By Renard Teipelke
From May 24th to 27th 2011, more than 200 scholars met in Roskilde, Denmark, for the 4th Nordic Geographers Meeting – an international conference not only for geographers, but also for experts from other disciplines (such as political science, sociology, economics and marketing) who deal with the issue of space in their research. Organized and hosted by the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change of Roskilde University, the conference with the theme “Geographical Knowledge, Nature and Practice” provided the room for discussing the importance of places of knowledge and their possible class-ridden, gendered, or ethnocentric character.
During the keynote lectures and parallel sessions (in sum: 66 sessions with more than 180 paper presentations), the conference participants could talk about various topics related to natural and political ecology, material culture, phenomenology and practice theory, new ontologies, as well as the connection of scientific and conceptual analysis and societal practice on different scales. Current geo-political conflicts (such as the North-African European frontier) and challenges of climate change (such as the management of water resources) were related to critical geography. Besides a spatial perspective on urban, semi-urban, and rural regions, the issues of planning and development were also brought up with regard to governance, sustainable practices, mobility, and social justice. The scope of the 4th Nordic Geographers Meeting furthermore included the topics of transnational living, tourism practices, earth system science, and mapping. The aspect of power and space played a major role in the session on Christiania – the self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood in Copenhagen’s borough of Christianshavn. Special attention to the issue of critical geography and education was paid at a panel discussion on the neoliberal university.
What stroke me was that the common feature of several paper presentations was the reference to place branding in all its facets. The concepts of identity, image, and brand were used in different – often not very precise ways – in the analysis of creative industries or regional development. Apparently, ambiguities can still be easily found around this topic. Thus, it seems to be necessary to further the discipline of place branding, which is what we hope to do with the Special Edition of the International Place Branding Conference in Utrecht in January 2012, for which the first call for papers will be sent out this week.