Updated: 10 April 2023

The final program is available

Our final program is now available. Please visit here.

Open hybrid sessions

The IGU Thematic Conference Osaka 2023 will open the hybrid webinar sesions to the public online (for free). If you are interested in attending the sessions virtually, please register here by March 31. The registered webinar participants can join the discussion.The hybrid sessions will also be broadcast on YouTube (viewing only). For more information about the sessions and the broadcasting URLs, please visit the Keynotes site.

Conference events

The LOC is planning to organize a welcoming party (April 3), a gala dinner (April 5), and a post-conference field trip (three days from April 7-9). If you are interested in these events, please visit our “Events” site. Please note that due to the uncertainties related to COVID-19, some of these events may be canceled.

Pre-registration for virtual participats

To participate in the conference keynote and virtual sessions, please register at the registration site by March 31.

Keynote lectures

We will have six keynote lectures. For details, please visit here


July Flyer, September Flyer, February Flyer

Date, venue, and format

Date: 4-6 April 2023 (JST)

Venue: University Media Center (Sugimoto Library), Osaka Metropolitan University, Osaka, Japan
Format: Hybrid (separated in-person and virtual sessions)

Main conference theme

This conference focuses on islands from three inter-related viewpoints: conflicts, sustainability, and peace. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides the regime of islands in Article 121. Article 121(1) defines an island as “a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.” Article 121(3) distinguishes an island from “(r)ocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.” From these provisions, we can understand that an island is legally imagined as a geographical entity habitable for humans and as a mediator of sovereign control over seas and sea terrains surrounding the island. These conceptual elements of an island are keys to understand how it was/is treated domestically and internationally. According to this definition, this conference addresses the following three component questions.

First, islands are in various forms and social, economic, and political relations to other islands and continents. While some islands may constitute a state, others may be dominated by neighboring islands or continental states. Islands are situated in a complex web of sovereign powers. This situation may be called “mainland/island relations” exemplified by colonization, territorialization, militarization, or marginalization. Conflicts can emerge along these lines between states over islands (e.g., territorial disputes or wars) or between the mainland and an island (e.g., forcible annexation or separatism). This conference investigates why and how islands were/are involved in what kind of conflicts or uneven power relations.

Second, islands are geographically characterized by oceanity, remoteness, and smallness. While these aspects may lead to their socio-economic vulnerability, they can open islands toward fishery, inter-island networks, and maritime trade. Islands’ unique climate, geomorphology, or ecology can also create distinctive cultures, local products, and tourist attractions. In this sense, sustainability is crucial for islands’ development. However, “mainland/island relations” may distort such development towards dependence on mainland’s investment, consumption, or public finance, leading to increasing mainland’s control over an island. This conference examines how islands’ sustainable development can contribute to their political-economic autonomy.

Third, unlike a peaceful image of islands, many islands have become battlefields between imperial powers. Some of them are still put under heavy military presence. There is no peace on such islands, or they provide peace for their mainland. This conference asks geographers if geography was part of this and how we can practice geography for island peace. Answers may be twofold: epistemological and practical. Epistemologically, we may be caught in “the territorial trap” (thoughts based on closed homogeneous state territory) even when we see islands. For their sustainability, islands connect themselves to other islands and continents through seas, and these human-geographical elements constitute a “liminal” (in-between) space as a milieu for transnational connectivity. A territorially trapped epistemology needs to be deconstructed. Practically, state borders marginalize border islands while trans-border interactions such as border tourism, sister-city exchange, or bilateral developmental initiative for maritime borderland can increase islands’ sustainability without creating tensions. We believe that geography can contribute to promoting such interactions and empowering islands.

There are numerous islands in different geographical and geopolitical settings all over the world. Japan, as a typical island state, consists of approximately 7,000 islands and continues to face many of the challenges mentioned above. Thus, Japan is one of the best places to hold this conference. However, this conference is open to any case studies across the world if they fit in the main conference theme. It is also open to any IGU Commissions, geographers, other scientists, university students, and the public who wish to share the theme topics with us. After the conference, a book compiling selected papers will be published. We sincerely hope that this conference will contribute to creating a better, more sustainable, and more peaceful world through geography.

Collaboration with the IGU Thematic Conference on
the Ocean and Seas in Geographical Thought

The IGU Commission on the History of Geography (IGU-CHG, C20.24) will also organize the IGU Thematic Conference on the Ocean and Seas in Geographical Thought held in Milan, Italy on June 6-7, 2023. Given that islands and the ocean are conceptually and empirically inseparable, we will actively collaborate with the IGU-CHG to connect the two conferences so that they can provide a more significant and comprehensive forum on islands and the ocean. In order to connect the two conferences held in different places and times, we plan to organize a joint virtual session for each conference and a virtual workshop on both themes between the two conferences (currently scheduled on May 19, 2023). We will do our best to realize this very new endeavor in the history of IGU thematic conferences.

Keynote speakers

Godfrey Baldacchino, University of Malta, Malta
Akihiro Iwashita, Hokkaido University, Japan
Hiroko Matsuda, Kobe Gakuin University, Japan
Alison Mountz, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
Philip Steinberg, Durham University, UK
Moritake Tomikawa, Okinawa International University (emeritus), Former Vice-Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

For their lectures, please look here.