RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018

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145 Geographies and landscapes of civil society (1)
Convenor(s) Rhys Dafydd Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Jesse Heley (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Rhys Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Michael Woods (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Chair(s) Rhys Dafydd Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Timetable Thursday 30 August 2018, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Glamorgan Building - Seminar Room -1.55
Session abstract The session will bring together authors who are interested in examining the spaces, scales, landscapes and politics of civil society. Civil society has been a key object of enquiry within academia for many years, being conceived of as the arena that exists beyond both the state and the market. Its character, origin and evolution have increasingly been problematised, with many authors (including geographers) examining:

1. The many scales of civil society, with geographical imaginations that have implicitly foregrounded the national scale being augmented by studies that highlight the local, global and multi-scalar contexts within which civil society is articulated;
2. The changing and fluid socio-political relationships between states, markets and civil society, often conceptualised in relation to ideas such as the shadow state;
3. The many geographical variations that exist in the meanings and practices of civil society (North/South, capitalist as opposed to post-socialist contexts, devolved contexts and in relation to a rural/urban divide);
4. The connections between civil society and the promotion of new forms of political subjectivity and practice, drawing in notions of active citizenship;
5. The way in which the (almost wholly) positive normative views of civil society can be complicated through reference to certain forms of political activism and extremism;
6. The contemporary challenges to notions of civil society as a result of large-scale migration, austerity and other global challenges;
7. The ‘landscapes’ of civil society and their implicit power relations, including the visible or hidden presence of civil society in cities, towns and communities and patterns of geographical unevenness in civil society activities and inequalities in access to civil society activity;
8. The extension of civil society into new socio-political realms, such as the non-human.

We welcome papers on any of these themes and, indeed, from others that seek to engage with the notion of civil society in creative ways. We are particularly interested in papers bringing a mix of theoretical engagement and empirical enquiry. We would also be delighted to welcome papers from individuals working with the notion of civil society within policy contexts (e.g. working within NGOs and governments of different kinds).

Linked Sessions Geographies and landscapes of civil society (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2018@rgs.org
Geographies of civil society: new spaces of politics and engagement
Rhys Dafydd Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Jesse Heley (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Rhys Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Michael Woods (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Civil society has been a key object of enquiry within academia for many years, being conceived of as the arena that exists beyond both the state and the market. Its character, origin and evolution have increasingly been problematised in conceptual and more empirical terms by authors writing from a range of disciplinary perspectives. In this paper, we develop an explicit and sustained geographically-informed critique of civil society. Drawing on empirical material collected as part of four WISERD-related research projects, we emphasise the benefits accruing from approaching civil society as something that: 1) is constructed in relation to various geographical scales; 2) varies spatially in terms of meaning and practice; 3) is being reconfigured as a result of mobilities of different kinds; 4) becomes embedded and reproduced through various material and symbolic landscapes; 5) is increasingly being extended into nonhuman realms. We conclude the paper by asserting the value of a geographical approach, both as a way of understanding current forms and practices of civil society, and as a means of developing more just forms of civil society in the future.
Exploring local patterns of voluntarism in Wales
Nicholas Page (University of South Wales, UK)
Gary Higgs (University of Glamorgan, UK)
Mitchel Langford (University of South Wales, UK)
In the UK, volunteers, community groups, and third sector organisations are increasingly relied upon to assist with, or assume responsibility for, the delivery of a range of local public services. Previous research, however, highlights an uneven landscape of voluntary action and infrastructure in the UK, which suggests that a civil society-based model of service provision may result in spatial variations in levels of accessibility to those public services most reliant on third sector support. Surprisingly, given the emphasis on promoting active citizenship and community self-sufficiency in the UK’s approach to public service delivery, there is currently little available evidence on local patterns of voluntarism. Synthetic estimation is a term which describes a number of approaches whereby individual-level survey data collected and aggregated to represent larger spatial scales, such as regions or countries, are re-estimated for smaller spatial units where such data are not otherwise available. Drawing on such techniques, this study estimates local levels of volunteering across Wales, UK using data obtained from the National Survey for Wales. In this study we seek to construct local indicators of levels of voluntarism that could help to identify geographical patterns of potential unevenness in civil society activities. This in turn will enable policymakers to detect areas potentially less resilient to the loss or reduction of statutory services. This paper details the construction of the small-area estimates, explores the local patterns, and discusses the relevance to the broader landscape of civil society in Wales.
Co-opting through city region building and devolution? Positioning civil society in and outside the city region
David Beel (Staffordshire University, UK)
Martin Jones (Staffordshire University, UK)
Ian Rees Jones (Cardiff University, UK)
Within the UK and as well as further afield, the concepts of localism and spatial delineation of the ’city-region’ (CR) have seen a renaissance as the de-facto spatial political units of governance for economic development (Clarke & Cochrane, 2013). In the UK, this has been led by the UK Government, as they have sought to reshape the ways in which economic development takes place. Although this shift in governmental delivery began under New Labour, it has been much vaunted by the UK Coalition Government (Deas, 2013), and subsequently by the continuing Conservative administration (Conservative Party, 2015). Post-the-Brexit vote and a new Conservative Administration, this strategy is somewhat in question and has uncertain future. Despite this, existing city and devolution deals seem to be holding. This policy landscape frames developments taking shape in both England and Wales where we consider findings from four case study city regions. Two in Wales, Cardiff Capital Region and Swansea Bay City Region that have negotiated city-deals with the UK and Welsh governments. And two in England, Greater Manchester CR and Sheffield CR both have well developed devolution deals in place. This paper therefore follows the development of city-regionalism in England and Wales through these different discourses and unfolding city-deals, thus allowing the authors to ask: within a language of localism and devolution where does this position civil society with its focus upon social development?
‘Tra bo’r dyfroedd o bob tu, a’r tymhestloedd yn crynhoi’. Aberystwyth and the production of a fractured ‘radical’ civil society.
Rhodri Aled Evans (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Place gives a firm grounding to practices and action within certain locations, but what of differing, and oppositional practices and actions which emerge within particular locations? Little attention has been given to the study of the formation of divergent groupings and ideals upon the radical fringe civil society within particular locations. This paper will therefore trace the means in which a fractured ‘radical’ civil society was produced, circulated and consumed within Aberystwyth during the 1960’s. Events enlivened the political scene within Aberystwyth, but reactions to such differed profoundly between individuals and groups within the same geographical location; from the organised protest, to use of arms and explosives. To understand the means in which differing ‘radical’ political actions are formulated, it is essential to examine the highly localized geographical ‘where’, in connection with the biographical ‘who’ of the perpetrators of such actions, to ensure a full understanding of the formation of such ideals. It is essential to consider the differing production, circulation and consumption of these notions in connection with the locales in which they are grounded, to fully understand the formation of such a fractured ‘radical’ civil society. The situated factors which contribute to these differing considerations, in regards to the form of action adopted by certain individuals and groups, are highly important as place, and the actions of individuals within these places are essential to the understanding of particular group-making projects associated with ‘radical’ civil society.
Moving mighty oaks: translocality and social acorns
Marcus Welsh (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Samantha Saville (Aberystwyth University, UK)
Laura Jones (Aberystwyth University, UK)
In this paper we consider the ‘translocal’ dimensions of local social action. We extend Freitag and Von Oppen’s 2010 articulation of ‘translocality’ as a research perspective attentive to globalising processes of connection, flow and transgression in which social actors are simultaneously situated in translocal networks whilst operating in local contexts – in McFarlane’s (2009) terms as composite ‘translocal assemblages’.Translocalism draws attention to the complexities of moving goods, people or information. A multitude of actors, components and conditions will contribute to the formation and maintenance of translocal assemblages: degrees of social embeddedness at place of origin and place of destination, infrastructure to forge and maintain connections between people, and the intensity of connection, for example, will make a difference to how translocal connections play out in practice.

Following our three year ethnographic engagement with a ‘typical’ market town (Newtown, Mid Wales), we examine three instances of local solidarity and social action. Responses to the transnational refugee crisis, to national policies and local poverty, and the impact of an errant road bypass, show us a range of processes at work. Through these three case studies we explore how translocalism is emergent from as well as constitutive of social action (assemblage as a form of ‘doing’ (McFarlane 2009) and how citizens variously participate in, utilise and respond to translocal forces, technologies, movements and networks. We argue that translocality, as an analytical tool, draws attention to processes of connectivity and exchange as well as emplacement; therefore helping to illuminate the local-global nature of contemporary place-based social actions.