I’m currently sitting at Heathrow right now waiting for my flight back to Singapore after a great week in London. I got to do a little exploring, a bit of conferencing, a little connecting with old friends and meeting some new ones, and a lot of eating all the food I can’t really get in Singapore.
I arrived a bit early, on Monday morning, because when I first booked my ticket I thought I would be going to one of the pre-conference workshops on Tuesday, much as I did last year for the RGS-IBG in Exeter. But I didn’t end up finding any of the workshop offerings this year very appealing – they were mostly far too UK-centric. I thought there would be a teaching workshop, as last year, but it never materialized. Oh well.
Instead, I went to the Notting Hill Carnival for the first time on Monday. Let’s put it this way… I loved everything that I didn’t hate.
The music was great, and wandering between the soundsystems could have been quite interesting. If it weren’t for the crowds. Organizers were expecting about a million people at the Carnival over the two-day event, in an area of only a few square kilometers (according to what I read in the Guardian). It was packed. And I HATE crowds. They make me feel claustrophobic. So after about two hours, I decided that I needed to get out of there. Leaving Notting Hill took another two hours. I was trying to find my way back to the Bayswater tube station, and I kept getting turned around or running into the Carnival parade route. Overall it was fun, though – I’m glad I can cross it off my bucket list.
The highlight of the week, though, was the real reason I was in London, the 2016 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) conference. At last year’s RGS-IBG in Exeter, Sophie Cranston from Loughborough University convened two sessions on ‘Exploring the Migration Industries’. And one of the things to emerge from those sessions was this year’s sessions on ‘Theorizing the Migration Industries’, which I co-convened with Sophie.
We had two fantastic panels. In the first session we had Alexandra Voivozeanu (University of Bucharest), Thea de Gruchy (University of the Witwatersrand), Deirdre Conlon (University of Leeds, presenting on work she’s done with Nancy Hiemstra, Stonybrook University), myself, and Katharine Jones (Coventry University). In the second session we had Damir Josipovic (Institute for Ethnic Studies, Ljubljana), Nir Cohen (Bar Ilan University), Ruben Hernandez-Leon (UCLA), and Lauren Martin (Durham University). We also had a no-show, unfortunately, for reasons no one knows (I plan to check-in and see if there was anything I could have done). But this would have extended our reach into the Great Lakes region of Africa, a point of view I was really looking forward to.
The geographic diversity of both presenters and their research sites was dazzling. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more international panel of speakers at this year’s RGS-IBG. More importantly, I learned so much about this messy field of the ‘migration industries’, and I hope we can transform these panels into something for publication in the near future. As Sophie is still co-editing the journal issue that came out of last year’s RGS-IBG sessions on the migration industries, and I’m still trying to finish my paper for that as well, this year’s panels will have to wait a bit, unless someone else steps forward to take the lead (we’ll see).
It was a great week, overall. I’m ready to get back to teaching for a few weeks, but I’m also really looking forward to my upcoming trip to Spain on 15 September during the fall recess week.