and the resource investments using this methods vis a vis outputs. More on Katrin’s presentation here.

Amy Proctor crosses boundaries to borrow methods from other sectors in a co designed project helping to evaluate complex rural policies and build capacities amongst stake holders in UK. Amy reflects on this extension and translation of evaluation methods through three case studies co designed and co-developed by stakeholders (researchers, evaluation practitioners and the policy stakeholders). Part of the methodological process is a reflection by all stakeholders on the suitability and refining of the process to ways that will be suitable for rural communities. Amy suggests this approach as a useful way to think through UK rural policies in the light of its exit from EU.

Mike and Anthonia, Jane  and Meirav apply GIS, a method dating back to the 1960s in contemporary  ways.

Mike and Anthonia talked about how the Global-Rural project is using storymaps – a map based story-telling platform to narrate stories about rural communities, and their responses to globalisation issues. They share some examples of these stories from their collection of storymaps showing how individual and community voices are brought together on an interactive platform using intentionally made maps, narrative text and multimedia.  The Global-Rural storymap platform will be officially launched in January 2018. More on their ESRS presentation here.

Meirav uses 3D GIS model to represent social inequality. By allowing the theory of social topography speak to GIS methods, Meirav creates a 3D digital sand table to spatially visualise dimensions of inequality defined in terms of education, wages and unemployment using an applied case study in Israel. Jane Farmer’s work brings together different forms of data collection – interviews and photographs within a spatial framework by allowing social enterprise participants track themselves using a GPS tracker and then exploring their relationships and engagements with the places of wellbeing experienced by them in their everyday lives.

Sarah Morton assesses the outcome of co-produced response to rural health issues in the case of Tick and Lyme disease. Sarah highlights the importance of not only engaging rural communities in the co-design and development of solutions to rural health issues but also permitting spaces to allow the creation of this knowledge evolve with the specifics of the rural community. In this case study situated in Highlands, Scotland, Sarah talks about how mixed methods was utlised to gauge community knowledge of the disease using questionnaires, followed by a series of consultations to draw expert knowledge from community members using interactive persona activity, community design activity and participatory mapping designed specifically for the project. This was followed by co-developing awareness raising materials – a website, treasure hunt style game and pocket wallet tick check cards that when tested out offered multiple benefits which was only achieved through co-working with the community. More on Sarah’s presentation and paper.

Rural access remains a problem as noted in Dirk and Gary’s review paper calling for the increasing use of mixed methods that respond to the difficulties in rural areas. Mario Fernández-Zarza explores how the use of a combination of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) advances through mobile phones and internet have improved access and coverage in rural areas and allowed his research to untangle the messiness in the chain of food production by providing a right of way through which rural respondents can be reached for telephone interviews.

Pia Heike Johansen uses an iterative methodological process to explore and bring in multiple knowledge and perspectives on the territorialisation of farm shops and sales in European countryside. By conducting a first stage of field work on farm shops using a family (man, woman and two children) to carry out interviews and direct observations, followed by an auto-photo ethnography with same family and the project’s principal investigator, the knowledge generated from these initials steps fed into another stage of data collection by two different researchers. These processes allowed the farm owners to reflect on this knowledge and bring together multiple perspectives.

The mixing of methods and perspectives are not without difficulties, from power plays to practical issues, resource demand and epistemological barriers some of which Katrin’s paper highlighted. Marc in addition shares the methodological challenges of using multiple methods in a French Ministry of Agriculture National Agroecological Plan project with diverse actors and interests (political and social) and how the bringing together of these methods have had ethical and epistemological conflicts. More on the presentation here.

here Recognising the specificity of rural areas and their ethical challenges Dirk and Gary in their review call for a refinement of methods specific to addressing rural challenges. Similarly, Katharine Howell thought provoking presentation prompts us to review old models of doing international fieldwork in rural settings of developing countries. She shares her experience of doing ethnographic research on rural development and the ProSAVANA project in rural northern Mozambique and how the dynamics of power, place and politics with the misalignment of research ethics became problematic for her as a researcher, her host and host community. Katharine traces this problem to a still practised “old model” of doing international fieldwork research that reinforces colonialism and suggests the need to view ethics and positionality as being in a state of constant motion shaped by everyday fieldwork encounters. She proposes drawing on auto ethnographic approach that offers reflexivity, greater participations of all parties including the research institutions and more critical examination of these intersections to minimise the negative consequences that may ensue. You can read more about her paper here.

In Dirk and Gary review paper, they propose a space – call for chapters, in form of an edited book with a working title of “researching the rural” that will bring together intellectual knowledge and experiences doing rural research, from practical advice, to challenges and ontological perspectives to researching the rural. You can access the paper here.

Here is the complete list of all Abstracts from the “Shaping methods, shaping voices and the engagement of discourses in an age of uneven rural change” session of the XXVIIth ESRS conference, Jagiellonian University, Poland themed ‘Uneven processes of rural change: on diversity, knowledge and justice’.

I look forward to meeting you again in the next ESRS congress come 2019 at Trondheim, Norway, 25-28 July.