Please note virtual participants cannot attend in-person sessions; they can only attend virtual sessions.
Geography of information, innovation and technology in islands and waterfronts
Tommi Inkinen (University of Turku)
This session focuses on geographical analyses of information, innovation, and technology. Geographically the session invites papers dealing with islands, waterfront developments, and other topics including water-land dimension. Technology and innovation driven geographical research has experienced a great shift in the methodological mindset of how the innovative developments affect the surrounding world. In recent years empirical data sources have been developed and empirical investigations concerning knowledge hubs, smart cities, technological embedding, and socioeconomic-technology relations have gained more explanative power and interest within the academia. Innovative spatial development commonly requires the recognition of technological development directing the physical infrastructure. This is related to current digitalization trend taking place in all societal domains including economy, environment, and policy. Islands and waterfront areas have become a significant study topic in tourism and transport studies. These topics are geographical as islands and their geographical contexts are highly versatile and different. The session welcomes theoretical and empirical studies on these topics. Traditional examples include accessibility, mobility, and sustainability solutions related to island infrastructures and/or water front development (e.g. reuse of space and real estate, transport systems, and environmental soundness). These are complex issues and the session aims to promote and present the current state-of-the art research in the field of geography of innovation, information and technology.
Island borders: Archipelagizing Taiwan
Po-Yi Hung (National Taiwan University)
Ian Rowen (National Taiwan Normal University)
This panel develops the notion of Taiwan as an archipelago rather than an island. It explores new approaches to Taiwan’s shifting boundaries, contested sovereignty, and interconnected ecology. In doing so, it opens up new avenues for border studies of the wider region.
Border studies has undergone a series of turns in recent years, from “processual” to “mobility” to “material” approaches. As valuable as these turns’ insights have been, most continue to predicate on a terrestrial notion of borders, leading some scholars to propose a decentering of land in favor of the maritime as an analytic frontier (Hung and Lien 2022). In a similar vein, many in the growing field of Taiwan Studies have treated Taiwan as a transnational or transcultural assemblage, further challenging the boundedness of terrestrial and island borders. Reconsidering these turns and trends through an archipelagic lens, the panel follows the proposition of Baldacchino and Tsai (2014) that, “Thinking with the archipelago can change how we think about the world and our place in it,” in Taiwan and beyond.
The scope for papers is broad and capacious. One avenue is the notion of the “maritime gray zone,” whether in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Pratas Island in the South China Sea, or the heavily militarized islands of Kinmen and Matsu in the Taiwan Strait. These gray zones are archipelagic enclaves not only for human, but more-than-human kinds of life. Another possible direction may go beyond Taiwan’s administered territories, to consider the dispersed people, places, and polities that constitute the global Taiwanese diaspora.
Understanding our past. Seeing our future: Land & sea, decolonization and research in the Ryukyu Archipelago
Daniel Iwama (University of California, Los Angeles)
77 years since MacArthur landed on the shores of Okinawa Island, the Ryukyu Archipelago remains densely occupied by the fortifications of the US Forces and its allied militaries. Because these militaries gravitate towards “islands of exception” where manipulations of democracy and the denial of self-determination are commonplace, we know that this state of affairs is unexceptional among the Indigenous peoples whose islands speckle the Pacific (Davis 2011). Rather than abating, we see the preparations for war intensifying. As social scientists and descendants of these islands, our efforts converge on understanding the social-geographic logics supporting colonialisms (military and otherwise) in our home/land, and on seriously considering pathways beyond them.
This session will follow a chronological arc, from the past to the distant future. First, we will expand upon the early years of the de-jure occupation period by the US. Papers will examine themes of land, dispossession, and labor exploitation at dawn of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands. We will then move into the present, where research will illuminate peoples’ movements against the oppressive forces of militarism, mostly on Okinawan Island. This second group will address the urgency of hope and futurity under conditions of militarist colonial occupation. Having presented our scholarship, we will yuntaku about the practical difficulties and joys of doing social science research in Okinawa, our experiences in the academy, and the importance of resisting colonial legacies of knowledge production and extractivism for a sustainable future of island studies.
Sasha Davis (Keene State College)
This session will highlight how island residents, governments, and institutions develop island-centered geographical imaginaries, policies, and relations which challenge traditional geopolitical architectures driven by great power politics, including competition. Imperial powers have long targeted islands as instrumental sites to expand their own influence and curb the ambitions of rivals. In the service of bringing security to the residents of their continental homelands, imperial projects have largely treated islands as objects to be possessed within one ‘sphere of influence’ of another, platforms for military power projection, disposable spaces, or nodes in competing global infrastructure projects. As demonstrated by current island-focused geopolitical maneuverings between China and the ‘Quad’ powers of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia; this is as true today as it has been over the past several centuries. This session, however, will highlight the ways that island governments, non-state organizations, and residents not only navigate or resist these projects, but how they imagine and create political relationships and policies that attempt to change the focus of security – from metropole citizens to islanders – as well as the forms of security – from militarized national security to broader frameworks of environmental and human security. Following on the conference theme of ‘islands in relation,’ this session seeks to showcase ways that island residents and institutions exercise agency and create inter-island political, economic, and social connections which challenge traditional imperially oriented definitions and practices of security.
Countering the impacts of climate change, insecurity and outmigration in Asia-Pacific islands
Juha Uitto (Global Environment Facility)
Pacific island countries face insecurity due to ongoing climate change causing both loss of territory and massive out-migration. For instance, in the case of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the population declined from 53,158 to 39,262 between 2011 and 2021. While outmigration can represent an adaptation measure to climate change, and thus prevent internal conflicts as land and water resources are lost due to sea level rise, the extent of outmigration risks other insecurities. Some countermeasures need to be developed and implemented to prevent the RMI from losing both its population and territory to climate change. Nakayama et. al. (2022) propose two possible alternatives, namely land reclamation and raising, and developing floating platforms on the territory of the RMI, by showing the relative advantages and disadvantages of these measures compared to migrating. McClain, Bruch & Fujii (2022) point out that achieving “Migration with Dignity”, which has become the keynote of migration policy today, requires several conditions, which are not necessarily met by out-migration from the RMI to the US, as shown by O’Connor, Bruch & Maekawa (2019) and Maekawa et. al. (2019).
Other initiatives maintaining and enhancing ecosystem goods and services through integrated approaches to land, water, forest, biodiversity, and coastal resource management that contribute to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience are explored with support from the GEF.
Drawing upon evaluative evidence, this session will scrutinize possible means to maintain peace and security of Pacific countries by enhancing their resilience to climate-induced risks and sustainable resource management.
Adaptive island governance and climate change: The role of local government and spatial planning systems
Carlos Nunes Silva (University of Lisbon)
The Session aims to explore and to discuss recent developments of local government systems in small Islands and the respective Spatial Planning Systems, in particular in small Island States. The Session will address, among others, the following research questions: Is the Local Government System in small Island States robust enough to address climate change and its effects? How and to what extent does the Spatial Planning System in small Island (States) consider adaptation to climate change? This Session is associated with the Action Plan on “Local Governance and Climate Emergency: Strategies, Plans, Actions, Outcomes, Impacts” of the IGU Commission on Geography of Governance (https://sites.google.com/view/igucgog-climateemergency/home). Among others, the Session may include papers as the following three: 1. “The capacity of Local Government to address Climate Change and its effects in two Small Island States in Africa: Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe”; 2. “Planning for Climate Adaptation in Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe: the role of Spatial Planning Systems in small island states”; 3.”The relationships between administrative reforms and responses to isoyake in the islands of Ojika and Uku in Japan”. If possible to be divided in several panels of 4 papers each, the Session could eventually comprise several panels with papers on the role of local government on climate action in small islands states in the Atlantic, Indic and Pacific Oceans.
River islands in the Anthropocene: Rethinking sustainability and social justice
Mitul Baruah (Ashoka University)
Although largely ignored by the island studies scholarship, river islands play an important ecological role in many parts of the world and are certainly integral to the vast world of riparian ecologies in South Asia. Known variously as chars, chaporis and diaras, these riverine islands are part of the natural environment of the Indus-Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna floodplains. They are product of the specific fluvial dynamics of these rivers. Part water, part land, these are hybrid environments that support lives and livelihoods of millions of people in South Asia. At the same time, they are highly vulnerable to environmental transformations wrought largely by anthropogenic forces.
In South Asia, these islands are constantly being re-shaped by the twin processes of flooding and erosion, resulting in large-scale displacement, outmigration, and loss of traditional livelihoods. Part of the natural landscape of these islands, flood and erosion have now turned disastrous due to the specific role of the state. Globally, too, large hydraulic projects, infrastructure network, and climate change continue to threaten river islands. However, the river island communities sustain by adapting and adjusting to these transient socio-ecological patches and innovating locally-contingent survival strategies.
How do we, then, conceptualize, (re)ontologize – and achieve – sustainability in such volatile ecologies? In South Asia, the river islands have also been home to partition refugees and, more recently, environmental refugees, thus making these geographies a fertile ground for conversations on conflict and peace, and social justice. This session welcomes papers that engage with the above and related issues facing river islands globally.
Archipelagic possibilities: Charting solidarity, resistance, and repair
Neha Kohli (University of Florida)
Meagan Harden (University of Hawai’i at Manoa)
Brittany Lauren Wheeler (Clark University)
The multiplicity and singularity of islands in an archipelago make possible relations that challenge colonial and imperial imaginaries (Mawani, 2021 & E’houofa 1994). This session engages archipelagic possibilities as political openings for solidarity, resistance, and repair in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It asks: Where and when do archipelagic possibilities arrive or persist? At what scale, and under what circumstances might they engender change?
The session centers relations across island space such that the materiality of islands, the in-betweenness of water, and diasporic connections become critical for foregrounding stories of solidarity, repair, and resistance (Davis 2015; Mountz, 2014; & Perez, 2015). It draws on geographies of the state, feminist geopolitics, moral and legal geographies, and geographies of race to explore specific stories, political transitions, and reparative futures that islands bring to addressing environmental threats, colonization, militarization, and displacement. It also considers the broader ways in which islands and islanders forge, sustain, or otherwise shape geopolitical configurations (Davis, 2015). The session takes seriously relational geographies of islands as enabling political possibilities for Island peace. We ask: What lessons emerge in this present moment from thinking with islands?
Island nation: Reflections in and from Japan
Edward Boyle (International Research Center for Japanese Studies)
This panel examines modern and contemporary understandings of islands which have circulated in and about Japan. While it is commonplace to describe Japan as an island nation, such a term fails to recognize two things of importance. The first is that the meaning and emotional resonance of islands has varied dramatically both in different parts of the country, and over time. The second is how perceptions of islands, and thus the significance of the nation’s territory being constituted by them, has had varied meanings for different sections of society.
The papers in this panel will collectively reflect upon the significance accorded to islands and the nation in Japan since the nineteenth century, and will seek to engage with the following issues. First, to what extent do the cognitive maps of state and nation overlap in the minds of governments and populations. Second, when and how are seemingly marginal scraps of territory granted outsized political and emotional significance. Third, to what extent is the importance attributed to islands constituted in relational terms, through the connections they are perceived to enjoy, whether actual or imagined, with other political entities. Fourth, is it only possible for islands to exist as insular territories of extraction, or are they able to be understood and function as productive and constitutive sites of political imagination. While the panel’s empirical focus will be Japan, therefore, the issues with which it will engage will be of much broader import.
Weaving a net of protection: Demilitarization social movements across Oceania
Kahiokala Elkington (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa)
Imperial geographic imaginaries of Pacific Islands as small and insignificant specks in a vast, empty ocean have stoked great power competition in the region. Imperial states have exploited the strategic locations and political ambiguities of islands in order to build military base networks to exert geopolitical and geoeconomic control over large spaces. At the same time, they have treated Pacific Islands as disposable: borderlands and battlespaces, laboratories of colonial rule, and sacrifice zones for military training, toxic waste dumping, and nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons tests, all of which have had devastating social and environmental consequences for the region.
Hawaiʻi has been a historical fulcrum of U.S. imperial expansion and military power in the Indo-Pacific region. It is also a critical site of demilitarization struggle. Against the discursive marginalization and material ruination of islands, this session examines the emergence of demilitarization social movements in Hawaiʻi and other islands in the region and the dynamic archipelagic solidarities they weave to counter imperial geographies of partition, diminution, and control. While centering critical demilitarization issues in Hawaiʻi, this session aims to foster an urgent conversation with other island sites of decolonial and demilitarization struggle. As Diaz (2015) reminds us, “No Island Is an Island.”
Climate change and coastal sustainable management in the Atlantic Ocean: The case of estuarine regions and small islands
Center stage on the fringes: (Re)negotiating geopolitics
John Marazita (Environmental Mobility Research Unit)
Previously, information dissemination on geopolitical issues has been monopolised by hegemonic institutions which has led to misrepresentations of island realities. Increasingly, however, shifts in geopolitics and related power hierarchies has put island states in the center of bitter geopolitical battles of ideology, allowing them to cast away their externally determined identities of remote post-colonial outposts. This session investigates how island governments and communities negotiate pivots in the geopolitical landscape. Three case studies will be reviewed: Kiribati, Guam, and Trinidad & Tobago. The government of the independent Republic of Kiribati is seizing geopolitical shifts to diversify assistance packages, allowing the country to move away from the starkly hegemonic regimes of regionalism and toward more significant bilateral relations. In the process, world powers are moving quickly to reaffirm relationships and open missions. Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States and has been extensively used by the US military. Local politics is strongly shaped by these political ties, but with geopolitical shifts, the indigenous Chamorro populace and its government find themselves empowered to discuss and increase pressure for demilitarisation. Trinidad & Tobago is affected by continued immigration from close-by Venezuela. These demographic changes put pressure on institutions (social, educational, medical, etc.) and force the local populace to adapt and innovate to the migrant influx. Moving inward, away from the periphery, new pathways are open to the island for local demands to be negotiated on an international stage.
Giving life & legal force to migration with dignity: Preventing conflict and building peace
Stay connected: E-governance and e-resilience in a time of crisis
Biocultural heritage and tourism for island autonomy
Akiko Ikeguchi (Yokohama National University)
The Session aims to explore and to discuss the development and issues in study of biocultural heritage in context of globalization and tourism. Biophysical and cultural evolution in the small Islands present unique fields for biocultural studies and potential resource for eco-tourism and subsistent food economy. The concept of biocultural heritage is often defined as cultural landscape in geographical literatures, however, it also includes food culture, songs, place names etc., interpreted as knowledge reservoir to understand historical interaction of nature and society. Biocultural heritage has been paid attention also in decolonial/counter-modernization practices as cultural resource for Island autonomy. For instance, biocultural heritage is expected to play a vital role in food sovereignty in heavily subsidized food provisions and malnutrition in the small islands. For the concept to serve better for such agendas, research frameworks to better understand how the heritage implies changing physical and social environment should be discussed and achievements and challenges need to be addressed. The research questions we hope to address in the session include: How can physical-human geographies contribute to address issues of Biocultural Heritage? How can we bridge research of tourism and Biocultural Heritage for Island Autonomy? What aspects of tourism should we consider to understand geographies of Biocultural Heritage?