Eleventh Global Studies Conference

Maps and Globalisation

Life in the City and Wits City Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Jill Weintroub presented Making Maps: The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Digital Mapping for Spatial and Social Justice, a paper based on her JoziQuest project, at the Eleventh Global Studies Conference Subjectivities of Globalisation in Granada, Spain.

Eleventh Global Studies Conference / 2018 Special Focus: Subjectivities of Globalisation

University of Granada, Granada, Spain / 30-31 July 2018

Words: Jill Weintroub

With its centuries-old Iberian, Jewish and Moorish antecedents underlying its social and spatial makeover by the Catholic Monarchs of the 15th century, Granada in southern Spain was an appropriate location for a conference on globalisation with a special focus on ‘subjectivities’.

Handily located close to Africa and the Mediterranean coast, this part of the world has seen the ebb and flow of centuries of civilisations crossing and recrossing its landscapes, with corresponding fluidities of identity and ways of life. Granada is the capital of the eponymous province of Granada in the autonomous region of Andalusia; it is the site of one of the oldest universities in Europe, and in addition lays claim to being the birthplace of Flamenco. These various threads and influences are to this day reflected in its streets, monuments and built environments, where the Catholic alteration, re-embellishment and reinvention of Moorish / Jewish temples, mosques and palaces can still be seen.

My particular interest in the spatial humanities and thinking about the endless ways in which experience and power impact on space and design, shifted into high gear during the pre-conference tour to the Alhambra. There, the layered spatial histories of Granada, the city and its surrounding landscapes, are laid out in detail – histories of spaces continually remade by the contending politics and socialities of the people in charge, with urban spaces, structures and the built environment showing evidence of the contingencies, negotiations, defeats and victories over centuries, reflected in architectural styles, building layouts, embellishments and landscaping. Granada’s Alhambra, albeit centuries older, in many ways resonates with the spatial narratives one might tell about Johannesburg with its modernist skyscrapers and inner-city apartment blocks remade during apartheid and the transition that followed – the stories I hope to tell though JoziQuest. The Alhambra, the founding space of Granada with its sumptuous gardens and impressive series of palaces, villas and mosques turned into churches that dominate Granada’s skyline, is one of the most celebrated and popular tourist attractions in modern Spain (and there are many to choose from). So not unlike Johannesburg, with its irresistible ambience arising from its past as the ‘city of gold’ and one of Africa’s largest metropolises, but at the same time an urban environment encompassing fluid spaces of loss and joy, memory and hope, power and resistance, where smaller, intimate stories may be told to complicate the grander narratives of municipal authorities, planners and other spatial professionals.

The conference and its associated Global Studies Network are projects of the Common Ground Scholars Network. This University of Illinois-based organisation was founded in 1984 with a stated commitment to ‘building new kinds of knowledge communities innovative in their media and forward thinking in their messages’ (Global Studies 2018). The organisation supports a full programme of conferences, aiming to foster global exchange and trans and cross-disciplinary dialogue and debate touching on a range of disciplines and study areas from health and aging in society, to journalism and media studies, through art and architecture, urban studies and design practice, to technology and society.

The two-day Global Studies conference in Granada, sub-titled Subjectivities of Globalisation, aimed to open debate on the hitherto neglected aspect of globalisation, its ‘ideational’ dimensions as expressed in ‘beliefs, discourses, arguments and narratives about global trends and processes’ (Global Studies 2018). Essentially, in a context where much scholarly attention has been paid to the material aspects and processes such as economic, political, cultural and environmental, not much research has sought to understand the ‘(inter)subjective dimension’ of globalisation and its ‘place in our collective thought-patterns and its role in how we make sense of the world’.

There were two keynote speakers to start each day of the conference. Dr Roberta Guerrina spoke on ‘Rejecting Globalism and Everything it Stands for? A Feminist Reading of the Radical Turn in Contemporary European Politics.’ Guerrina is Reader in Politics at the University of Surrey, UK, and a European policy analyst with a particular interest in European social policy, citizenship policy and gender equality.

Dr Darren J. O’Byrne, Director of the University of Roehampton’s Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research spoke to the title ‘Globalisation and the Apocalypse’ on day two of the conference. O’Byrne is Reader in Sociology and Human Rights at the London-based university, and author of acclaimed books and papers dealing with critical theories of globalisation and global change, cosmopolitanism and human rights. He was the founding chairperson of the Global Studies Association in the UK.