Snippets from the RGS 2016 Conference on Nexus Thinking


By Renard Teipelke

Each year the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers holds its Annual International Conference. For this year, they chose “Nexus Thinking” as the conference theme. And as always, there was no lack of critical inputs and new ideas in the more than 400 parallel sessions, meetings, and plenary discussions (see program here). I tried to catch a little bit of different topics and thematic fields. Below I present one snippet/idea per session, although that is wholly inadequate to capture the rich research behind each project. However, it may spark your interest to look up the corresponding sessions, authors, and papers, or to engage more with the related field of research. For further reference, relevant links are placed within the text.

Meeting Nexus Challenges: From Policy Connections to Political Transformations // Andy Stirling (University of Sussex, UK)

Different methods to analyze ‘the nexus’ are applied across disciplines. Some methods work with rather narrow inputs (e.g. cost-benefit analysis), while others rely on broader inputs (e.g. participant observation). Some methods are geared towards closing-down outputs (e.g. stakeholder negotiation), while others aim for opening-up outputs (e.g. multicriteria mapping). Across these axes one can find both expert-driven analytical methods (e.g. risk assessments), as well as participatory and deliberative methods (e.g. plural photovoice). What ‘nexus thinking’ requires researchers is to understand different (often quarreling) corners of methodology and debate to arrive at a useful ‘nexus practice’ of co-creating knowledge and action.


The London Nexus – Metropolitan Elites in the 21st Century, New Perspectives on Britain’s South-Eastern Skew // Luna Glucksberg (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)

Super-gentrification in ‘Alpha Territories’ of London: “Can you call yourself ‘displaced’ when you are moving away with a few million pounds in profits?”

Provocations and Possibilities of ‘Nexus Thinking’: Postgraduate Snapshots // Renard Teipelke (Independent Urban Development Consultant)

A Very Telling Footpath Story about Urban Development Intricacies: Why is the bird’s eye view often so absent in planning and analysis? [also see here]

Operations of Capital: Studying the Nexus of Land, Housing, and Finance across the North-South Divide // Patrick Bigger (Lancaster University, UK)

Conservation finance – biodiversity as an asset class: Related to the concept of ‘cheap nature’ and based on the tragedy of liberal environmentalism, conservation finance does not seem to be sustainable as the singular ‘Ecolodge’ success is insufficient due to the lack of scalability.


Water Energy and Food Nexus: Dealing with a Wicked Problem? (1): WEF NEXUS Thinking: UK and International Perspectives // Marian Scott (University of Glasgow, UK)

WEFWEBs project: While the data analytics is moving towards integration across sectors, informing decision-making has a practical hurdle in that most regulation to manage WEF resources is deeply siloed.

Contested Urban Green Spaces in the ‘Austerity City’: Re-Politicising the Environment and Communing Public Spaces? (1): Funding and Management // Rianne van Melik (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Re-thinking public spaces and access: There are variegations of ‘publicness’ that require a more sensitive analysis beyond a binary perspective, rendering ownership ascriptions of private/public less relevant than user/usage aspects in light of exclusionarity, (too) high expectations towards public spaces, and the need of an eye for ‘different shades of grey’.

Chair’s Plenary: The Ghost in the Nexus: Global Poverty and the Dilemmas of Development // Ananya Roy (University of California Los Angeles, USA)

Millennials and Sustainable Development: Industrialization of aspirations; contact zones with poverty; structural adjustment coming home. [Hard to grasp the meaning? Read further here.]


The City-Hinterland Nexus in Global Context: The Dynamics of Rural-Urban Connections in Different Global Contexts (1) // Lothar Smith (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

Post-Apartheid South Africa r/urban landscapes: Rural areas emerge as peaceful and flexible spaces for drifting identities under translocality.

Consultants, Urban Governance and the Politics of Expertise // Gavin Parker & Emma Street (University of Reading, UK)

Private consultants and planning system reforms in England: The use of consultants in local planning has become naturalized and consultants appear as polyvocal actors, which raises questions not if but how the abdication of responsibilities takes place. However, one should be cautious in glorifying the past of planning.

Connecting Food System Sustainability and Resilience through a Geographical Lens (1): Resilient Food Systems 1 // James Kirwan (University of Gloucestershire, UK)

Resilience ethics and food chain performance: The spatial distance or unknowability of outcomes of actions does not remove our ethical responsibility.

Emergent Urban Spaces: A Planetary Perspective (2) // Sheere Brooks (College of Agricultural Sciences and Education, Jamaica)

Urbanization in the urban island context of Jamaica: There are disturbing signs of tourism urbanization and implosions of non-urban areas where urban services are prioritized and provided for visitors (both tourists and repatriates) whose sophistication is atrocious in view of exacerbating social problems of local residents.

Doreen Massey (1944-2016) Tribute and Celebration

Impossible to summarize. Kindly see this exemplary video. There will also be a documentary/interview coming out soon.


For next year’s RGS 2017 Conference, see here.

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