Recap: CIG 2021

The 52nd Conference of Irish Geographers, CIG 2021, was hosted by Trinity College Dublin in May. The event was the first Annual Conference of the Geographical Society of Ireland to be held online and was a lively and diverse gathering of geographers working in Ireland and elsewhere. Facilitated by Whova Inc., a US-based online event management company, the 52nd CIG showcased the high quality and cutting-edge research being carried out by geographers working in or on Ireland.

The conference adopted a hybrid live and asynchronous approach which drew in participants and speakers from all over the world to present and share knowledge on a range of subjects. Over the course of four days (18th-21stMay), CIG 2021 attracted 240 attendees to 50 sessions, with 170 presentations delivered on too many topics to summarise in a sentence. Our attendees took advantage of Whova’s message board features to exchange over 800 posts during the event, with lively discussions around geographical tunes, the Eurovision, and smack talk about which Geography department has the best geographical location (obviously TCD).

Keynote speakers

Four engaging keynote talks were delivered by world-class researchers on physical, human, and interdisciplinary geographical approaches to topical questions of academic, public, and policy-making interest. You can (re)watch them below or on our CIG 2021 Keynote YouTube playlist.

Our Head of Department Professor Iris Möller opened the conference with an engaging reflection on Geography as a discipline at a time of existential global challenges, introduced and chaired by our own Rhonda McGovern. Iris’ opening keynote, which was the most attended session during the conference, pieced together a narrative from her own departmental work at Cambridge reflecting on geography and a broader reading of the discipline’s historical evolution. We were treated to a masterful weaving of geographical thought and Iris’ personal reflections on her own role as a geographer and what this has, does, and should entail. This engaging conference opening keynote, which you can see here, successfully drew in the audience and set the tone for the thought-provoking sessions that followed throughout CIG 2021.

On Wednesday 19th, following a packed schedule of sessions, we had our second keynote speech from Professor Tom Slater (University of Edinburgh), with the address introduced and chaired by our own Philip Lawton. Tom’s keynote talk drew from his work on ignorance, inequality, and urban geographies, which you can read about further in his excellent and just-published book, Shaking up the city. Building on his work on urban policy and agnotology, or the study of intentionally produced ignorance, Tom guided us through a masterful dissection of three key myths/deliberately engineered falsehoods (quality, supply, and efficiency) which are used to discredit rent control policies. Tom highlighted the Scottish tenant union Living Rent’s struggles for rent control as an unfolding example of a rent control campaign struggling to chip away at the layers of strategic ignorance produced by neo-classical market framings of housing and the media – these epic struggles for a fairer and more affordable housing future continue, and Tom’s systematic deconstruction of housing myths in his keynote address (which you can see here) is an important contribution to this ongoing struggle.

Our third keynote address was given on Thursday 20th by Professor Rónadh Cox (Williams College Massachusetts), with the speech introduced and chaired by our own Mary Bourke. Rónadh’s research looks at coastal megagravel and what big boulders on rocky coasts can tell us about storm waves. As something of a rock whisperer, Rónadh delivered an engaging and informative keynote (which you can see here) on the secrets that big boulders can unlock about stormy waves, weather, and history. Particularly in remote or less well-studied areas, Rónadh noted, the presence and movements of these big boulders can generate useful and usable data of relevance for wider societal changes about our changing climate and coastal processes. With what must surely be the first example of a ‘this is more of a powerpoint presentation than a question’ at a CIG, Rónadh’s keynote spurred a lively discussion about specific examples and contexts of large object movement, earth observation methods, and working at the intersection of geography, geology, physics, and aerodynamics.

Professor Jen Jack Gieseking gave our final keynote address to close out the 52nd Conference of Irish Geographers, introduced and chaired by our own Maedhbh Nic Lochlainn. Jack’s talk was a carefully-constructed and moving discussion of feminist responsibility and queer accountability in researching and visualising trans social media data, with profound and personal reflections on doing ethical digital geographies research. We were treated to an overarching narrative of Jack’s work and evolving approach to data collection and visualisation, with a sensitive turning around and turning over of the interplay between the private and the public in queer on/offline spaces. Attendees were walked through the evolution of trans media from the initial and key involvement of trans folk in the internet’s early architecture to the role that social media platforms have come to play, particularly for young trans people seeking online spaces of belonging, community, and information. Jack’s talk launched an interesting and important discussion session on supporting trans third-level students, the physicality of digital spaces, and an extended riff session with UCD Geography’s Kath Browne on intergenerational learning in queer research and the politics of heteroactivism.

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