RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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101 Development geography’s ‘creative turn’: reconfiguring power and partnership? (1)
Affiliation Developing Areas Research Group
Convenor(s) Deirdre McKay (Keele University, UK)
Amanda Rogers (Swansea University, UK)
Chair(s) Deirdre McKay (Keele University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 28 August 2019, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Huxley Building, Room 340
Session abstract Cultural production is difficult to disentangle from its political context. Culture has long been instrumentalised to build nations, whether through colonialist representations of the ‘other’ or security-driven creative agendas. Creative methods and cultural production increasingly appear at the forefront of new modes of action, not only in marketing, opinion-shaping, but in collaborative research and development outreach. Geographers working in collaboration with colleagues in the global South need to think carefully about the role creativity - broadly understood - plays in their research collaborations.

Extending on Hawkins' critical perspectives on the creative turn (2018), this panel explores the implications of creativity driven by interests in the global North in the experience of the global South. Panellists reflect on their experiences of what it means, in practice, to co-create research focussed on creative processes and outcomes designed to deliver social impact.
Linked Sessions Development geography’s ‘creative turn’: reconfiguring power and partnership? (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
East Africa’s New Wave: reconfiguring the relationship between development and the creative industries
Poppy Spowage (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Despite a diverse and vibrant contemporary artistic scene, East Africa’s creative industries see less international exposure than other regions on the continent. Too often the arts are employed as the ‘supporting apparatus’ for development agendas, reinforcing a linear – cause and effect – narrative, which in turn is limiting artistic practice. In development contexts creative practice is almost always evoked as an unequivocal good; but like development – and the academy – the arts frequently reproduce existing hierarchies of inclusion and exclusion. This presentation explores how we can reconfigure the relationship between development and the creative industries, which recognises the beauty, affect and value of the moment of performance in supporting social, political and economic change, rather than using the arts in a directed, instrumental and target-driven way. I am a Creative Producer, based in Uganda, with experience delivering arts training, exchange and performance projects in the UK, Africa, Asia and Latin America. I am Co-founder and Creative Producer of East African Soul Train, a travelling residency for artists from across the region, and have produced Nyege Nyege International Music Festival in Jinja, Uganda, for the last three years. My contribution draws largely on insights drawn from Nyege Nyege International Music Festival and East Africa’s ‘new wave’ of electronic music to make my argument.
WITHDRAWN - Mafalala Tours: Co-production and Cultural Expression in Post-Independence Maputo
Beth Oppenheim (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
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Creative community engagement for poverty alleviation in India and Bangladesh
Sergei Shubin (Swansea University, UK)
My contribution explores different opportunities for collaborative creative research that build on the activities of the long-term interdisciplinary poverty alleviation project in the world’s most disadvantaged communities in India and Bangladesh. It uses a variety of novel artistic techniques beyond language-based approaches that give voice to hard-to-reach groups (previously excluded, uneducated and overlooked groups in national anti-poverty initiatives). Through creative collaborations with different actors in the Global South, it challenges the assumptions about some of the key issues in geography, including time, identity, reciprocity, justice and response. First, the project considered the role of arts (in the form of drama and drawings made by the poor people) in communicating poverty and revealing affliction that escapes categorisation in language (Blanchot, 1991). By exploring relationships between bodies, expressions and objects producing complex poverty it considered disadvantage as a rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987), inexhaustible and irreducible to human-centred categorisations. Second, building on the storybooks co-developed with young people in Bangladesh, the project explored uncertainty and potentiality of poverty beyond its traditional utilitarian expressions.

Creative re-interpretations of challenges of rural life drew attention to emergent and becoming nature of poverty, where the interplay of luck, fate and hope led to temporal displacement of “problems” into the future (Anderson, 2006). Third, creative collaborations with internationally-acclaimed and young Bangladeshi artists producing paintings of poverty not only helped to share experiences of oft-overlooked poor, but also highlighted affective, non-tangible elements of disadvantage which circulate in excess of measurement and often perceived as absent. I conclude by reflecting on the use of creative methods to express displacement (temporality and spatiality of poverty), question rationality in describing emergent subjects, and bearing witness to uncertainty, affliction and need.
Decorating Duterte: development and ‘dark’ creativity in the Filipino diaspora
Deirdre McKay (Keele University, UK)
Xiaoyu Lei (Keele University, UK)
This contribution reflects on our experiences of deploying a curatorial research methodology based on co-created community art. Our project, Curating Development, explored Filipino migrants’ contributions to development in the Philippines through participatory arts workshops. Arts activities in these workshops were designed to create an art exhibition, embedding research dissemination and public engagement in the creative process itself (Puwar and Sharma, 2012). Our project design anticipated our creative exhibition-making work would bring forth new ideas and inspire conversation, not generate conflict or exacerbate misunderstanding. The creative process we developed was simple: workshop participants applied collage techniques to selected social media images to illustrate their contributions to development ‘back home.’ The resulting collages revealed much to celebrate, but also showed migrants’ ambivalence about fractured family relations, contested political loyalties, and fraught personal histories. Even viewing art celebrating the Philippines controversial current president, Duterte, participants were reluctant to discuss the conflicts made visible by their art in the workshop space.

Using the concept of ‘dark’ creativity (Cropley et al, 2010), we explore why we decided to exhibit these problematic artworks. We reflect on the ways our exhibition design shaped the wider stories being told. Our creative methods for research co-production, and those for creative geographical research more broadly, need a stronger methodological grasp this ‘dark ‘creativity as generative of critical insight, rather than something to be repressed, discarded and hidden. A more robust and ethical approach to research collaborations should anticipate dark creativity as a vital part of the creative research process.
Discussant
Amanda Rogers (Swansea University, UK)
Discussant