The summer of conferences (Part 1)
Deutscher Kongress für Geographie (DKG) 2023, Frankfurt/Main, 19-23 September 2023
With this series of blog posts we would like to collectively share our impressions, important discussions and reflections we have made as team members on various conferences this summer. The blog series begins with reflections of the “Deutscher Kongress für Geographie” (DKG) in Frankfurt/Main, 19-23 September 2023.
This year’s conference of German geographers “Deutscher Kongress für Geographie” (DKG) in Frankfurt/Main was the first and long-awaited on-site version since the Covid-19 pandemic. Geographers from all over the world – not only Germany – had to wait four long years after the conference in Kiel to meet in person. The online version (#GeoWoche) in 2021 hosted by the University Passau preserved the professional exchange for posterity, but did not feel the same as it was. Unsurprisingly, there were round about 2400 participants registered this year according to Ute Wardenga, president of the DGfG, who held an astonishing opening message on Wednesday, 20th September. Due to her position as president of the German geographic association (DGfG), she gave some insights into the processes of organising a conference of such dimension. As the biggest German-speaking conference for Geographers, the basic requirements for a location to host the DKG lead to processes of exclusion and thus reproduce spatial inequalities within the discipline of geography. It remains one of the big challenges for the German-speaking geography departments and associations to contribute to inclusive and equitable research einvironments.
In that sense, the welcoming speech “Planetary Futures” held by Julia Verne, Nadine Marquardt and Stefan Ouma complemented this claim by emphasising on new challenges for geography that is in need of a paradigmatic change. According to the speakers, the so-called global turn dominating at least the last two decades of geographical thought needs to be enhanced by a ‘planetary turn’. In her opening remarks, Julia Verne representing cultural geography established relationships to posthumanism as a philosophical foundation to conceptualise humans as planetary subjects. As a metaphor for socio-technical-environmental entanglements, Verne addressed Anna Tsing’s seminal work on funghi (‘Matsutake’) in The mushroom at the end of the world. Following the planetary turn, social geographer Nadine Marquardt referred to crucial contributions in terms of a planetary urbanization and in how far planetary thought might change geographic understanding in relation to housing research. Following Chakrabarty’s (2021) claim that “habitability is central to human existence”, Marquardt postulated a paradigm shift from researching sustainable living and housing towards places of habitability or inhabitability. This perspective in turn may lead to a harmonization of both natural sciences and the humanities and social sciences. Completive to perspectives from cultural and social geography, Stefan Ouma reinforced the imperative for a paradigm shift from the perspective of economic geography. By referring to a planetary ruralism, Ouma outlined the historical developments of plantations and its ideologies as the main characterisations of modernity and the capitalist system (ref. Sophie Chao et al. ‘plantationocene’, https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2023.2228212). Concluding, Ouma highlighted the philosophical traps associated with modernity, which he identifies with ‘Prometheusianism’ & man as concepts to exercise and and retain control as well as wield power and influence over nature and the environment.
In his talk, Stefan Ouma referred to Jason Moore’s statement on capitalisms’ immanent structure of violence as a threat to nature including humans (picture credits: by C. Schimmel, licensed under CC-BY 4.0).
Throughout the 3-4 days of the conference filled with numerous contributions and organised in various session formats, the geographic community represented a highly diverse and innovative research discipline invariably recalling its unique feature to be able to provide contributions for tackling future challenges. Even though this perspective is always already critically accompanied, the actuality and interdisciplinarity was underscored in multitudinous sessions theming areas that brought together socio-technical-environmental entanglements (-> https://dkg2023.de/programm). Sessions such as “Progressive Infrastrukturen” hosted by Gala Nettelbladt and Matthias Naumann highlighted the perspectives of an ‘infrastructural turn’ to be contributing to progressive social change, as outlined for instance in presenting public transport as a progressive infrastructure (by Tonio Weicker), intimate infrastructures that conceptualize solidary infrastructures as consequential to care work, in which humans are infrastructure (ref. Simone 2004); or the contribution by Landau-Donnelly/Färber/Hamm that claimed to view infrastructuring as a political verb by exemplifying the crucial role of “librarizing” performed by public libraries.
My first contribution was part of the session “Geographien sozialer Netzwerke und Netzwerke sozialer Geographien” hosted by Robert Panitz and Johannes Glückler, in which I presented (https://dkg2023.de/papers/netzwerk-basiertes-skalieren-als-sozialr%C3%A4umliche-88657) results of a mixed-methods social network analysis I carried out for my dissertation thesis on sociospatial strategies of scholar-led publishing initiatives (https://doi.org/10.3138/jsp-2022-0048). Although the method of social network analysis is gaining significance in many geographic sub-disciplines, this session obviously represented the substantial influence dominated by economic geographical scholarship. Beyond that I was invited to contribute to the session called “Wert-volle Ressourcen? Konzeptionelle Zugänge zu Ethik, Moral und Raum” convened by Veronika Cummings, Jutta Kister and Miriam Wenner on Thursday, 21st September, in which I presented multi-scalar challenges for care-ethical approaches towards a more equitable system of scholarly publishing. Due to being one of the last sessions on this day of the conference, the amount of participants was manageable. However, the quality of contributions and of the closing discussion excited the need for a broader engagement for negotiating ethics and values among the geographic community.
The DKG in Frankfurt was the first conference in my academic career where I was participating as well as presenting my own research. The wide range of options, such as sessions, lectures, poster sessions, excursions, and social activities during the conference, made me wish I could time-travel like Hermione Granger in the 3rd book of Harry Potter, to attend multiple courses or sessions all at once. It was great to not only listen to contributions and lectures of well-known geographers like Carolin Schurr, Lizzie Richardson or Christian Steiner, but also to meet (former and present) colleagues, (former) fellow students, engaged students from the University of Innsbruck and to socialise and make further connections. The cafeteria, the beer garden, the opening ceremony and the spacious green campus grounds of the Westend Campus of Goethe University in Frankfurt provided the perfect space for recreational breaks and exchange while the weather was at its most beautiful late summer.
Together with Tabea Bork-Hüffer, we were part of the session „contested imaginaries of ‚future technologies‘: geographical perspectives (1/3)”, chaired by Sören Becker and Benno Fladvad. We were presenting our research on future scenarios of augmented reality in public spaces (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2023.103193). We wanted to draw attention to the challenges that may occur by digitalisation in public spaces by questioning uncontrolled high technological innovation as well as by asking for meaningful regulation regarding inclusion, usability, data protection and security, to foster accessibility and the technologies’ acceptance. With our fellow speakers Tom Hawxwell („Future-making and the shifting sociotechnical imaginaries around urban mobility in the city of Hamburg“) and SaeBom Song („Openness as smartness: Sociotechnical evolution and imaginaries of open data initiative and smart city in the Republic of Korea“) we ended the session in a panel discussion by deeply engaging in a conversation about technologies, time and space.
Despite the extensive programme of the conference, there were three contributions that have been particularly stuck in my mind: First, the opening lecture “Planetary Futures – about Life in critical times” by Nadine Marquardt, Stefan Ouma and Julia Verne, chaired by the organisators Marc Böckler and Robert Pütz, was very thought-provoking and at the same time set the conference in a relevant thematic framework. Second, the Author meets Critics Panel (in German) “Mehr-als-menschliche Geographien: Schlüsselkonzepte, Beziehungen und Methoden” made me appreciate that the more-than-human debate, which has so far been concentrated in the Anglo-Saxon world, has found its way into German-speaking academia through the anthology of Steiner et al. (2023). Third, Marion Wüchner-Fuchs from the SRH Wilhelm Löhe Hochschule gave insights in her current work by presenting „Living spaces and living practices of women with so-called intellectual disabilities“ (in German: „Wohnräume und Wohnpraktiken von Frauen mit einer sogenannten geistigen Behinderung“). From this presentation I could learn a lot for my current own research with people with disabilities, which will hopefully and probably be part of the next DKG in 2025 – stay tuned!
List of contributions by team members at the DKG 2023:
Team members of the research group ‘Transient Spaces and Societies’ at the DKG2023 (from left to right): Elisabeth Gruber, Jacqueline Kowalski, Belinda Mahlknecht, Jan Misera, Christoph Schimmel (picture credits: by Elisabeth Gruber, licensed under CC-BY 4.0)
Chakrabarty, Dipesh (2021): The Climate of History in a Planetary Age: University of Chicago Press.
Chao, Sophie; Wolford, Wendy; Ofstehage, Andrew; Guttal, Shalmali; Gonçalves, Euclides; Ayala, Fernanda (2023): The Plantationocene as analytical concept: a forum for dialogue and reflection. In: The Journal of Peasant Studies 30 (1), S. 1–23. DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2023.2228212.
Gudowsky, Niklas; Kowalski, Jacqueline; Bork-Hüffer, Tabea (2023): Augmented futures? Scenarios and implications of augmented reality use in public spaces. In: Futures 151 (8/9), S. 103193. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2023.103193.
Schimmel, Christoph (2023): Exploring Networks of Scholar-Led Publishing Initiatives with a Social Network Analysis of the Radical Open Access Collective. In: Journal of Scholarly Publishing 54 (1), S. 121–151. DOI: 10.3138/jsp-2022-0048.
Steiner, Christian; Rainer, Gerhard; Schröder, Verena; Zirkl, Frank (Eds.) (2022): Mehr-als-menschliche Geographien. Schlüsselkonzepte, Beziehungen und Methodiken. Franz Steiner Verlag. https://doi.org/10.25162/9783515132305.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt (2015): The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
The conference ‘Deutscher Kongress für Geographie’ took place from 19-23 September 2023 in Frankfurt/Main, hosted by the Goethe University Frankfurt/Main.
Opening lecture “Planetary futures” by Julia Verne, Nadine Marquardt and Stefan Ouma at the DKG 2023 in Frankfurt/Main. (Picture credits: by C. Schimmel, licensed under CC-BY 4.0)
by Prof. Dr. Tabea Bork-Hüffer
Geographer, University of Innsbruck
by Belinda Mahlknecht
Geographer, University of Innsbruck
by Prof. Dr. Tabea Bork-Hüffer
Geographer, University of Innsbruck