Throughout 2017 the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities will be offering seminars canvasing a variety of topics that are relevant to current discussions and research.  These seminars usually take place on a Wednesdays at 12.30 pm - 1.30 pm, room location is next to each Seminar date. Please see below for more information about dates, speakers and topics for 2017.  

WEDNESDAY 12th APRIL - Early Start Building 15.206

Scott McKinnon
School of Geography & Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong

Title: Remembering and Forgetting '74: Vulnerability and resilience in the memory of a disaster

In January 2011, large areas of South East Queensland experienced devastating flooding which, in the city of Brisbane, inundated 1,203 homes and left a damage bill in the billions of dollars. This paper explores some of the multiple ways in which memories of an earlier Brisbane flood, on the Australia Day long weekend in 1974, worked as a central element of the 2011 disaster. My aim in doing so is to examine the often contradictory ways in which memory may act as both an element of resilience-building strategies and as a source of potential vulnerability. Within the experience of the 2011 floods were processes of memory-making which improved capacities to survive and recover, certainly, but which also increased the vulnerability of many Brisbane residents. Memories of the 1974 floods had become an element of local Brisbane identities. Yet even in a city that cherished its record of survival and recovery in the face of disaster, maintaining continued life, development and expansion in Brisbane had necessitated an equivalent process of forgetting or, alternately, the production of memories which carried with them some assurance that this would never happen again.

Scott McKinnon is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong. His postdoctoral research investigates the collective memory of disasters in Australia. The project aims to improve understandings of how memory of past disasters impacts on community vulnerability and resilience today. Scott also has research background in histories and geographies sexuality. His first book Gay Men at the Movies: Cinema, Memory and the History of a Gay Male Community was recently been published by Intellect Books.


Jamie Peck
The University of British Columbia

Offshore outsourcing—the movement of jobs to lower-wage countries—has been one of the defining features of globalization, ever since the identification of the “new international division of labor” in the 1970s. Routine blue-collar work has been going “offshore” ever since that time, a flipside of deindustrialization in the so-called rustbelt regions, but the digital revolution starting in the 1990s, coupled with ongoing liberalization, extended this process to many parts of the service economy too. Politically controversial since the beginning, “offshoring” is conventionally seen as a threat to jobs, wages, and economic security in higher-income countries, having become synonymous with races to the bottom and the dirty work of globalization. Even though the majority of corporations make use of the practice, fearful of negative publicity most now manage these activities in a discreet manner. Partly as a result, the global sourcing business largely operates under the radar, its ocean-spanning activities in low-cost labor arbitrage, organizational innovation, and corporate partnering remaining in a private world.

Drawing on his latest book, Offshore, Jamie Peck reflects on the first sustained exploration of the workings of the global sourcing industry, its business practices, its market dynamics, its technologies, its cultural politics, and not least, its constantly shifting economic geographies.

Jamie Peck is Canada Research Chair in Urban & Regional Political Economy, Distinguished University Scholar, and Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia, Canada. With long-term research interests in urban restructuring, geographical political economy, labor studies, the politics of policy formation and mobility, and economic geography, his current research is focused on the financial restructuring of U.S. cities, the politics of contingent labor, and the political economy of neoliberalization. Recent books include Offshore: Exploring the worlds of global outsourcing (2017, Oxford); Fast Policy: Experimental statecraft at the thresholds of neoliberalism (2015, Minnesota, with Nik Theodore); Constructions of Neoliberal Reason (2010, Oxford); and the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography (2012, Wiley, coedited with Trevor Barnes & Eric Sheppard). A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and previously the holder of Guggenheim and Harkness fellowships, Peck is the Editor-in-Chief of the Environment and Planning series of journals.


Florian Roth
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Title: Integrating Social Vulnerability in Risk Mapping in Switzerland

In modern disaster risk management research and practice, social aspects of vulnerability are mostly overlooked, even though social factors have an indisputable influence on the severity of a disaster. To contribute to a Swiss understanding of social vulnerability, in 2016 Center for Security Studies at ETH Zürich started a new, multi-year project. The project analyzes different dimensions of social vulnerability in order to support the mapping of social vulnerability indicators. The first part of project, conducted in 2016, has been a pilot study to develop a social vulnerability mapping concept focused on flood risks in the City of Zürich. It established a fast and easy means to understand and map factors that influence social vulnerability within the population, which in turn affect people’s capacity and willingness to respond to and recover from hazards. As part of the project, several interactive maps of the City of Zürich were produced to depict different dimensions of social vulnerability to flooding risks.

The 2017 follow-up study seeks to build on the findings from the 2016 pilot study in two ways: by gaining a better understanding of social vulnerability in the context of different natural hazards, and by developing more context-sensitive social vulnerability indicators. Specifically, the study aims to improve the original vulnerability indicators through a deliberative process that strongly draws on the expertise of local actors. Through this localized approach to social vulnerability, the project contributes to a more context-sensitive understanding of societal resilience.

The seminar will give an overview of past and planned parts of the research project, providing the basis for a critical discussion of its conceptual approach, methods and findings.


Florian Roth is a Senior Researcher with the Risk and Resilience Team at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich. The team’s research and policy consulting work centers on natural and technical risks and the way in which these risks are mitigated by human actions or management practices.

Florian’s research interests centre on disaster management, risk and crisis communication and organizational studies. He studied Political Science, History, Arts and Media at the University of Konstanz and at Stockholm University. Florian received his MA and his Ph.D. from the University of Konstanz.


Thom Van Dooren
University of New South Wales
Title: Provisioning Crows: Ecologies of Hope in the Mariana Islands

Now extinct on the island of Guam, the Aga or Mariana Crow can only be found on the small island of Rota. There too, its numbers are in serious decline, driven by a range of factors including habitat loss and introduced predators. But direct and deliberate persecution by local Chamorro people is also a major component of this story. Driven both by frustration and a practical desire to keep crows off their lands—to avoid the conservation restrictions on livelihoods and land practices that are now bound up with these feathery bodies—many local people have taken to killing Aga, or at the very least removing their nesting and food trees. As one Chamorro man succinctly put it to me in an interview: “Our development has been held back because of these issues.” Another added: “We’re living in a primitive age again.” Taking the Aga as a guide, this paper explores these interfaces of development and conservation on Rota through a specific lens, that of hope. Tracking some of the many modes of imagining and enacting futures that local people and the crows themselves are taking up, this paper offers an understanding of hope as an ecological and worldly proposition, crafted in and through specific webs of understanding and relating that enable possibilities to take root, and perhaps even thrive, in the world.

Thom van Dooren’s research is situated in the broad interdisciplinary field of the environmental humanities. His current work focuses primarily on the philosophical and ethical dimensions of species extinctions and wildlife management, and is rooted in an approach that draws the humanities into conversation with ecology, biology, ethology and ethnographic work with communities whose lives are entangled with disappearing species in a range of different ways.
Van Dooren completed his B.A. (honours) and PhD at the Australian National University. He has been a Humboldt Research Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich (2014-2016, intermittent) and has held visiting positions in the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz (2005, 2010) and the Environmental Humanities Laboratory at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden (2014).
Van Dooren is co-editor of the international open-access journal Environmental Humanities. For more information on his writing and current research projects please visit his personal website


David Schlosberg
University of Sydney

Title: Sustainable Materialism: New Environmentalisms and Everyday Life


Jane Dyson
Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne


Affrica Taylor
University of Canberra

Title: Walking with wildlife in wild weather times


Professor Andrew Herod
University of Georgia, USA
Title: Labor in 21st Century America
Held: 1 March 2017

Labor in the USA is facing many challenges – deindustrialization, the rise of precarious work, anti-unionization drives, labor-unfriendly government at the federal and state level, growing disparities of wealth, and many others. In this talk I will provide a general overview of some of these challenges facing US workers, as well as explore some of the strategies which may serve to improve workers’ situations.

Andy Herod is Distinguished Research Professor of Geography in the Department of Geography, University of Georgia. Andy’s research interests are in labour and economic geography, political economy, social theory and qualitative methods. He has published widely on labour and employment issues, including seminal work marking-out the now vibrant subfield of labour geography. His books include ‘Geographies of Globalisation’ (2009, Basil Blackwell) and ‘Labor Geographies: Workers and the Landscapes of Capitalism (with Melissa Wright 2001, Guildford).

WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH - Early Start Building 21.G04

Prof. Donald McNeill
University of Western Sydney
Title: Brownfield fantasies? The innovation district and the urban policy toolkit

The idea of the ‘innovation district’ has gathered increasing currency in urban policy fields. Given impetus by a widely circulated report by the Brookings Institution, an innovation district is said to be defined by its inner-urban brownfield location, in stark contrast to the greenfield science park models of innovation that had previously captured the attention of policy-makers. Serendipitously correlating with the locational and lifestyle choices of younger generations of technology workers, innovation districts have now become an orthodoxy within the urban policy toolkit. Taking Massey et al’s significant 1991 book High-Tech Fantasies as a starting point, the paper provides a critical commentary on the Brookings document, examining its key suppositions. It then proposes three separate arguments relating to the innovation district: first, that it is driven largely by a real estate valuation metric rather than an innovation metric; second, that despite its ‘disruptive’ clothing and association with start-up ecosystems, it remains subject to corporate programming and ‘capture’; third, that it promotes a rhetoric of innovation and jobs growth with ambiguous socio-economic consequences. To illustrate this, the paper draws evidence from several innovation districts around the world, including Seattle’s South Lake Union, Sydney’s Australian Technology Park, Barcelona’s 22@, and Brooklyn’s Tech Triangle

Donald McNeill is Professor of Urban and Cultural Geography, joining the Institute for Culture and Society in 2011, having previously held positions at the Urban Research Centre (Western Sydney University), King's College London, Southampton and Strathclyde. He was a recipient of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, in the field of 'Governing digital cities', running from 2012 to 2016. His books include Global cities and urban theory (Sage, 2017), The global architect: firms, fame and urban form (Routledge, 2008), New Europe: imagined spaces (Arnold, 2004), and Urban change and the European left: tales from the New Barcelona (Routledge, 1999).  

Last reviewed: 11 April, 2017