Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG), Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

From Kreuzberg to Williamsburg: Exploring the trans-local nature of cultural scenes and the creation and diffusion of knowledge, practices and value(s) across space, scale and industry


Brian J. Hracs - University of Southampton

Taylor Brydges - Uppsala University

Chiara Valli - Uppsala University 

A central focus in economic geography concerns the ways in which specific spatial dynamics, such as face-to-face interaction or clusters, facilitate and shape the creation of knowledge, practices and value(s). By extension, geographers are interested in the mechanisms, including local buzz and global pipelines, through which ideas and activities diffuse across space, scale and industry (Bathelt et al. 2004; Hracs et al. 2013). Although the existing body of literature on these themes is well-developed, few studies have analyzed the effect of global buzz on local cultural scenes and neighborhoods. Moreover, there is a need to build on Bathelt and Henns (2014) useful exploration of knowledge transfers over distance and trans-local networks by considering the role of individuals, including entrepreneurs, consumers and curators, who operate beyond the firm. More broadly, the restless dynamism of the contemporary global economy and continuous introduction of new technologies provide opportunities to test, challenge and nuance theory.

One way to address these questions is to consider the ways in which individuals, practices and scenes intersect, influence each other and evolve over time. For example, despite their purported uniqueness and authenticity, cultural scenes in cities such as Berlin, New York, Madrid, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Toronto appear to feature rather homogenous aesthetics. Indeed, the neighborhoods where these scenes coalesce contain a remarkably similar mix of shops (art galleries, record stores, vintage fashion boutiques), spaces (graffiti alleys, co-work offices), styles (Swedish jeans, indie rock), activities (cooking schools, craft collectives) and actors (artists, designers, baristas, bloggers, sophisticated consumers). As vital sites for the production, curation and consumption of cultural goods, services and experiences these scenes and neighborhoods are empirically interesting on many levels. Yet, as key drivers and indicators of trends they are particularly ideal places to study the creation and diffusion of knowledge, practices and value(s) across space, scale and industry as well as the tensions between local authenticity and global uniformity.

To explore these themes in greater detail, this session welcomes papers from diverse conceptual, empirical and geographical perspectives. In particular, it aims to address four broad questions:

1)   To what extent are these scenes and neighborhoods actually homogenous?

2)   What are the mechanisms, such as temporary clusters, new social media, low-cost travel and increased mobility that enable or encourage trans-local uniformity?

3)   What are the implications of homogeneity and these mechanisms for actors, products, scenes, neighborhoods, the cities they are located within, policy agendas and  broader social/political movements?

4)   How can academic research on these phenomena inform, test, challenge and nuance geographical knowledge and theory?

Additional topics may include:

  What is the life cycle of these scenes and do they have an expiration date? In what ways must a scene remain secretive - and thus exclusive - in order to retain its cultural capital (Blum 2003)? Similarly, are some niche businesses, such as vinyl record shops or vintage clothing stores, only viable in certain cultural scenes and neighborhoods? What are the motivations, objectives and decision-making processes of the different actors (indie producers, global firms, city planners, citizens, property developers, artists, curators, consumers, etc.) who participate in and develop these cultural scenes?

  Building on Hodkinsons (2004) study of trans-local Goth scenes in the UK, what is the role of physical, temporary and virtual trans-local networks and communities in spreading identities, rituals, products, practices and value(s)?

  How do new cultural intermediaries or curators disseminate information about products, places and trendsetters through physical and virtual channels including retail shops, blogs, social media and other online communities?

  What is the role of the government as an agent of homogenization? As cities continue to adopt similar creative city-based development agendas how do urban planning policies and planners contribute to the sameness of cities? How does this impact the global competitiveness of these cities and creative industry clusters?

  Given that cultural scenes are often co-opted into dynamics of gentrification and original scene members are often forced to leave, what kinds of resistance, if any, are put into action in response to the social and economic changes occurring in cultural scenes? What tactics and strategies of resistance are developed and practiced by cultural producers? What is their relationship with social mobilizations enacted by other social groups?

Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words (see AAG guidelines:, or expressions of interest to be on a panel, by Friday October 17th, 2014 to:

Brian Hracs:

Taylor Brydges:

Chiara Valli:

Call for Papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG), Chicago, April 21-25, 2015

Co-Producing a heuristic conceptualization of curation


Brian J. Hracs - University of Southampton

Melanie Fasche - University of Toronto

Harriet Hawkins and Priya Vadi - Royal Holloway, University of London

The notion of curation is attracting increasing levels of interest and engagement from scholars across geography. Recent conference sessions (AAG 2013; RGS-IBG 2014) have witnessed vibrant debates and raised a multiplicity of perspectives on curation; from cultural geographers taking up curatorial practices as part of their research, to economic and social geographers examining how curation is linked to the creation of value and distinction in physical and virtual spaces. The richness of the discussion has also, however, pointed to a series of critical conceptual issues that need to be addressed going forward if the notion of curation is to avoid collapsing into a simple catch-all term for cultural, social, and economic practices of sorting, selecting, and displaying. Therefore these panels seek to continue the discussion while engaging geographers from across the discipline to think specifically about how we can grasp the notion of curation more systematically. And by extension how different perspectives from across geography and beyond may inform each other and be integrated into a heuristic conceptualization of curation

We are looking to address the following questions and issues (but welcome the posing of others):

  • Where does curation take place (physical, temporary, virtual spaces) and how do specific spatial dynamics influence the form and function of curatorial practices?

  • What is being curated? Objects, people, the self, city spaces, atmospheres, services, experiences etc.

  • Who are the curators? Professional curation and everyday acts of curation, role of skills, techniques and training

  • How is curation practiced? Curation as a critical spatial, social and activist practice, curation as research practice

  • What is curational power? Taste-making, value making, institutional curation

We are planning to have two panels. The first will be a panel we ‘curate’ to build on previous discussions and offer new insight. The second panel will invite people to make short (5 minute) contributions to this evolving field of discussion. If you would like to be considered for either panel please send an expression of interest and a 100 word summary of your contribution to Priya Vadi ( by Friday October 17th 2014