• Local responses to state-led municipal reform in the Finnish-Swedish border region: conflicting development discourses, culture and institutions (2018-10-18)
    Fredriika Jakola Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu

    This paper scrutinises the intersections and collisions of different development discourses in the Kemi-Tornio sub-region which lies alongside the Finnish-Swedish border within the political context of municipal reform initiated by the Finnish government in 2011–2015. By drawing on cultural political economy and institutional regional theory, this paper studies how local actors utilize different development discourses produced at (and producing) different scales to justify or contest the municipal amalgamation within the Kemi-Tornio region. In addition, the specific interest is on the how local institutional environment, and border location in particular, are mobilized and strategically used in these processes. The results, based on policy documents and qualitative interviews with key municipal actors, highlight the coexistence of three different, yet overlapping development discourses. While some municipal actors support the state-led development discourse with justification of economic reasoning, there is a strong opposing discourse emphasising the region’s history, identity and municipal self-autonomy. The latter, interestingly, resonates with the EU’s cross-border co-operation discourse; offering an alternative development strategy. Together with the path-dependent regional history, this intersection creates unbalanced power relations between municipalities both with and without a state border. Thus, this paper illustrates how different scalar discourses and institutional structures are actively utilized in municipal reform processes.

  • Studying brownfields: governmentality, the post-political, or non-essential materialism? (2018-11-07)
    William Conroy University of Oxford

    This paper sets out to evaluate several common theoretical frameworks employed in critical studies of brownfield redevelopment. Specifically, it analyzes the relevance of governmentality, the post-political, and non-essentialist materialism in that context. To do so, it explores how these theoretical frameworks map on to Bridgeport, Connecticut’s BGreen 2020, and its approach to the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized land – and brownfields more specifically. It argues that these frameworks come up short when applied to this empirical case because they put forth untenable ontological claims regarding the constitution of the subject and political agency. Going further, it asserts that these frameworks fail to identify a way forward for those seeking emancipatory political interventions in the context of brownfield redevelopment and urban environmental politics. In closing this paper suggests that Jason W. Moore's recent writing on “capitalism as world-ecology” can provide a way forward where these other frameworks fail.

  • Welcome, its suppression, and the in-between spaces of refugee sub-citizenship – commentary to Gill (2018-06-17)
    Matthew Brookman Sparke UCSC

    This article argues that geographies of welcome complicate simple binary oppositions between fully enfranchised citizenship and what is often theorized as the ‘bare life’ of refugee rejection in ‘spaces of exception’. Ranging from sanctuary cities and squats to clinics, classrooms, kitchens and gardens, spaces of welcome instead offer islands of limited enfranchisement, agency and hope amidst seas of sub-citizenship, subjugation and fear. The concept of sub-citizenship can be used thus to elucidate how welcome and its suppression create a spectrum of intermediate experiences between the abstract poles of biopolitical belonging and necropolitical rejection. Geographies of welcome thereby become legible as in-between spaces in which the damage done by the suppression of welcome is contested and countered, however incompletely.

  • The fragility of welcome – commentary to Gill (2018-10-31)
    Jonathan Darling Durham University

    In this commentary, I take Nick Gill’s discussion of the ‘suppression of welcome’ and the politics of hospitality, as a starting point for reflection on how ‘cultures of welcome’ are produced. In exploring the work of those supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Sheffield, UK, I argue that welcome may encompass a range of practices, with varying levels of intention and recognition attached. Yet what draws these practices together are two factors, first, a positive engagement with difference that holds the potential to promote solidaristic, or at the very least non-violent, relations. And second, a fragility that means that welcome is always at risk of being suppressed or commandeered for other purposes. In considering the implications of the ‘suppression of welcome’, I argue for a focus on welcoming as a negotiated process that involves varying durations, demands and levels of commitment.

  • Envisioning human security – commentary to Gill (2018-10-31)
    John Morrissey National University of Ireland, Galway

    Prompted by Nick Gill’s review essay, ‘The suppression of welcome’, this commentary additionally reflects on attendant questions of security and responsibility in seeking to conceptualize a more human-centred vision of populations and population management in our current moment of refugee crisis in Europe. It charts how we might productively conceptualize and enact a ‘human security’ vision of population management, how such a vision requires us to think differently and cooperatively about security, and ultimately how this compels us to supplant a prevailing narrative of external threat and risk with a story of shared precarity, human empathy and collective responsibility.

  • Conditional welcome and the ambivalent self – commentary to Gill (2018-11-11)
    Jussi P Laine University of Eastern Finland

    This brief reflection is written from the standpoint that much of the witnessed suppression of welcome derives from either a lack of fully understanding, or misunderstanding, the reasons for and circumstances of the perceived crisis, as well as of the histories and motivations of the people who have arrived in Europe in great numbers. Rather than simply depicting the governmental perspective in opposition to that of the people, the argument put forth here is rather that the reactions to this extraordinary situation have been torn at best, and it is the mounting polarization, rather than the immigrants as such, that are putting Europe’s democracies, social model, cooperation as well as values to the test. The anxieties caused by immigration have become intertwined with deep insecurities triggered by originally unrelated societal changes, whereby the question of the suppression of welcome has a lot to do with the difficulty in finding an appropriate balance with one’s own benefits, preferences of association and responsibilities towards others. Efforts need to be taken to debunk tenacious false narratives about migration, and to provoke debate in a fashion that will lead to a nuanced understanding of the root causes and motivating factors behind the migrant flows, as this would enable us to take proper action in addressing them.