RGS-IBG 2019 Conference Highlights and Reflections

Population geography was a strong feature of the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in London this year with 9 sessions sponsored by the Population Geography Research Group (PopGRG). During a fiercely warm week in August speakers from across the globe came together to present new data and share ideas on a diverse range of population themes, including Global South migrations, residential segregation, urban transnationalism, gendered and ‘privileged’ mobilities. In particular, we were pleased to be able to support postgraduate and early career scholars to convene sessions and present new research!

What follows are short reflections by our session conveners on many of these contributions and their experiences of the RGS-IBG conference.

Exploring the interplay between government, politics and (im)mobility in the Global South

Hebe Nicholson (University of St Andrews) and Daniel Robins (University of St Andrews)

This session started with Dr Ricardo Safra De Campos, paper titled Political economy of planned relocation: a conceptual framework of action and inaction in government responses, which proved an excellent introduction into how and why government may be getting involved, or not, in mobility, with a particular focus on planned relocation due to environmental change and hazards in West Bengal. This was followed by Daniel Robins, paper titled Contested Nationalisms: (im)mobility and belonging in times of crisis. This explored further how conceptualisation of the nation are influenced by politics and the implications this has on whether people choose to stay in a country, with a particular focus on Brazil, pre the 2018 election. Next, Els Keunen, paper titled Residential mobility in 4 African cities, which used extensive spatial modelling to unpick influences on residential mobility in 4 cities in Uganda and Somaliland. There was a particular focus on the influence of the land market. Finally, Hebe Nicholson’s paper titled Resettlement as a way to manage flooding in Malawi: A community response, which provided another perspective to Ricardo’s to show the persistence of government to initiate resettlement, particularly without fully incorporating the vulnerable communities to be resettled, and how they respond to this

New Voices in Population Geography: Migration and Mobilities Research

Boyana Buyuklieva (University College London) and Nissa Finney (University of St Andrews)

In the ‘new voices in Population Geography migration and mobilities research’ two exciting papers were delivered:  Maarten Vanhoof (CASA, UCL) presented on ‘Assessing the quality of home detection from mobile phone data’ giving a critical interrogation of spatial accuracy of key – and often taken for granted – indicators in ‘big data’ from mobile phones. Maarten raised questions that should be high on the agenda of all those interested in the specifics of mobile phone data and more general questions about accuracy and validation. Alina Pelikh’s paper on ‘Short- and long-distance moves of young adults during the transition to adulthood in Britain’ was an exemplary demonstration of how sophisticated longitudinal modelling (multi-state event history analysis) can be applied to complex panel data (BHPS) to augment our understanding of how life experiences – in this case employment, partnership and family changes – intertwine to affect residential mobility. The papers stimulated important discussion about how we capture migration and mobility, and their drivers, consequences and experiences.

Transnational migration and the city: Infrastructure, everyday life and affect

Yunting Qi (Royal Holloway, University of London)


It was my very first time to organise and chair a conference session, which indeed brought much excitement to me. There were five interesting papers which provided very fresh insight into the debate about the impact of urban infrastructure on transnational migrants. Namely, the five speakers were Dr. Yasminah Beebeejaun from UCL who investigated the mourning and memorialisation practices of migrants in urban spaces of UK, Dr. Aidan Mosselson from University of Sheffield who examined the supportive and caring infrastructure and the hostile environments existing in refugees’ everyday life in Sheffield and Barnsley, Mr. Martin Price from Durham University who took a conceptual framework of diasporic urbanism to better understand the efforts and aspirations of migrants in Zarqa, Jordan, Dr. Jessie Speer from Queen Mary University of London who presented an insightful research idea about homeless Europeans in London and Ms. Zhe Wang from University of Oxford who interrogated the household system (‘hukou’) policies related to Chinese overseas students in three first-tier cities in mainland China. Speakers and audience made a fruitful discussion around their presentations and the general topic of the session. I really appreciate all speakers and audience. Without their brilliant research, insightful opinions and generous cooperation, this session cannot be so successful. I had a strong sense of accomplishment when attendees told me that they enjoyed the session very much. A great appreciation also goes to the Population Geography Research Group for the kind sponsorship. As a PhD student without any experience of session organisation, I was greatly encouraged and supported by the PopGRG.

Everyday Subjectivities of Privileged Migrants 

Sophie Cranston (Loughborough University) and Karine Duplan (University of Geneva, Switzerland)

In the sessions on the ‘Everyday Subjectivities of Privileged Migrants’ we examined ways in which privilege plays out in migration. One perspective looked at facets of everyday life. Gasquet-Blanchard et al considered the perinatal practices of migrant elites in France, showing how mobility was linked to a quest for well-being; Pinel looked at residential strategies of French retirees in Morocco and how these reconfigure familial relationships. Others though about embodiment: Raghuram and Sondhi looked at skills as privilege and the significance of race to how this is understood; Duncan and Scott questioned where privilege was located in their affective account of their own migrations. All presentations highlighted how privilege is spatially and temporally contextual, with this having its clearest expression in Lear’s examination of the changing privileges of the second-generation Irish in Brexit Britain. This led Waters to underline in her discussion the spatial as well as relational dimension of the very notion of privilege itself.

Hopeful Meanings of Segregation

Nissa Finney (University of St Andrews), Albert Sabater (University of St Andrews) and Gemma Catney (Queens University Belfast)

The three sessions on ‘hopeful meanings of segregation’ were lively and spirited and, in the spirit of Professor Ceri Peach (University of Oxford) in whose memory they were convened, sought to upset conventional perspectives on segregation. They succeeded in this by calling into question the construction of segregation as socially damaging, by critically examining how segregation takes form and is experienced at various times and scales, by presenting novel approaches to defining and measuring diversity and its spatial manifestations, by considering the relations between segregation in differing context (education, residential, workplace), by presenting frameworks for thinking explicitly about how segregation is associated with inequalities, and by showcasing a variety of methodological approaches to understanding segregation (including qualitative case studies, biographical approaches, quantitative secondary data analysis, historical mapping, population projection and theoretical reflection). It was particularly pleasing to see a variety of disciplinary perspectives and to bring international perspectives to the debates.

Troubling Gender in Population Geography

Kate Botterill (University of Glasgow) and Nissa Finney (University of St Andrews)

This session brought together a panel of geographers at different career-stages for a lively and engaged discussion about gender in population geography (PG). The aim was to explore two key issues: gender representation and the evolution of gender research in PG. Avril Maddrell, Elspeth Graham, Darren Smith and Kate Botterill reflected in different ways on how gender disparities in UK PG operate and are sustained over time. These reflections were both personal and professional, drew on empirical and statistical evidence and charted potential futures. The discussion raised key questions for population geographers to address in terms of the topics we engage with; our citational and publishing practices; the institutional practices of recruitment, progression and recognition; the epistemologies, methodologies and pedagogies we employ to explore the core PG themes of fertility, migration and mortality; and the potential for transdisciplinary and beyond the academy connections with those already at the forefront of addressing gender inequality. 

Thank you to all the RGS-IBG AC 2019 PopGRG convenors and presenters.

Hopeful Meanings of Segregation Session
New Voices in Population Geography: Migration and Mobilities Research
PGRG social following the AGM

A list of convenors, presenters and co-authors in the PGRG sponsored sessions is listed below – over 80 people! Apologies if we missed anyone off..

Achala Gupta (University of Surrey, UK)

Aidan Mosselson (University of Sheffield, UK)

Albert Sabater (University of St Andrews, UK)

Alexandra C Tuggle (Ohio State University, USA)

Alina Pelikh (University of Essex, UK)

Avril Maddrell (University of Reading, UK)

Boyana Buyuklieva (University College London, UK)

Brenda Mathijssen (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)

Chen Zhong (King’s College London, UK)

Christopher Lloyd (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)

Clélia Gasquet-Blanchard (EHESP / UMR ESO / CNRS / University of Rennes, France)

Clem Herman (The Open University, UK)

Clement Lee (Open Lab, Newcastle University, UK)

Cody Hochstenbach (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Dan Olner (University of Sheffield, UK)

Daniel Robins (University of St Andrews, UK)

Danny McNally (Teesside University, UK)

Darren Smith (Loughborough University, UK)

David Scott (Dalarna University College, Sweden)

Diane Frost (University of Liverpool, UK)

Douglas E. Crews (Ohio State University, USA)

Ed Manley (University College London, UK)

Elizabeth Mavroudi (Loughborough University, UK)

Els Keunen (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

Elspeth Graham (University of St Andrews, UK)

Gemma Catney (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)

Gunjan Sondhi (The Open University, UK)

Gwilym Pryce (University of Sheffield, UK)

Hadjer Belghoul (Mostaganem University, Algeria)

Hebe Nicholson (University of St Andrews, UK)

Hill Kulu (University of St Andrews, UK)

Ibrahim Sirkeci (Regent’s University London, UK)

Ivana Přidalová (Charles University, Czech Republic)

Jeffrey H. Cohen (Ohio State University, USA)

Jessie Speer (Queen Mary University of London, UK)

Johanna Waters (University College London, UK)

Jordan Pinel (Université de Poitiers, France)

Kaja Borchgrevink (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)

Karine Duplan (University of Geneva, Switzerland)

Katherine Botterill (University of Glasgow, UK)

Katie McClymont (University of the West of England, UK)

Laura Vaughan (University College London, UK)

Lena Imeraj (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

Louise Holt (Loughborough University, UK)

Maarten Vanhoof (University College London, UK)

Marielle LeRumeur (EHESP, CNRS ESO)

Mark Ellis (University of Washington, USA)

Marta Bivand Erdal (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)

Martin Price (Durham University, UK)

Maud Gelly (CRESPPA-CSU (Paris Center for Sociological and Political Research – Urban Cultures and Societies) CNRS; Avicenne Hospital AP-HP (Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris), France)

Meng Le Zhang (University of Sheffield, UK)

Menusha De Silva (Singapore Management University, Singapore)

Michael Batty (University College London, UK)

Michael Merry (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Natalia Zotova (Ohio State University, USA)

Nathaniel Telemaque (Independent)

Niamh Lear (Newcastle University, UK)

Nik Lomax (University of Leeds, UK)

Nissa Finney (University of St Andrews, UK)

Parvati Raghuram (The Open University, UK)

Patrizia Sulis (University College London, UK)

Paul Norman (University of Leeds, UK)

Paula Cristofalo (EHESP / EA MOS, France)

Phil Rees (University of Leeds, UK)

Pia Wohland (University of Leeds, UK)

Rachel Brooks (University of Surrey, UK)

Ricardo Safra De Campos (University of Exeter, UK)

Richard Harris (University of Bristol, UK)

Richard Wright (Dartmouth College, USA)

Ron Johnston (University of Bristol, UK)

Sako Musterd (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Samir Djelti (Mascara University, Algeria)

Sarah Garlick (University of Liverpool, UK)

Sazana Jayadeva (University of Surrey, UK)

Sinan Zeyneloglu (Nish Research, Iraq)

Sophie Bowlby (University of Reading, UK)

Sophie Cranston (Loughborough University, UK)

Susanne Willers (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico)

Tara Duncan (Dalarna University College, Sweden)

Wouter Van Gent (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Yasminah Beebeejaun (University College London, UK)

Yunting Qi (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)

Zbigniew Smoreda (Orange Labs, France)

Zhe Wang (University of Oxford, UK)


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