Geographies of Encounter

Here is an interesting CFP for the AAG meeting in LA next year:

Call for papers: Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Los Angeles, April 9-13, 2013

Geographies of encounter: spatialities, temporalities and policies

Nick Schuermans, KU Leuven

Helen F. Wilson, University of Manchester

This session brings together work broadly concerned with geographies of encounter and questions of living with/in diversity (Amin, 2002; Valentine, 2008). Given the recent popularity of work on encounters, this session not only aims to interrogate current gaps within the literature, but also to further question the political and policy relevance of it. Having developed with a concern for documenting, understanding and further encouraging the negotiation of social and cultural difference, the session hopes to consider the methodological, the theoretical and the empirical ways in which studies on the geographies of encounter can engage with debates concerning social sustainability, everyday multiculturalisms, urban resilience, citizenship claims, the formation of communities and the right to the city, to name just a few. More concretely, the session aims to consider the following questions:

• Recent work in this field has experimented with mobile technologies and ethnographic techniques to capture the affective and performative aspects of encounters. Yet whilst better attending to the non-representational dimensions of contact, this work has tended to prioritise the more fleeting and transitory forms of encounters. Can we also pay attention to more intensive forms of contact? Do they have longer-lasting effects?

• So far, many studies have focused on the level of the neighbourhood, the street or ‘micro-publics’. This opens up a question about the spatial character of encounters and the spatial imaginaries evoked. How might our work attend to both smaller and larger scales of enquiry? Do encounters at these scales bring about different outcomes?

• Whilst the geographies of encounter literature has concerned questions of difference, broadly conceived, with some notable exceptions, work to date has tended to focus upon questions of race, religion and sexuality, particularly within the global north. Could class be a useful category to look at encounters? What about work from the global south?

• A fundamental question relates to the outcome of encounters. Do encounters bring about tolerance, solidarity, friendship or just a sense of conviviality? What kind of effects do we pre-suppose in order to call encounters meaningful or transformative? And under which structural conditions do they reach these effects?

• Given its emergence from a dissatisfaction with theories of contact and community cohesion, it is important to know how research on encounters might be fed back into policy circles and debates. How can the effects of policies relating to social mix, diversity or solidarity be evaluated and how might encounters be positioned as means to achieving certain policy objectives? How can meaningful or transformative encounters be stimulated? This might include a reflection upon work concerned with the relationship between encounters and social learning, the development of cultural competencies and the cultivation of relationships and associations across multiple differences.

With these questions in mind contributions might include (but are not limited to) theoretical, empirical and methodological engagements with:

– the geographies of encounters: spatial characteristics, spatial imaginaries and spatial scales

– different forms of encounters and the temporalities of their eventual effects

– encounters inclusive of and/or beyond questions of race, religion and sexuality

– the effects of encounters: tolerance, solidarity, friendship, conviviality, …

– the structural conditions under which encounters do/do not occur and their consequences

– encounters as sites of social learning

– the potential of urban encounters for urban resilience, citizenship claims, social sustainability, the formation of communities and the right to the city

– the stimulation of meaningful encounters in urban settings across the world

– the policy implications and the political repercussions of encounters

Please send proposed titles and abstracts (250 words max.) to both of the organisers by Sunday 14th October 2012, Nick Schuermans ( and Helen Wilson (


Amin, A. (2002) Ethnicity and the multicultural city: living with diversity. Environment and Planning A 34 (6) 959-980

Valentine, G. (2008) Living with difference: reflections on geographies of encounter. Progress in Human Geography 32 (3) 323-337


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