Geographers have held a long-standing concern with describing and understanding the Earth’s surface and the social and environmental interactions which it enables or constrains, some employing creative methods to produce myriad explanations of surface pattern, processes and peopling (Harrison et al. 2004). However, critical reflections on different understandings of ‘the surface’ have been relatively neglected in contemporary geographical study, with emphasis being placed on geographical concepts such as ‘place’ or ‘landscape’.
Commonly, and metaphysically, we come to know the world, and figure our place in it, as surface-dwellers, moving over ground, across bodies of water or occasionally taking to the air to see patterns of life and habitats from on-high (Cosgrove 2001; Ingold 2008). Meanwhile, much of the commonplace, metaphoric language of the surface is deeply pejorative: beauty is said to be skin-deep or someone is warned they are skating on thin-ice. If surfaces are objects of attraction, they are also subject to our suspicion and distrust.
This session asks what a serious consideration of the superficial might allow, hinging on the question ‘What are surfaces?’ We welcome proposals for papers which have a theoretical and/or empirical focus which critically address different social, cultural, historical and physical engagements with surfaces: human and nonhuman; topographical, topological and technological; imagined, visualized and inhabited; material and metaphoric; reproduced, modelled and designed.
Papers may wish to address the questions/issues raised below
-What kind of ontological status are ‘the surface’ or ‘surfaces’ afforded?
-What are the relations (theoretical and lived) between ‘surface’, ‘space’ and ‘place’?
-How do surfaces form versions of exteriority/interiority for ‘the self’ and ‘the world’?
-Different theoretical approaches to surfaces: from the use of Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries, to Marxist approaches to commodity fetishism, work on aesthetics, and post-structuralist approaches to simulation, and smooth and striated space
-Theorisations of surfaces in relation to concepts of depth, texture, perspective, distance, ‘the point’, ‘the line’
-Theories about, and technologies for, the ‘full’ apprehension of surfaces at different scales/distances/heights
-Treating the Surface as ‘Background’ or ‘Interface’ or ‘Ecology’
-The Science and the Art of Surfaces
-Skins, Exteriors and Outsides
-Visual Cultures of Topographical Surfaces
-Affective and Haptic Surfaces, among Bodies and Beings
-The Place of Colour, Form and Pattern
-(Re)Modelling Surfaces, Topological and Topographical
-The Visualisation, Exposure and Concealment of Surfaces
-Surfaces and the Retention of Past Presence
If you are interested in submitting a paper, please contact Isla Forsyth (firstname.lastname@example.org). The deadline for submission of abstracts is 19th February
When submitting your paper please include the following information: 1) name 2) institutional affiliation 3) contact email, 4) title of proposed paper, 5) abstract (no more than 250 words) and 6) technical requirements (i.e., video, data projector, sound).
Department of Geograhical and Earth Sciences
University of Glasgow
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