A Stimulating Summer at OpenSpace

Summer at OpenSpace kicked off with the Doreen Massey Annual Event in Camden, London (27 June 2019), which brought together scholars around the theme of Environmental Engagement and the Politics of Creative Practice, including from Sounding Coastal Change, a research project by the Open University and University of Dundee, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project's principal investigator and senior lecturer in geography at the OU, Dr George Revill, gave evidence to Parliament's Coastal flooding and adaptation to climate change inquiry in July, while co-investigator Gair Dunlop's film Soundings was recently shortlisted for the AHRC's "Best Research Film 2019" award (to be announced at BFI Southbank on November 12th).

Dr George Revill
Dr George Revill at the Doreen Massey Annual Event ​​​​​


Another highlight of the summer was the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference, whose theme this year centered on "Geographies of trouble / geographies of hope", with the involvement of several OpenSpace researchers (28 to 30 August).

At the conference, Professor Parvati Raghuram was among the scholars and educational leaders who took part in a panel session exploring the many relationships between geography and education at a time when those relationships and the actors and organisations which promote them are diversifying, strengthening and in some cases, coming under threat. In the context of the ESRC IDEAS project, Professor Parvati Raghuram also presented her work with Dr Markus Roos Breines and Professor Ashley William Gunter on "Infrastructures of immobility: enabling international distance education students in Africa to not move", at the first session convened by Dr Gunjan Sondhi on Highly Skilled Migration and infrastructures of (im)mobilities. Dr Gunjan Sondhi herself presented "Unsettling normative assumptions of gender and skills: when place matters", co-authored with Professor Parvati Raghuram and Professor Clem Herman, at a session on the Everyday Subjectivities of Privileged Migrants, as well as their work on "Spatial Orientation as Skill: Insights from Internationally Mobile Highly Skilled Workers", at a session on Alternative Spaces of Learning.

Professor Parvati Raghuram
Professor Parvati Raghuram on 'infrastructures of immobility'


Professor John Allen was among the original authors of the book Human Geography Today (Massey, et al. [eds]), offering a brief reflection on the ideas that they and the book presented, together with their insights into the future of the discipline (Human Geography Today: Then and Now).

A double session on Exploring the local context for nature-based solutions in conservation management was co-chaired by OU Geography's Head of Discipline Dr Shonil Bhagwat and Dr Nikoleta Jones (Anglia Ruskin University), where Dr Charuta Kulkarni assessed the long-term role of agro-forestry practices in sustaining biodiversity and socio-ecological balance in India's Western Ghats.

Exploring the local context for nature-based solutions in conservation management


Delving into the political geographies of Brexit, Professor Allan Cochrane beckoned us to think "in and beyond nationalism", as part of a session on Troubling Rustbelt Revolts: Regional Geographies of Discontent and Political Grievance, while Dr Carol Leonardi explored the impact of Brexit on mixed nationality relationships at a session on Migration geographies.

A photo essay by Dr Jan van Duppen titled "Getting your hands dirty’: Sticky Soil and the Playfulness of Garden Work" also featured in a session on the trouble with knowing soils

Getting your hands dirty
Adequately soiled hands


Beyond the RGS-IBG conference, Dr Jan van Duppen rounded off the summer by co-organising an interdisciplinary symposium on Play and its Potential Publics (14 September), in a partnership between the Open University and the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London. Meanwhile, Dr Charuta Kulkarni headed to a monsooned India for a technical training workshop on Pollen based estimates of past land cover in South and Southeast Asia hosted by the Institut Français de Pondichéry, which brought together palaeoecologists and archaeologists, in addition to taking part in further science, communication and networking events in Delhi, Pune and Bengaluru.

Also towards the end of September, Dr Petr Jehlicka travelled to Lund University in Sweden for an international workshop on the role of informality in international development, where he and Petr Danek (Masaryk University) presented "Beyond coping strategy: Central European informal food economies as future-oriented and transformation-enabling practices".

Taking stock of the summer, and on the back of some arduous but fruitful research grant applications, in addition to a painstakingly revamped geography syllabus, the OU Geography team now looks forward to an exciting new academic year ahead, and to welcoming three new colleagues who will be joining us as lecturers.

OU Geography meeting
Summer is over. The team at OU Geography getting ready for the academic year ahead