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Geographies of the Future - Lecture Series 2014/15



Geographies of the Future – Negotiating Change and DevelopmentGuangzhou_Ben_Nov2012 (139).JPG

Lecture Series starts on Thursday, 6th November 2014

In the 21st century, the social sciences face the challenge of  comprehending the changes in a world, which is globally entangled.  Geographical research is contributing to this by envisaging and explaining   possible futures. ‘The future’ might not be completely unknown, but how  exactly it unfolds will always be uncertain and full of surprises. The societal negotiations about development and social change can be  regarded as negotiations about the future. Possible futures are imagined,  aspired and anticipated, and thereby shape our actions in the present. In  turn, dominant visions of the future,qatar landing_Ben_2009.JPG development plans and measures to mitigate risks structure fundamentally future lives, markets, socio-  ecological systems, and the world’s political order.

The lecture series seeks to evoke a conceptual debate about space and the future, while bearing in mind the ambivalent processes of development, productions of risks as well as constructions of security. The themes that will be addressed by seven internationally renowned researchers include climate change and land conflicts, development and international cooperation, borders and migration, energy security, future emergencies as well as conflicts in and about the future.



Dates and programme:

06.11.2014: Detlef Müller-Mahn (Bonn): „Future-making, uncertainty, and geographical imaginations of riskscapes in Africa“

This lecture gives an introduction to the lecture series “Geographies of the Future”. It explores how the future is produced through anticipation, imagination and risk management, and in which way geographical imaginations shape emerging riskscapes. Future-making is conceptualized here as the set of cultural practices and techniques that relate the future to the present. The empirical background comes primarily from ongoing research on climate change and political crises in Eastern Africa.



13.11.2014: Sanghun Lee (Hanshin University, South Korea): "Radiant future: Riskscapes of nuclear power in South Korea"

sanghun Lee 3_webpage.jpgThe lecture presents the South Korean government´s strategy of enhanced economic growth and the risks involved in the rapid expansion of nuclear energy production. Strange enough, as a neighboring country to Japan which is experiencing serious disaster and suffering from nuclear power plant accident, South Korea still pursues to construct more nuclear power plants and related facilities. Even it faces considerable resistance from people. This lecture presents the South Korean government's strategy on nuclear power and risk management as well as people's risk consciousness through the lens of riskscapes. Based on intensive review on riskscapes of nuclear power, the past and future risk of South Korea as developmental state might be grasped.


27.11.2014: Ton van Naerssen (NCBR, Nijmegen): “Imagining the Future of International  Border Crossings: Perceptions, Meanings and Home-Making

Research on international migration tends to focus on migration flows and on why people move, but neglects why they do not. The latter question is as relevant as the former, since it is usually a tiny minority that decides to move and to settle across borders. The process of decision making involves several steps and includes dimensions of the perception of spaces, borders, and spatial trajectories, and the personal meanings people ascribe to these geographical notions. Transnational communities and networks contribute substantially to perception and meaning giving and they will most probably even do more so in the future. Get the summary of this lecture.


11.12.2014: Christian Borgemeister (ZEF, Bonn): „Managing future risks in East Africa:  Climate Change, Rift Valley Fever, and the transformation of pastoralism"

Rift Valley fever virus is a mosquito-borne zoonotic disease of humans and livestock, first isolated in the 1930s in Kenya. Since then increasing frequency of outbreaks in East Africa have been recorded with devastating impacts on the livestock sector, especially among pas-toralists, public health and the regional economy. Climate change is assumed to play a key role in changed disease dynamics. Improved surveillance and forecasting systems are crucially needed, as well as a better understanding how climate change driven disease dynamics are influencing pastoralism in East Africa.


15.01.2015: Ben Anderson (Durham University, UK): Emergency Future

Anderson_15-01-2015_webpage.jpgHow are future spaces enacted as emergencies are governed? And what might the example of governing emergencies tell us about how the future is related to today? The paper will reflect on the politics and ethics of governing emergencies in the context of the problem of how to govern a world of surprising futures. By focusing on examples across the fields of development, climate change and epidemics, the paper will argue that the twentieth century witnessed the invention of the ‘emergent present’ as a new space-time. Emergency is not, then, equivalent to crisis, disaster or catastrophe. Instead, the category of emergency is inseperable from reiterations and reattachments of a future orientated promise: that action in an ‘emergent present’ can make a difference in a world of surprises. Through the case of emergency, the paper will raise a number of questions about the implications of a topological account of space-time for understanding future geographies.


15.04.2015: Conrad Schetter (BICC, Bonn): „Tomorrow's Wars and the New Political Geography“

In today’s war studies geography is seen ambiguous. On the one hand across the world one can observe that geopolitical thinking has a large impact on the agenda of political and economic actors. On the other hand recent technological revolutions (robotics; cyber) replace more and more the real space by the virtual one. Against this background this lecture intends to reflect on key changes and challenges of modern warfare. Hereby the question should be raised, what role geography will play in future warfare.


Please also note the Flyer (PDF) with the lecture series’ key questions and the abstracts to each lecture.

Geography Department, University of Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 166, Alfred-Philippson-Hörsaal. Each lecture starts at 6:15 p.m.


Published summaries

27.11.2014: Ton van Naerssen (NCBR, Nijmegen): “Imagining the Future of International  Border Crossings: Perceptions, van Naerssen_Imagining Future of Migration_Bonn_27-11-2014.jpgMeanings and Home-Making"

The crossing of national borders, more in particular long distance international migration with the intention to find a job or shelter against violence is one of the most-discussed issues of contemporary times and poses many challenges for individual and collective identities. This lecture focusses on two questions that will be answered in interrelated ways:

(1) How can geography contribute to an understanding of international migration?

(2) Which images and visions of the future of international migration do exist?

Get PDF here