Seminar Series 2018-2019

GeoSpectives is the lecture series hosted by the Department of Geography. Talks are in Burnside Hall, Room 426, normally on Fridays, 12 noon to 1 p.m. unless stated otherwise.

Winter 2019

Date: January 25, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Sulphate and mercury methylation in northern peatlands: 20 years of insights and applications
Prof. Brian Branfireun
Department of Biology and Centre for Environment and Sustainability
Western University

Although processes governing the formation of methylmercury in the environment are conceptually well understood, understanding mercury methylation at the landscape scale continues to present both scientific and management challenges. This seminar will present recent work linking sulphate supply to methylmercury formation in northern peatlands, focussing on the role of groundwater-surface water interactions, wastewater discharges, and mine rock leaching on mercury methylation. Prof. Branfireun will show that in profoundly sulphate limited peatlands like those in the far north, even small additions of sulphate rapidly stimulate methylmercury production, raising questions about threats to aquatic ecosystems due to both climate and land-use change in the north.

Date: February 22, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Producing Space: Urban Agriculture and its Contradictions in Portland and Vancouver
Prof. Nathan McClintock
Urban Studies & Planning
Portland State University

In this talk, Prof. McClintock will provide an overview of a collaborative book project culminating from a three-year study of urban agriculture in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, BC, two cities renowned for their innovations in urban sustainability. This comparative study of food production in the two cities reveals how formal policymaking and the everyday governance and politics that produce urban agricultural spaces can both reproduce and contest the entrepreneurial logics of so-called sustainable cities and the eco-gentrification that has become a defining characteristic of green urbanism.

Date: March 29, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Environmental Rule and Ecological Restoration in the Anthropocene: Lessons from Vietnam
Prof. Pamela McElwee
Department of Human Ecology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences
Rutgers University

In a recent book, Forests are Gold: Trees, People and Environmental Rule in Vietnam (U of Washington Press, 2016), I used a history of forest policy in Vietnam to develop and conceptualize the idea of environmental rule, whereby states, organizations, or individuals use environmental or ecological reasons as justification for what is really a concern with social planning. In this talk, I zero in on how environmental rule relates to ecological restoration, using case studies from both Vietnam and elsewhere, to examine how political and social factors often play a more important role in where restoration is attempted than ecological or edaphic ones. I will conclude with a discussion of what challenges restoration in the Anthropocene faces, and how we can overcome the influences and impacts of environmental rule.

Date: April 12, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:00pm
The New, the Same and the Ugly: Extractivism in Latin America and beyond
Prof. Anthony Bebbington
Graduate School of Geography
Clark University

Over the last two decades, extractive industries and extractivism have become increasingly transformative components of Latin American social, political, economic and cultural landscapes, albeit in ways that differ among countries. Indeed, nature, its governance and its exploitation, should be a central concern in contemporary political economy of the region as well as in thinking about alternatives. Given this centrality, it is important to understand the conditions under which political innovations can emerge that foster ways of governing extractive industry such that it is less likely to lock countries into particularly exclusive and destructive forms of elite politics and development. This explanatory challenge goes well beyond Latin America, and indeed there are striking similarities between processes unfolding in Latin America and elsewhere. This talk first elaborates these claims, and then explores two “cases” that offer differing insights into the forms and consequences of extractivism in the region, and ways in which a range of social and political actors have responded to these. Prof. Bebbington uses the cases to develop a simple framework for conceptualizing the emergence of (progressive) innovations in the governance of extractivism.

Fall 2018

Date: September 14, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Commons, Co-ops and Corporations: Indonesia's 21st Century Land Reform
Prof. Tania Li
Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto

In Indonesia, as elsewhere in the global south, twentieth century land reform hinged on the figures of the landlord and the peasant, whose interests were understood to be opposed. Twenty-first century land reform is assembled from different elements, notably commons, co-ops, and corporations, and diverse actors with interests that conveniently seem to align. For different reasons, commons and co-ops are favoured by indigenous land rights activists, World Bank land experts, climate scientists, and advocates of the "peasant way" seeking non-capitalist alternatives. Corporations are eager to be re-positioned as benevolent partners and champions of the poor.  Yet the promise of egalitarian, co-operative communities, nurtured by corporations and a reform-producing state is disrupted by class differentiation among the people, and the crony-corporate cabals that reach into every layer of Indonesian society. In Indonesia and elsewhere, attempts to render land reform technical and non-political run into serious limits, and underlying injustice remains unresolved. 

Date: October 12, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Discourse and practices of a “digital sovereignty"
Prof. Georg Glasze
Institute of Geography
Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuremberg

Until very recently, digitization was predominantly seen as an element and driver of globalisation, of de-territorialisation and of a more and more borderless world. However, since a few years there are also other voices. In Germany and some other European countries, but for example also in Canada, in Brasilia or in Russia, there are voices calling for “digital sovereignty”. The presentation will discuss this discursive shift on the basis of an analysis of political and public debates in Germany. Two central narratives can be differentiated: voices calling for more digital sovereignty in the sense of territorial delineation thus breaking with the globalisation narrative as well as voices calling for more digital sovereignty in the sense of a strengthening of “digital competencies” within the global economic competition.

Date: October 19, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
DisplacingBlackness: Planning, Power, and Race in Twentieth-Century Halifax
Prof. Ted Rutland
Department of Geography, Planning, and the Environment
Concordia University

Urban planning has long been seen as a way of improving human life through spatial means. But what if planning's commitment to human life is the cause of, rather than solution to, the destruction that it often causes? What if the human being, as planning conceives it, is more limited and race-specific than it might seem?This presentation examines a century of planning history in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Focusing on a series of planning initiatives that sought to protect or improve human life, is shows how planning's conception of the human being relied on particular distinctions between the normative and the pathological, and how Black life – and, thus, Halifax's longstanding Black population – was continually placed outside planning's vision of human flourishing. Drawing connections between the history of urban planning and emerging scholarship on anti-blackness, this presentation locates an anti-Black conception of the human being at the core of modern planning practice. Displacing blackness, expelling blackness from the sphere of the human, is integral to the operation of modern planning – not just in black neighbourhoods, but across the urban terrain.

Date: October 26, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Reclaiming the Oil Sands: Can We Put the Peatlands Back?
Prof. Maria Strack
Department of Geography and Environmental Management
University of Waterloo

Oil sands deposits in Alberta cover over 142,000 km2 of boreal forest and represent one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Many of these oil sands deposits are located in areas rich in peatland cover, often account for over 50% of the landscape. Open pit mining completely removed all surface materials (up to 75 m) such that reclamation requires reconstruction of entire landscapes, but covers only 3% of oil sand surface area. Deeper deposits can be recovered using in site methods that involve the construction of a network of roads, pipelines and well-pads. In either case, large areas of peatland are disturbed and several projects are now investigating construction and restoration methods to return functioning peatland ecosystems to the post-extraction landscape. Using case studies from around the province of Alberta, reclamation methods will be discussed. Overall, wetland and peatland plants can be established on reclaimed peatland ecosystems and sites quickly act as growing season C sinks; however, shifts in peat chemistry related to oil sands specific disturbance result in novel biogeochemical conditions on site.

Date: November 2, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Title: “But how do you position yourself in your research?”: Gendering the politics of positionality in Geography.
Prof. Yvonne Te Ruki-Rangi-O-Tangaroa Underhill-Sem
Development Studies and New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research
University of Auckland

The concept of positionality is deeply embedded in feminist geography, in geographies of indigeneity, and in development geography. It has provided for the close scrutiny of the long history of knowledge being created by “all-knowing, all-seeing, disembodied researchers”. So, why is there are need to still be asking the question of positionality in 2018? By understanding positionality, it is possible to see how the world comes to be understood and known from different social locations. This is not a problem except that more work is needed to ensure a diversity of positions – at present the positions are too narrow. And this is not an innocent narrowing, I argue that it is part of a particular gendering of the politics of positionality. As a scholar of Pacific heritage, development is my context and indigeneity is my compass. Working with the concept of positionality, and associated concepts of intersectionality, assemblage and embodiment, I seek to explain the gendering of diverse spaces of development geographies in the Pacific. In the process I traverse issues including climate change, labour mobility, and gender inequality.

Date: November 23, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Title: Inclusive growth in cities: A sympathetic critique
Dr. Neil Lee
Department of Geography and Environment
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

The concept of “Inclusive Growth” – a concern with the pace and pattern of growth – has become a new mantra in local economic development. Despite enthusiasm from some policymakers, others argue it is a buzzword which is changing little. This talk, summarises and critiques this agenda. There are important unresolved issues with the concept of Inclusive Growth, which is conceptually fuzzy and operationally problematic, has only a limited evidence base, and reflects an overconfidence in local government’s ability to create or shape growth. Yet, while imperfect, an Inclusive Growth model is better than one which simply ignores distributional concerns.