Call for papers:

Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers London, 1st-3rd September 2010
Session organisers: Isla Forsyth (University of Glasgow), James Robinson (Aberystwyth University), Hayden Lorimer (University of Glasgow), Peter Merriman (Aberystwyth University)
Geographers have long been concerned with describing and understanding the Earth’s surface, and the social and environmental interactions which it enables or constrains. Recently, creative approaches have produced myriad explanations of surface patterns, processes and peopling (Harrison, Pile and Thrift 2004). However, critical reflections on different understandings of ‘the surface’ have been relatively neglected in contemporary geographical study, with greater emphasis placed on geographical concepts such as ‘place’ or ‘landscape’.
Commonly, and metaphysically, we come to know the world, and figure our place in it, as surface-dwellers, moving over ground, across bodies of water or occasionally taking to the air to see patterns of life and habitats from on-high (Cosgrove 2001; Ingold 2008). Meanwhile, much of the commonplace, metaphoric language of the surface is deeply pejorative: beauty is said to be skin-deep or someone is warned they are skating on thin-ice. If surfaces are objects of attraction, they are also subject to our suspicion and distrust.
This session asks what a serious consideration of the superficial might allow, hinging on the question ‘What are surfaces?’ We welcome proposals for papers which have a theoretical and/or empirical focus which critically address different social, cultural, historical and physical engagements with surfaces: human and nonhuman; topographical, topological and technological; imagined, visualized and inhabited; material and metaphoric; reproduced, modelled and designed.
Contributions are welcome from geography, anthropology, cultural history, history of science, science and technology studies, and other cognate areas.
The deadline for submission of abstracts (250 words maximum) is 19th February 2010
When submitting your paper please include the following information: 1) name 2) institutional affiliation 3) contact email, 4) title of proposed paper, 5) abstract (no more than 250 words) and 6) technical requirements (i.e., video, data projector, sound).

Papers may wish to address the questions/issues raised below…
– What kind of ontological status are ‘the surface’ or ‘surfaces’ afforded?
– What are the relations (theoretical and lived) between ‘surface’, ‘space’ and ‘place’?
– How do surfaces form versions of exteriority/interiority for ‘the self’ and ‘the world’?
– Theories about, and technologies for, the ‘full’ apprehension of surfaces at different scales/distances/heights;
– Treating the Surface as ‘Background’ or ‘Interface’ or ‘Ecology’;
– Re-designing surfaces to augment experience or to enable new forms of worldly engagement/appreciation;
– Sustainability and Surface Design;
– Bio-Mimicry and the Making of Surface Materials;
– The Militarization of Surfaces;
– The Science and the Art of Surfaces;
– Skins, Exteriors and Outsides;
– Visual Cultures of Topographical Surfaces;
– Affective Surfaces, among Bodies and Beings;
– The Place of Colour, Form and Pattern;
– (Re)Modelling Surfaces, Topological and Topographical;
– Aesthetic, Pictorial and Photographic Treatments, new and old;
– The Visualisation, Exposure and Concealment of Surfaces;
– Surfaces and the Retention of Past Presence;
– Accounts of Encounters on/with Surfaces;
– Methodologies for Studies of the Surface;
– The Surface, and what lies beneath;
If you are interested in submitting a paper, please contact Isla Forsyth (

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