RGS-IBG call for papers: Safe space

4 January 2017

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Safe Space

Call for Papers: Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference, London, Tuesday 29 August to Friday 1 September 2017.

Session conveners: Janet Bowstead (Royal Holloway, University of London, RHUL), Katherine Brickell (RHUL), Mary Cobbett (University of York) and Naomi Graham (RHUL)

Session sponsor: Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group (GFGRG)


‘A place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm’.

‘school must be a safe space for LGBT students’

‘her shows are described as safe spaces where crying is acceptable and even encouraged’

‘women’s refuges provided a safe space for victims of domestic violence’

(English Oxford Living Dictionary, 2016)

In the RGS-IBG conference sessions, we wish to open up critical discussion on ‘safe space’ – a label and practice which in 2016 has attracted celebration, derision and controversy at the highest of political levels. We contend that safe space raises a series of urgent academic questions of relevance across sub-fields of geography. How is safe space imagined, designated, deployed, materialised, co-opted, and experienced by different actors, institutions and governments? What are the positive as well as putative effects of safe space in its multiple guises? How are safe spaces materially and/or emotionally manifest, maintained and endangered? What power geometries do safe spaces exclude and harbour? What are the (shifting) everyday geopolitics of safe spaces?

Our call is deliberately broad, with suggestions including but not limited to: the origins and lineage of the concept; ‘women-only’ and ‘girl-only’ spaces, programmes and interventions; queer safe spaces of belonging and community; schools, university campuses and pedagogy; safe havens and sanctuary cities; safe refuges from violence (domestic violence shelters, panic rooms etc.), war and destruction (the bunker, hospital etc.); digital safe spaces (‘Hugbox’ internet environments and cyber/space safety).

We are looking for titles and abstracts of 300 words to be sent to Janet Bowstead (Janet.Bowstead@rhul.ac.uk) by 31st January 2017.

In the email, please also indicate if you would be interested in being part of a special issue of Social & Cultural Geography we are planning. Papers would be 5,000-7,000 words long (including references) with an expected submission date of March 2018.

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