Category Archives: Announcements

Airshow Geographies

By Benjamin Sacks, Princeton University

Airbus wide-body aircraft display, 2006 Farnborough Airshow. Courtesy MilborneOne/Wikimedia Commons.

Airbus wide-body aircraft display, 2006 Farnborough Airshow. Courtesy MilborneOne/Wikimedia Commons.

Every two years the world’s most important defence and civilian aerospace manufacturers decend onto a rural Hampshire airport to show of their latest, greatest, and (in some cases) most lethal hardware. At the 2014 Farnborough Airshow Boeing and Airbus competed for orders of their next-generation 787 and A350 wide-body long-haul aircraft; Boeing went so far as to fly its aircraft through a stunt routine to convince potential buyers of the 787’s manoeuvring capabilities. Wifi manufacturers announced roll-out of their flight-based technologies on major airlines. Bombadier and Embraer announced new regional jetliners, and the British, French, and American air forces announced orders and program extensions. In June 2015 Farnborough International, the show’s organisers, publicised plans to begin a new airshow in September 2017, in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. But the Shoreham airshow crash on 22 August 2015 – in which 11 people died – serves to remind us of the inherent dangers of bringing low-flying aircraft, often still undergoing flight tests, so close to crowded audiences.

Airshows, like airspace, constitute contested geographies, spaces of performance, politics, power, and technology. Despite their prominent place in aviation history, few geographers have critically examined the airshow as contested space. In a 2001 Area article, Heather Nicholson (Leeds) recounted the importance of such specific sites as airshows in childhood geographies; the airshow, like zoos and carnivals, become privileged spatial memories; important markers in a child’s expanding world (p. 134).

Matthew Rech (Newcastle) has redressed this gap in his 2015 Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers study, ‘A critical geopolitics of observant practice at British military airshows’. Approaching airshows through what Fraser Macdonald termed ‘observant practice’, or how “types” of seeing (e.g., ‘gazing’, ‘glancing’, staring) can manipulate — and be manipulated by — show controllers through dazzling demonstrations, fly-bys, and promotion or suppression of particular images and narratives (p. 537). Site selection for instance can play important subliminal roles, the selection of a “country site” as Farnborough, intended to evoke a timeless England, or Brize Norton, a famed RAF base with barriers, signs, and other symbols of ‘secrecy, security, and safety’ (p. 538). Such images convey strength, ‘prowess’, ‘an architecture of control’, and nationalism, as well as more child-like wonder, amazement, curiosity, and sheer excitement. The consequences — particularly from a fiscal standpoint — can be huge.

Rech’s argument has a strong historical foundation, lending additional credence to his contemporary, sociological observation. From the 1910s, airshows conveyed the ‘rhetorical force of flight’: a host of metaphorical meaning ranging from the airman, who seemingly took on superhuman qualities wherever he (or she, from the 1930s) went, to the ‘futurist aesthetic’ of the aircraft themselves: their glistening fuselages, engines, the triumph of metal over nature. Rech is careful, however, to also stress what is not displayed: the most secret, most advanced, most important aircraft. This balance between display and intimidation, and secrecy and the threats of the unknown, remains central to any airshow geared toward military hardware.

The audience undergoes a physiological and psychological process when attending an airshow, particularly one with air force equipment. In what Rech refers to as ‘technofetishism’, the moral barriers between casual weekend observer and the lethal equipment on the other side of the tape blur; internal questions concerning the aircraft’s or system’s purpose is clouded in excitement and pride in the nation-state (pp. 541-42).

60-world2 Aviation Week (2014) Farnborough airshow accessed 6 November 2015.

60-world2 Tovey A (2015) Farnborough flying high as it lands China air show deal The Telegraph.

60-world2 Johnston C and Jenkins L (2015), Shoreham plane crash: seven dead after fighter jet hits cars during airshow 22 August.

books_icon Nicholson HN (2001) Seeing how it was? Childhood geographies and memories of home movies Area 33(2): 128-40.

books_icon Rech MF (2015) A critical geopolitics of observant practice at British military airshows Transactions of The Institute of British Geographers 40(4): 536-48.

New in Area – Issue 2 Editors’ spotlights, & the 2014 Area Prize recipient announced

By Fiona Nash, Managing Editor RGS-IBG

Area new issue

Issue 2 of Area is now available on-line; the Editors’ highlights include:

This issue of Area also officially announces the 2014 Area Prize recipient . Part of Area’s mission is to be accessible to new researchers, including postgraduate students and academics at an early stage in their careers. The purpose of the Area Prize is to encourage submissions from new researchers and to reward excellent geographical research. The winner receives a cash prize of £500. The field of eligible papers were of a very high quality.

This year, the prize was awarded to Rory Horner (University of Manchester) for his paper ‘Postgraduate encounters with sub-disciplinary divides: entering the economic/development geography trading zone’ (Area 46 435–442). Rory’s paper is free to access for the next 12 months.

Honourable mentions go to Hannah M Chiswell (University of Exeter, UK) for ‘The value of the 1941–1943 National Farm Survey as a method for engagement with farmers in contemporary research’ (Area 46 426–434) and Saskia Warren (University of Manchester, UK) for ‘ “I want this place to thrive”: volunteering, co-production and creative labour’ (open access) (Area 46 278–284).

To find out more about the Area Prize, visit the journal’s Wiley Online Library.




New in Transactions: Editor’s issue spotlights

Looking for inspiration for Easter reads? Issue two on Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is now available online.

TIBG 40(2)

The Editor’s issue spotlights include:

Climate change and the geographies of objectivity: the case of the IPCC’s burning embers diagram. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 153–167 by Martin Mahony, KCL (UK)

The ties that blind: making fee simple in the British Columbia treaty process. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 168–179. doi: 10.1111/tran.12058 by Nicholas Blomley, Simon Fraser University (Canada)

Policy mobilities in the race for talent: competitive state strategies in international student mobility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 235–248 by Kate Geddie, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (Canada)

The tactile topologies of Contagion. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40: 223–234. doi: 10.1111/tran.12071 by Deborah Dixon, University of Glasgow (UK), and John Paul Jones III, University of Arizona (USA). (open access)

The issue also includes an editorial introduction to a Transactions virtual issue on Financial Geography, guest edited by Manuel Aalbers,  KU Leuven/University of Leuven (Belgium) . The virtual issue is free to access on the Transactions Wiley Online Library.

New Virtual Issue on Financial Geography in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers – free online

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers,  a Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), invites you to enjoy a new Virtual Issue on Financial Geography, guest edited by Manuel B Aalbers. This virtual issue is free to access online for 2015.

The guest editor, Manuel B Aalbers says:

This Virtual Issue traces the development of financial geography through 15 papers published in Transactions between 1976 and 2014. Although Transactions published a few earlier papers dealing with building societies and international lending, the birth of a distinctive literature on the geographies of money and finance can be traced back to the mid-1990s.  While British geographers originally dominated the debate, financial geography is increasingly internationalised, rescaled and decentred. Financial geography has established itself within geography and increasingly also within interdisciplinary and pluralistic political and cultural economy debates.

books_icon This Virtual Issue on Financial Geography is available free to access for 2015 online via the Transactions (of the IBG) website

books_icon Please visit the Transactions (of the IBG) Virtual Issue page to access other VIs: including Adrian J Bailey and Brenda S A Yeoh’s guest edited VI on “Migration, society and Globalisation”.



Searching for Justice in Palestine’s Geography

By Benjamin Sacks

Gaza Strip. © 2014 Wikimedia Commons.

Gaza Strip. © 2014 Wikimedia Commons.

The State of Israel and Gaza militants are currently engaged in yet another violent struggle. As I write, the Israeli military is announcing that Hadar Goldin, a 23 year-old soldier captured by Hamas, had died. Separately, United Nations officials in Gaza report that a ‘health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding’ there as the three week-old conflict rages on without any ceasefire or even serious negotiations in sight. This most recent flare is little different from previous struggles between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and unfortunately will not likely be the last time the two sides will clash.

It is now well understood that decisions made in the years leading up to Israel’s creation set in motion many of the current divisions between the Israelis and Palestinians. The infamous secret Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916 split the post-war Middle East into French and British administrative sectors, formalized in the subsequent League of Nations mandates of 1922. In the Second World War’s aftermath, Britain experienced considerable, often violent strife from Israeli settlers in their mutual efforts to negotiate the timetable and terms for the establishment of an independent Jewish state. Writing in a 1951 Geographical Journal article, Sir Clarmont Skrine recalled that the State of Israel was born on 15 May 1948 in the ‘midst of [tremendous] strife between Jew and Arab [factions]’ over what lands each would take ‘on the margin between “the desert and the sown” [the Fertile Crescent]’ (p. 308).

In the most recent issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Reecia Orzeck (Illinois State University) examines one of the most contentious aspects of the Second World War period in Palestine. Heeding long-standing calls both within and outside of academic geography to ‘engage more closely with the normative’ (p. 345), Orzeck explored the British implementation of the Land Transfer Regulation scheme in 1940. She accomplished this through an erudite and exacting investigation into how British, Jewish, and Palestinians understood ‘justice’ and concrete, albeit differing notions of ‘geographical imaginaries’.

Justice in a geographical sense, according to Orzeck, is the incorporation of moral, ethical, or judicial concerns and theory into geographical knowledge and analysis. In essence, this means that spatial study should incorporate legal and moral concerns as much as economic or political perspectives. Although renowned geographers Andrew Sayer, Michael Storper, and David M Smith all noted the coming trend as early as the late 1990s, the shift failed to occur and the geopolitical world radically changed in the first decade of the 2000s. Concerning Palestine, she argues that historical, contemporary, and social ‘geographical imaginaries’, or culturally-accepted paradigms about the world’s physical and cultural space,

[C]an play an important role in popular assessments of the justness of particular policies and practices, and that assessments of what constitutes a just policy can change as a result of changing geographical imaginaries (p. 348).

Both Britain and the League of Nations had promised Palestinians and Jews their own states in the McMahon-Hussein correspondence (1916) and the Balfour Declaration (1917), respectively. But increasingly complex legal promises and confusion led to outbreaks of violence between Palestinians and Jews in the late 1930s and during the Second World War. Ultimately, in 1940 the British divided the Mandate into three land-available zones: ‘A’, for transfer to Palestinians; ‘B’, for transfer from Palestinians to Palestinians; and ‘C’, unrestricted land transfers. According to British geographical imaginations, this would permit Palestinians the opportunity to maintain control over traditionally Arab lands and properties, while allowing Jews to right to purchase and transfer lands in other sectors. But, as Orzeck explains, the Jewish community understood this agreement different. In their geographical, or spatial imagination,

In zone A, Jews could not purchase land; in zone B, Jews could purchase land but not from Palestinians; and in zone C, Jewish land purchases were unrestricted (p. 349).

This, of course, soon resulted in a significant clash between British officials seeking to organise two states, the Jewish Agency, who believed that they had been promised opportunities to obtain Palestinian land, and the Palestinians themselves, who saw their newly-approved gains being immediately threatened.

60-world2Israel says missing soldier is dead‘, BBC News, 2 August 2014.

books_iconClarmont Skrine, ‘Economic Development in Israel’, The Geographical Journal 117.3 (Sep., 1951): 307-26.


Reecia Orzeck, ‘Normative geographies and the 1940 Land Transfer Regulations in Palestine‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39 (Jul., 2014): 345-59.

New issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers now available online

by Fiona Nash, Managing Editor: Academic Publications RGS-IBG


The latest issue of Transactions of the British Geographers is now available via the Wiley Online Library

 Transactions of the IBG Volume 39, issue 3 Pages 333–475, July 2014.