I’ve spent the last week in Los Angeles for the Association of American Geographers annual meeting. It was mainly in the Westin Bonaventure hotel – made famous in the 1980s by the readings of Fredric Jameson and Edward Soja. I briefly mentioned the hotel in my paper here on Sloterdijk, as something that was not so far from his analysis of the Crystal Palace, and especially the disruption of simple ways of thinking inside and outside.
As with any huge conference, it was mixed, and I missed a lot due to clashes. My own papers were on Sloterdijk, mainly discussing Spheres II and In the World Interior of Capital, as part of a set of discussions convened by Oliver Belcher; and on Boko Haram in Nigeria. The second paper was part of a series of sessions on Violence and Space, organised by Philippe le Billon and Simon Springer, and I’d originally proposed an abstract that looked at London and Kano together. By the time of the session itself events had taken things in a different direction in Nigeria, and my written paper had followed that. I therefore spent only a couple of minutes mentioning London – something that will be entirely dropped from the written paper – and concentrated on the Nigerian case. It seemed to be well received and I intend to submit the paper fairly soon. Gerard Toal, Teo Ballvé and Rory Rowan gave the other talks in that session – lots of interesting connected themes. I was also part of a panel discussion on journal publishing, especially in relation to open access debates. I recorded my talks, and plan to post the audio recordings here soon.
I attended some other good sessions, especially the ‘author meets critics’ sessions on Alex Jeffrey’s The Improvised State and John Agnew and Luca Muscara’s Making Political Geography second edition. I went to a couple of the sessions on planetary urbanization, mainly to catch up with Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid’s ongoing work. Simon Dalby gave the Political Geography lecture and Christian Parenti the Antipode one. While very different in style and content, they were both engaging with political issues around climate change, and I’ll look forward to seeing both in print in the respective journals. There were several sessions in memory of Neil Smith – I went to one that featured David Harvey, Deborah Cowen, Don Mitchell, Sallie Marston, JP Jones and Joe Doherty, along with a multi-voiced compost poem and an open mike. Very powerful and moving. Much of the best part of the conference is, of course, the informal socialization – lunches, dinners and drinks with people, or conversations in corridors. This year the editors of Society and Space that attended had a couple of meetings to discuss things with the journal which were real highlights. I also had a few conversations with publishers I’ve worked with in the past about future projects.
Next year is in Tampa, Florida – a city I’ve never been to before, which is something that is increasingly rare given how few cities can host a conference of this size. I often debate going to this conference, as it can be exhausting and requires a lot of work of preparation and travel, but I nearly always come away thinking it was worthwhile.