AAG reflection

A week has now passed since the Association of American Geographers 2013 Conference in Los Angeles, so I thought I’d briefly reflect on it. For me the star of the conference was the Bonaventure Hotel. This iconic piece of postmodern architecture has so much personality; the look of the week was people turning their heads in a bemused way, “Where am I going?” Being constantly lost. Having sessions in hotel suites. Then there were the little external lift/pods, which zoomed up and down all day (I was in one late at night and gibbered something incomprehensibly fan-like to David Harvey, who stepped in just after me), and those gondolas, immortalilzed by Ed Soja’s BBC video, where nobody sat.

                         Gondolas

I attended a lot of animal geography, more by accident than plan. A panel session seemed to conclude that animal geographies was on one hand still a small niche, not really respected, while on the other that animals are now studied across the discipline. Henry Buller seemed to suggest, a bit cheekily I assume, that in 10 years’ time if animal geography didn’t exist, but suffused the discipline, this would be an achievement. Jamie Lorimer had some interesting things to say, as ever, on more-than-human methods that could get ‘us’ closer to the lifeworlds of animals. Henry and Mara Miele’s session on spaces of imagination and encounter was also great – a highlight was Islay Forsyth’s paper on Voytek the polish bear, and I’m still processing David Lulka’s 4D animal idea… This made me want to finish my own piece on Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas. Liz Hennessy’s sessions on science and species production was really well put together, with barely a dud paper all day.

I only dipped into sessions on the Anthropocene, unfortunately it clashed with the session I presented in. I’m still not sure we should be embracing the term so readily. I’m also more convinced than ever the mourning and melancholia are not productive reactions or likely to lead to useful geo-politics; Arun Saldanha’s piece on geo-communism was a welcome provocation. My own early-work-in-progress piece on animals and apocalypse appeared in Tim Edensor and Steve Millington’s great sessions on geographies of darkness and light, although my paper felt a bit tangental there.

LA itself was pretty dreadful, though views of the vast sprawl from the rotating bar at on the 37th floor of the Bonaventure were undeniably awesome. A post-conference road trip took in Californian landscapes of sea, mountain and desert: an amazing, infuriating place.

Wilderness parking in Yosemite: in the US, you can’t have the wild without the automobile…

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