RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, London, 30 August – 2 September 2016

Call for Papers
Narrating Displacements – A Radical Way to Rethink Urban Theories and Politics


Hyun Bang Shin (Geography, London School of Economics) h.b.shin@lse.ac.uk

Mara Nogueira (Geography, London School of Economics) m.nogueira-teixeira@lse.ac.uk

Yimin Zhao (Geography, London School of Economics) y.zhao25@lse.ac.uk


Nowadays, we have been witnessing the rise of urban expansion, gentrification, mega-events and many other political economic events; all of them have direct impacts on the daily life of local residents through large- or small-scale displacements. Displacement is a term that has been widely used for critical urban theories in analysing contemporary urban change, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. Yet when people use this word in the literature, relatively few attentions are paid to mechanisms through which place-based understandings of displacement are enabling/bounding the historical-geographical conjuncture of domination and resistance.

Discourses of displacement are diverse geographically; they are also narrated and deployed by different subjects from distinct perspectives in displacement processes. Expressions like “chaiqian” (demolition and relocation), “qianyi” (relocation), “qiangpo qianyi” (forced relocation) are used in China to express actions through which the state institutions and businesses operate. In South Korea, “cheolgeo” (demolition), “gangje cheolgeo” (forced demolition) or “yiju” (relocation) are more frequently utilised by those subject to displacement. Elsewhere in Latin America, for example in Brazil, “despejo” (eviction) “desalojamento forçado” (forced eviction) and “expulsão” (expulsion) are common concepts deployed by those suffering displacement threats and their allies, whereas the actors promoting displacement prefer to deploy milder terms such as “desocupação” (evacuation) or “realocação” (reallocation).

The use of these particular expressions shifts the focus towards the final act of displacement; even though in reality people would experience (the feeling of) displacement long before actual demolition, eviction or relocation. Moreover, discussions about belonging and the sense of place show how displacement may occur even in the absence of such events. In this regard, abrupt changes to space might cause people to feel “out of place” even though they remain in the same location. To narrate the experience of displacement focusing only on the final acts has serious negative implications on formulating effective strategies that allow pre-emptive earlier contestations to resist and counteract displacement pressure. Furthermore, how displacement is actually narrated in a given local context is not trivial, for conceptualising displacement is itself political.

This session invites papers to reflect on narratives and discourses mobilised around displacement in a diverse range of social, political, economic and cultural settings by attending specifically to the tensions emerging from conceptualisation of displacement by different subjects in daily practices. The aim is to collaboratively reveal the role of displacement discourse in constructing the historical-geographical conjuncture of domination/resistance, and to uncover power relations/ mechanisms and state effects produced within this conjuncture. Suggestive topics include:

  • Place-based understanding (especially outside the Western context) of displacement and its socio-spatial effects;
  • Conceptualising displacement by different subjects;
  • The role of space in enabling or bounding people’s conceptualisation of displacement, or in affecting their reflections on the gaps between different conceptualisations;
  • The state manoeuver and tactics in promoting displacement with legitimised (sometimes hegemonic) ideology;
  • The effects of different narratives in reshaping understandings of displacement and in opening up possibilities of resistances

Deadline: 15 February 2016

To be considered, please submit an abstract of 250 words (maximum) to all three email addresses above.