CFP RGS-IBG 2010: “Urban Subversions: Conceptualising alternative urban pastimes in the modern World City”.

Call for Papers:
Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference, 1st – 3rd September 2010, RGS, London.

Session conveners:
Oli Mould, Department of Geography, Loughborough University.
Bradley Garrett, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway.


Urban Geography Research Group
Geographies of Leisure and Tourism Research Group


Professor Tim Cresswell, Royal Holloway, University of London


The increase of the urbanised population (presently and in the projected future) and the rise of procedures for creating a ‘world city’ to attract the global flows of capital, means that the usage of urban space is coming under increasing tension. Not only in terms of a city’s primary functional capitalist usage, but increasingly so in terms of alternative, subversive or ‘underground’ uses. Alternative urban activities (or subcultures, practices, pastimes – what we have termed ‘urban subversions’) such as skateboarding, graffiti, parkour, exploration, guerrilla street theatre and many others, have all seen an increase in popularity (in terms of participants and coverage), but often exist uncomfortably with city authorities and in many cases are marginalised or prohibited altogether. In other cases, the march of commercialisation has seen these practices been subsumed into the capitalist regime, either by sponsorship, tight regulation or dilution of content.

In these modern complex times, these ‘alternative’ usages of the city by a variety of different groups and individuals are becoming more prevalent. This is in part due to the increase technological capabilities of citizens, with the Internet facilitating the dissemination of information, videos, ideologies and trends. This has had the effect of these practices becoming more ‘visible’ and hence is adding to the complexity of urban studies. The duality of capitalist versus subversive urban practices is no longer sustainable as the boundaries are being blurred by the practices (both physical and virtual) of urban citizens practicing these urban subversions.

Therefore, the session organisers invite papers that discuss the alternative uses of urban space by a multiplicity of practitioners. In particular, we will look for contributions from scholars who are engaged in any one of a plethora of ‘urban subversions’ and the theoretical implications for city life. This may include, but are not limited to:

  • Street Art and the City
  • Activism, urban movements and cityscapes
  • Technologies, Social networking and the mobilisation of urban sub-cultures and communities
  • Subversive Practices as Placemaking
  • Performing the Urban: Embodiment and Participation
  • Case studies and empirical cases of specific urban subversions such as parkour, skateboarding, urban exploration, urban pranks, trial riding, urban golf, graffiti and guerrilla street performance

Moreover, the session encourages presentations that blend theoretical and empirical case studies to further develop our understanding of how the urban terrain will be utilised in our increasingly urbanised future. There will also be a ‘fieldwork’ session in which participants will be encouraged to visit particular sites nearby to observe particular urban subversions (such as parkour, graffiti, skateboarding etc).

Please submit an abstract (of no more than 250 words) to or by Friday 12th February 2010.

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