Abstracts Sommer 2019

Prof. Nadine MARQUARDT (University of Bonn):
Das smart home als ökologisches Wohnexperiment

In den letzten Jahren ist der Wohnraum zu einem wichtigen Experimentierfeld ökologischer Modernisierung geworden. Der Vortrag nimmt neuartige Schnittstellen zwischen Wohnen, Digitalisierung und Informatisierung im Kontext solcher Experimente in den Blick. Gegenstand der Betrachtung sind smart homes, die den Wohnraum zum Ausgangspunkt einer realpolitischen Antwort auf die ökologischen Herausforderungen der Gegenwart machen. Smart homes schlagen die Beantwortung ökologischer Fragen mit digitalen Mitteln vor. Sie adressieren das Wohnen als Alltagspraxis voller klimarelevanter Verhaltensentscheidungen und Routinen. Sie versuchen, die Selbstführung der Wohnenden zu modifizieren und Abläufe im Haushalt neu auszurichten. Sie verschalten den Wohnraum informatorisch mit der Umwelt und verbinden die Steuerung des Wohnens mit der Regulation großtechnischer Systeme der Energieversorgung. Grundannahme des Vortrags ist, dass der Wohnraum durch diese Entwicklungen zu einem Schauplatz politischer Interventionen geworden ist, die die intime Sphäre des Wohnens und die Prozesse im Haushalt, den oikos, auf neuartige Weise mit der Ökosphäre des Planeten, der Ökologie, verschränken.

Dr. Agnieszka LESZCZYNSKI (Western University, Canada):
Glitchy vignettes of platform urbanism

There has been a flurry of recent activity around ‘platform urbanism’ as the nascent disruption of city services, urban spaces, and everyday life by digital platforms. Diverging from dominant narratives of platform urbanism as the subsumption of all aspects of urban life to the imperatives of the platform economy, I propose an alternative approach that draws on Legacy Russell’s notion of the ‘glitch’ as both error and erratum. Through a series of glitchy vignettes at the platform-city interface, I argue that the latent possibility of malfunction in any system extends the possibilities for an indeterminate, ontogentic politics of the urban.

Agnieszka Leszczynski  is a digital geographer and GIScientist currently appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Western University in Canada. Her current research investigates two related phenomena: the political economies of digital location data and technologies (or ‘geolocation’), and the intersection of platforms and cities. She is also one of the co-editors of Big Data & Society.

Prof. Paula BIALSKI (Leuphana University Lüneburg):
Making mobilities: temporal orders of infrastructure and navigation


Prof. Glenn LYONS (UWE Bristol, England):
Getting smart about urban mobility – aligning the paradigms of smart and sustainable


Prof. Greg MARSDEN (University of Leeds, England):
Time, Place and Space: Governing Smart Mobility Transitions


Abstracts Winter 2018/2019

Jessica Pykett (University of Birmingham): Behavioural and Neural Turns in Happiness Economics: Limits, Contradictions, and Implications for Public Policy

2018 has seen the emergence of a global political movement (the World Happiness Council, Wellbeing Economy Alliance) to promote happiness in public policy and to use wellbeing to transform the global economy. Happiness is often portrayed as a universal life goal, and popularised in numerous best-selling titles. In these popular texts, and in happiness economics, happiness is increasingly defined as a skill to be learnt and be-haviours to be pursued by individual lifestyle change. However, even within the domi-nant fields of economics and psychology which have shaped a burgeoning happiness studies, there is much contradiction, conflict and fuzziness. In this paper I consider how geographers can rethink happiness by mapping the spaces, methods and promot-ers of happiness as a global, national and urban public policy agenda. I advance an ac-count of subjective wellbeing as a relational process (Atkinson, 2013) which is situated, embodied and politically contested.

Phoebe Moore (University of Leicester): Artificial Intelligence and Humans as Resource

Interest in artificial intelligence (AI) has reached hyped levels simultaneous to concern for human intelligence, as we face seeming intractable social issues caused by decades of technological developments in human resource and management practices with accelerated integration of the role of technology into workplaces, accompanied by shifts and experimentation in modes and relations of production. From the 1950s, humans have asked to what extent humans should or can compare our minds to machines. Earlier views on AI, so-called ‘GOFAI’, were representationalist, where researchers considered domains of experience to be fixed and context-free, where principles that determine behaviour are systematic. However, this line of reasoning relies on a transcendentalist ontology. This paper argues that the flaws in AI research have been ontological, where the human body has not been considered relevant in understanding our intelligence. Instead, the body is seen as an increasingly scarce resource.  

Mark Whitehead (Aberystwyth University): A Critical Geography of Neuroliberalism: Cognition, Context and Psychological Power

The insights of the behavioural sciences have long been complicit within the acts of modern government. As a result of the emergence of behavioural economics, the last ten years have been witness to a conspicuous increase in the relative influence of these sciences within public policy-making (evidenced particularly in the rise of nudge-style policies). This paper introduces the concept of neuroliberalism to describe the increasing capacity of states, corporations, and non-governmental organizations to govern through a series of more-than-rational registers of human action (including habits, heuristics, emotions, affects, and social and environmental contexts), and to skilfully fuse behavioural power with liberal notions of freedom. This presentation considers the significance of neuroliberalism for how social and political scientists think about subjectivity, and the problematic geographical assumptions that are embedded within this emerging governmental project.

Beth Greenhough (University of Oxford): Marketizing Bodies and Behaviour: Who Benefits from the Exploitation of Bioinformation?

While we might think that we have an inalienable right to the bioinformation contained within our cells and tissues, and heavily vested interests in other kinds of bioinformation (such as that held on our medical records) derived from us by health professionals, these rights are arguably of little use to most of us. We lack the skills and resources to exploit this information to the benefit of either others or ourselves. Instead, we rely on scientific and medical experts to extract, process and render that information in new bioinformatic forms that can be used to generate meaningful knowledge about human identity, development, health and disease. At this point bioinformation becomes a resource that can be used in a variety of commercial and non-commercial ways.  Some of the people who have access to our bioinformation, such as doctors or other healthcare personnel, use it to directly inform decision making about our individual lives.  Others who seek to exploit bioinformation will do so in ways that will, for the most part, seemingly have little direct impact on individual donors. This talk will explore how bioinformation is mobilized and put to use, and think through the question of who could or should benefit from the circulation, exchange and commercialization of bioinformation.

Natasha Schüll (New York University Steinhardt): Beyond Optimization: Wearable Technology as Self-Maintenance

An ever-expanding array of personal tracking gadgets and apps gather real-time information from our bodies and lives, convert this information into electrical signals, and run it through software programmed to detect otherwise imperceptible patterns of being and prompt us to down-regulate problematically excessive behavior—overeating, oversitting, overspending, over-engaging in social media. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among self-trackers and device engineers, this talk suggests that the primary aim of such technology is not to help us optimize, enhance, or surpass ourselves and the material world, but to help us cope with our existential fallibilities in material environments that challenge our flourishing; they are designed, that is, not to help us maximize but to help us maintain, cope, abide. 

Abstracts Sommer 2018

Gurminder K BHAMBRA (Sussex): Race, Populism, and the Complicity of Social Science: Lessons from Brexit and Trump

The racialized discourses that characterized the Brexit and Trump campaigns were not only present explicitly in the everyday politics of the events; they are also evident in much social scientific analysis of them. The rhetoric of both campaigns established the past as constituted by nations that were represented as ‘white’ into which racialized others had insinuated themselves and gained disproportionate advantage. Hence, the resonant claim that was broadcast primarily to white audiences in each place ‘to take our country back’. Such understandings were echoed in those social scientific analyses that focused on the ‘legitimate’ claims of the ‘left behind’ or those who had come to see themselves as ‘strangers in their own land’. As such, populist political claims, I suggest, are mirrored by an equivalent social scientific elision of proper historical context. In particular, such claims and analyses fail to acknowledge the role played by race in the structuring of the world and of the ways in which knowledge is constructed and legitimated within it. ‘Methodological whiteness’ structures popular and academic discourse alike and contributes to the dangerous politics of our times.

Kathy BURRELL (Liverpool):
On the Edge of the Hostile Environment? Polish Migrants in Brexit Britain

Since the UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 there has been much discussion about what this historic change will mean for European mobility regimes, for British migrants across the EU, and of course for EU migrants, of which Poles are the largest group, within the UK. At the time of writing there is still much uncertainty about what these new regimes will look like, what they will feel like, along with the different legal, social, political and economic stratifications they will reflect and create. Importantly though, these potentially seismic changes in UK's mobility positioning within Europe are also unfolding within the now established political and economic contexts of the 'hostile environment' explicitly directed at migrants and social welfare recipients, and widely felt 'austerity' policies shaping the broader socio-economic landscape in more hostile ways. This paper, drawing on recent, post-referendum in-depth interviews with Poles in the UK, will consider not only how the spectre of Brexit is being currently negotiated and how it is affecting different people differently, but also the extent to which Poles may only now be finding themselves drawn in to these 'hostile environments', and what this means 'on the ground'.

Michael EDWARDS (London):
Brexit and urban development in London (tbc)

Foreseeing the dire effects of Brexit for the UK is all too easy with migrations blocked, supply-chains broken, productive investment probably getting even worse. These are not favourable conditions for any government to repair the effects of decades of austerity. Can the rentier economy, parasitic on London’s “success” but also driving it, survive if that economy in turn shrivels up? The talk considers the main urban social changes under way in London: intense speculation in housing and land, leading to impoverishment, regional disparity, new forms of segregation and damage to much of the non-property economy. It considers which of these processes might transform as part of Brexit and which, if any, might be expected to arise in Frankfurt if significant amounts of financial-sector business transfers there.

Bob JESSOP (Lancaster):
Brexit, sovereignty, and multi-spatial metagovernance: Territorial logics and the space of flows

The official Brexit campaign emphasized the importance of regaining control over the United Kingdom’s borders, laws, and money. This still sets the red lines of the UK government’s negotiating position. At stake here is a nineteenth-century juridico-political notion of national territorial sovereignty. The limits to this concept of sovereignty are evident in the series of concessions made by hard-line Brexiteers as the de facto realities of the interdependence of labour markets in a context of persistent UK underinvestment in education and vocational training, the challenges of international “governance without government” in an open world, and the domestic economic and political costs of insisting on monetary sovereignty and free trade. These limits can be understood in terms of David Harvey’s contrast between territorial logics and the logic of the space of flows. But they can be further illuminated by examining the difficulties of disengaging from multi-spatial metagovernance arrangements in the name of “regaining control”. Here I consider the complexities of governing socio-spatial relations when they involve the entanglement of territory, place, scale, and network. I consider the implications of this approach for Britain’s future relation with the European Union.

Brexit - Perspektiven für die Global City Frankfurt. Diskussionsrunde mit Marcus Gwechenberger (Planungsdezernat Stadt Frankfurt), Susanne Heeg (Institut für Humangeographie), Conny Petzold (Mieter helfen Mietern e.V.) & Axel Tausendpfund (VdW Südwest, angefragt)

Abstracts Winter 2017/2018

Sarah Hall (University of Nottingham)
Reframing labour market mobility in international financial centres: Chinese elites in London’s financial district

In this article, I argue that analysing comparatively neglected forms of elite financial migration from economies beyond the Global North provides important insights into the changing geographical form, organizational footprint and working practices of leading international financial centres. The paper makes this argument through reporting on original empirical research examining new forms of elite mobility associated with highly skilled migration and expatriation from China to London’s international financial centre. The analysis reveals that on the one hand, early career Chinese financial expatriates and migrants are currently shaping the urban form and working practices of London’s financial district in important new ways, building on the wider internationalization of Chinese finance. On the other hand, and in contrast to many other rounds of internationalization in London, Chinese financial services remain relatively segregated from the rest of London’s international financial and producers services complex. This raises important questions surrounding the durability of Chinese finance in London. These questions are empirically and theoretically urgent in a post-Brexit UK political economy because the role of both London’s financial centre and migration to the UK economy are the subject of considerable media, political and popular debate.

Dennis Arnold (University of Amsterdam)
Stunted development, labour politics and low-value added global production networks

Recent scholarship on labour and development in the global South has renewed critiques of conventional development theory along two main lines. The first has highlighted the unsuccessful transition of peasant small-holders into wage workers, whose incomes and employment benefits, it was once argued, would both satisfy their social reproduction needs and allow for expanded consumption. As a consequence of this apparently ‘stalled transition’ a contradiction has emerged between the valorization of wage labour/full employment, and the precarious reality of work and underemployment in contemporary capitalism. The second critique to emerge has focused on the failure of numerous late industrializing economies to transition from low- to high-value-added manufacturing. This latter failure of the development project exposes the contradiction between the promise and the reality of contemporary development strategies, and has led to disillusionment with industrial and other forms of waged work. As a result, growing frictions at the point of production and beyond have emerged, exposing tensions and fissures in development models across Continental Southeast Asia. What happens, we thus need to ask, when low-value-added export-oriented factories that are central to long-term strategies for economic growth at a sub-regional level, fail to serve as a stepping stone to higher-value-added manufacturing? How do states and workers adapt to and address the apparent lock-in of low-value, precarious, production networks at the national and sub-regional scale? This presentation seeks to address these questions through analysis of the multiple power relations between state, capital and labour in Cambodia’s garment production network.

Philip Kelly (York University, Toronto)
Global post-capitalist networks? Transnational labour migrant connections and development in the Philippines

The global production network (GPN) framework provides a basis for understanding regional and national development through territorial integration into the global production of goods and services. On the whole, the framework has been focused on the formal and measurable economy dominated by capitalist firms. In the context of the Philippines, where remittances from overseas migrants contribute at least as much to GDP as the country’s most important GPN linkages, development processes have important drivers beyond the locus of the firm. Furthermore, outside of formal remittances, the Filipino diaspora plays a role in development processes that are not always measurable as, or reducible to, conventional economic practices. This paper examines the possibility of applying the GPN framework to understand the role of transnational non-capitalist processes in national and regional economic development processes in the Philippines. The paper examines three forms of alternative economic practices: gifting (in the form of philanthropic and redistributive processes); volunteerism (encompassing an array of non-monetized forms of labour); and commoning (through the formation of spaces of affective, political and intellectual mobilization). The paper tests the GPN framework in the context of different transnational economic practices, drawing upon data from the Canada-Philippines Alternative Transnational Economies Project based at York University.

Jennifer Bair (University of Virginia)
Governing Buyer-Driven Governance: Labour Standards and Supply Chain Interventions in Nicaragua and Bangladesh

For the last twenty years, both academic researchers who study global value chains and activists who try to influence them have generally operated from the same premise: efforts to achieve decent work in “buyer-driven” value chains must focus on changing the behavior of lead firms. This paper revisits the concept of buyer-driven governance to examine questions. First, is the concept of buyer-driven governance sufficient to understand power dynamics in global production networks? Second, what are the mechanisms by which power is exercised along value chains? I will explore these questions via an in-depth look at two value chain initiatives that engage with lead firms to improve labor standards in supplier factories: the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the ILO/IFC Better Work Nicaragua program. Though generally regarded as adaptation on the familiar theme of Corporate Social Responsibility, I argue that these programs are better understood as interventions into the governance structure of the global value chain for apparel. Drawing from primary field work in the U.S., Nicaragua and Bangladesh, I ask what the design of each intervention implies about the role that lead firms are presumed to play in the value chain; how the intervention aims to influence lead firm behavior vis-à-vis other supply chain stakeholders; and, ultimately, how successfully these interventions are proving in reshaping governance dynamics in global industries.

Adrian Smith (Queen Mary University of London)
Labour regimes, trade policy and global production networks

Recent years have seen a closer engagement between research on working conditions in the world economy, the globalisation of production networks and the state. On the one hand, research has been seeking to understand the ways in which labour is enrolled in global production networks (GPNs), the extent to which this allows agency for workers, and how value creation in globalised production involves the deepening of exploitation. Other recent research has sought to bring together work from labour process theory and global production networks. Despite this progress, GPN research tends to understate the importance of workplace social relations as a mechanism through which value relations are created in globalised production. On the other hand, research has explored how GPNs are articulated with the state and how state policy, in concert with the interests of certain fractions of capital, establishes landscapes of value creation. However, hitherto, these two sets of literatures on GPNs, labour and the state have remained somewhat separate. This paper seeks to bring these debates together by examining the relations between workplace and local labour regimes, global production networks and the state-led creation of expanded markets as spaces of capitalist regulation through trade policy. Through an examination of the ways in which labour regimes are constituted as a result of the articulation of local social relations and lead-firm pressure in GPNs the paper examines the limits of trade policy frameworks developed by the European Union which have sought to ameliorate the worst consequences of trade liberalisation and economic integration on working conditions.

Abstracts Sommer 2017

Dina VAIOU (National Technical University of Athens) am 10. Mai 2017:

Restructurings of care: Athens at times of austerity

In the prolonged "liquid times" of crisis, it is not an exaggeration to say that public debate in Europe is dominated by an emphasis on the macroeconomic parameters set out by a neoliberal agenda. Issues to do with social reproduction, although part of the general crisis with an often painful imprint on people's lives, hardly surface in this debate. Hence, the crisis of care, identifiable in many parts of Europe, goes unnoticed or ignored, even though it is a "background condition" for the possibility of economic production to exist, as N.Fraser (2016) convincingly argues, and a nexus for profit based on gender and racial exploitation.

In my presentation I will discuss restructurings and adaptations of care that take place in Athens in the context of austerity policies and "negotiations" with the lenders of the country, which haunt everyday life at regular intervals. As a result of those policies, many areas of formal welfare provision are dismantled and the burden of care and reproduction seems to be relegated to households, which practically means to women of different ages and ethnicities. Day to day survival and longer term reproduction rely on their unpaid yet indispensable labour performed in ever more dire conditions, particularly among poor households. As this taken-for-granted labour is inscribed in pre-existing inequalities of income and (formal) service provision, it contributes to reshape the metropolis and its neighbourhoods, as well as the embodied subjects who perform (and are often trapped in) such labour, mainly women hit in different and unequal ways by the crisis.;

Angela WIGGER (Radboud University, Nijmegen) am 31. Mai 2017:

The Competitiveness-Crisis Nexus in the EU Politics of Internal Devaluation. A Critical Political Economy Perspective

In response to Chancellor Merkel’s call for a ‘Competitiveness Compact’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2013, the European Commission launched a package of new economic policies. Part and parcel of this package is the goal to reverse the longstanding structural trend of deindustrialization in Europe, as the Commission argues that ‘a strong industrial base will be of key importance for Europe’s economic recovery and competitiveness’.

Boosting the competitiveness of EU based manufacturing industries may sound politically appealing, particularly against the backdrop of a rising popular fatigue with further fiscal austerity and the concomitant call for an overall belt tightening. Reforms in the spirit of competitiveness are deceptive however. What may appear as a resurgence of an active Keynesian-type industrial policy, in fact seeks to calibrate neoliberal structural adjustment programmes. The suggested measures essentially boil down to nothing else than what is referred to as "internal devaluation", which lays the burden of adjustment on labour rather than capital. The presentation will outline the Commissions' new competitiveness crisis strategy against the backdrop of the overall crisis management, and show how and why the current policy course entails the prospect of a further deepening of structural imbalances and economic disintegration in the Eurozone, rather than providing a solution. 

Alexa FÄRBER (HafenCity Universität Hamburg) am 7. Juni 2017:

Sparstadt: Kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf die Verankerung von Low-budget urbanity im Alltag

Städtischer Alltag ist von vielfältigen Sparimperativen durchdrungen: Einsparungen an einer Stelle des öffentlichen Haushalts führen bspw. zum Zusammenlegen oder Schließen öffentlicher Einrichtung; um Belastungen an anderer Stelle des Haushalts auszugleichen, werden Kosten und Abgaben erhöht oder aber Gelder für Investitionen (z.B. in Infrastruktur) nicht mehr bereit gestellt; private Unternehmen übernehmen Funktionen, die vorher von Kommunen ausgefüllt wurden. Diese Entwicklungen werden als "austerity urbanism" bezeichnet. Diesem auf Regierungspraktiken und ihre Auswirkungen konzentrierten Ansatz stellt "Low-budget urbanity" eine Perspektive auf Alltagspraktiken des Sparens zur Seite. Darin wird die Ambivalenz von Sparen als Notwendigkeit oder im Lebensstil begründete Praxis aufgegriffen und das Zusammenwirken vielfältiger sparender Praktiken untersucht: Eine Wohnung oder ein Arbeitsplatz, ein Auto oder ein Bahnticket können so gesehen aus finanzieller Notwendigkeit und/oder Überzeugung geteilt werden. Anhand von Beispielen aus Berlin und Hamburg wird dieser kulturellen Verankerung von "Low-budget urbanity" im Alltag nachgegangen.

Jürgen OSSENBRÜGGE (Universität Hamburg) am 21. Juni 2017:

Strukturwandel der Städte im Regime der Austerität. Die Transformation von Machtfragen in Sachzwänge der deutschen Stadtentwicklungspolitik

Die These des Vortrags geht von einem grundlegenden Formwandel der Stadtentwicklung aus. In seiner Reichweite gleicht er den Folgen der Deindustrialisierung für die Städte des ausgehenden 20. Jahrhunderts, die als Übergang zum Postfordismus und der Einbindung in ein Regime des Neoliberalismus angesprochen werden. Austerität ist ein Schlüssel, der einen Zugang zu den häufig verdeckten Machtbeziehungen in der gegenwärtigen Stadtentwicklungspolitik eröffnet. Es wird daher die Annahme verfolgt, dass eine kritische Austeritätsdiskussion die praktizierten Formen und die darin eingeschriebenen wirtschaftlichen und politischen Kräfteverhältnisse offen legen kann, die wesentliche Felder der sozialen Infrastruktur, der sozioökonomischen Fragmentierung der Stadt sowie der urbanen Symbolpolitik bestimmen. Städtische Budjetierungen und Haushaltsrestriktionen sind heute wichtige Instrumente, mit denen sich die institutionellen Möglichkeiten und Grenzen bestimmen lassen, durch die das konkrete Handeln des Einzelnen als Mitglied seiner gesellschaftlichen Klasse oder Schicht mit dem ökonomischen, politischen und ideologischen gesellschaftlichen Handeln vermittelt wird. Im Vortrag wird dieser Argumentationsstrang entlang der auf Städte bezogenen Austeritätsdiskussion entwickelt und mit Bezug auf das Handlungsfeld „soziale Stadt“ konkretisiert. Hervorgehoben werden die Beispiele Hamburg und Bremen, da sie zum einen wegen ihres Status als Stadtstaat ein hohes Maß an politisch-administrativer Eigenständigkeit, zum anderen aber sehr unterschiedliche wirtschaftliche Dynamiken und damit Finanzkraft aufweisen.

Robert OGMAN (De Montfort University, Leicester): am 5. Juli 2017:

Exiting the Crisis through 'Impact Investing'? Or, how not to re-embed the economy

This presentation focuses on the ongoing and mutating crisis of neoliberalism at the level of struggles between competing projects and initiatives to find an exit strategy. It argues that the erosion of support for the ‘free market’ since the financial meltdown of 2008 led to the rise of alternative ideas, but that the anticipated ‘post-neoliberal’ turn has been blocked because of market governance’s institutional durability, and the strong social forces favouring it. As a result, we see the rise of compromise formations to deal with persistent problems of market governance, and new ones arising from austerity politics. The focus is on ‘impact investing’ as a way of developing new forms of public accountability within market modes of government, not against it. Here we see how an imagined alternative is developed to address diverse problems: it seeks to deal with intensifying wealth polarisation not through redistribution, but by opening avenues for investor-funded ‘social impact’ projects; it counters the fiscal crisis not by rebalancing public deficit by absorbing private surpluses, but by ‘mobilising private capital’; and it presumes to deal with the zero sum game between private profit and society not by re-embedding the market, but through ethical investment schemes aimed at ‘shared value’. Case study research describes the promises and practices of two ‘Social Impact Bonds’ in the U.K. and U.S. Combining critical policy analysis with an interrogation of hegemony, I describe the construction of this ‘progressive neoliberal’ policy experimentation and alliance, revealing also its mixed results and uneven rewards, and explaining how such efforts nevertheless manage to ‘fail forward.’

Abstracts Winter 2016/2017

Davis Bassens (16. November 2016)

Gatekeeping the Islamic Frontier: A Relational Urban Political Economy of Islamic Finance

In this talk I aim to embed thinking about Islamic financial institutions in wider debates about how financial capital is realized in a global relational space. A central insight from historical-geographical materialism is that financial capital accumulation requires the incessant social construction of material circuits of value. Such a perspective hence marries the discursive construction of emerging markets to the materialities and spatialities of the circuits in which value is created. A key tactic of the Islamic financial actors involved is the construction of a frontier between halal and haram practices and products – a dichotomy which requires gatekeeping to retain the purity of Islamic accounts. Reviewing the firm-, product-, and actor-centered geographies of global Islamic finance, one cannot but observe the growing isomorphism between Islamic and conventional finance, and ultimately the hybridization of what constitutes Shari’a-compliance in the face of financial globalization. The talk therefore challenges the singular identification of Islamic finance as a localized outcome of shifting societal trends in Muslim-majority countries. Instead, it argues that Islamic finance is just as much an emblematic case of how global finance, operated from world cities in and beyond the Islamic World, produces, navigates, and gains from fee-based activities at the frontier that allow accumulation and arbitrage of the Islamic kind. Such a relational view on Islamic finance, it will be argued, brings into focus a structural, yet not uncontested, continuity in power asymmetries between the Global North and South.

Costis Hadjmichalis (30. November 2016)

Schuldenkrise und Landraub in Griechenland

Die aktuelle Kreditkrise in Griechenland fällt mit einer weltweiten Phase der Finanzialisierung und einem Trend zu Investitionen in Vermögenswerte zusammen. Verschiedene Arten von Rente versprechen höhere Profite als die Wa- renproduktion. Investoren sind überall auf der Suche nach Land, das profitabel genutzt werden kann. In Griechenland richtet sich das Interesse seit 2010 v.a. auf Land in öffent- lichem Eigentum, das durch Privatisierungen in großem Maßstab für Extraktivismus und für Großprojekte in den Bereichen Energiegewinnung, Immobilienentwicklung und Tourismus erschlossen wird. Hierfür wurde mit der TAI- PED nach dem Vorbild der deutschen Treuhand eine spe- zielle Behörde eingerichtet, in die alle öffentlichen Vermö- genswerte eingingen, die zum Zweck der Schuldentilgung veräußert werden sollen. Aus historischen Gründen sind die wichtigsten Landeigen- tümer Griechenlands der Staat, Kirchen und Klöster sowie Banken, die zur ersten Zielscheibe von Landraub wurden. Um dies zu erleichtern wurden aus dem Planungsrecht das protektionistische und auf sozialen Ausgleich abzielende Elemente entfernt. Hinzu kommt der schleichende Land- raub von kleinen Privateigentümer*innen, insbesondere von Wohnraum und landwirtschaftlichen Flächen, durch Steuer- erhöhungen. Eine erneute Beschäftigung mit der politischen Bedeutung der Rente und ihrer klassenspezifischen Auswir- kungen ist dringend notwendig. Das Buch dokumentiert und analysiert diese Prozesse und fragt: „Was tun wir als Linke in Bezug auf die Landfrage?“

Karen Lai (14. Dezember 2016)

Financialisation and the State: A Developmentalist View from Asia

How should we engage the state in understanding the processes and outcomes of financialisation? Current research has somewhat underplayed the strategic ways in which the state actively mobilises firms to enact financialisation scripts for developmental outcomes. As a major player in global financial networks, Singapore provides a useful lens through which to examine the dynamics of state-firm relations during a particular period of financialisation. The mechanisms through which the state is able to shape the financialisation of firms are demonstrated through the cases of two major Singaporean banks and their transformation into financial services corporations. What might appear to be a convergence in the governance and organisational structures of the banks actually stems from strikingly uneven and contested relationships with the state, resulting in distinctive pathways to financialisation. A renewed focus on the role of the state in financialisation could therefore deepen our understanding of financialised modes of production, market formation and capitalist dynamics.

Sarah Bracking (11. Januar 2017)

The Financialisation of Power: Has the Global Economy Remade Power in Africa?

This seminar will discuss changes to the global economy caused by technological change such as high frequency trading, algorithmic trading,  dark pools and the offshore economy, arguing that these have resulted in fundamental changes to the way the market operates. The over-accumulation theory of crisis and disequilibrium theory of crisis don’t seem to be working as value stored in money and value stored in production move in inverse relation to each other over time. Also, greater values in circulation do not imply a greater velocity of circulation due to the constraints of the speed of light. Additionally, increased liquidity does not mean increased speculation, as trading has migrated into areas of opacity in dark pools and offshore. Marxist forms of ‘value in production’, ‘value in circulation’, ‘value in process’ cannot be easily identifed given current synthetic value forms. Overall, the seminar argues that all these changes together imply a drop in speculation as money-holders retreat to older forms of rentierism in order to create profits. In the work of creating fixed assets from which a contracted derivative income stream can be extracted, financiers have enlisted the help of African political elites, who in turn have often financialised the public office they hold, or part of its function, in order to mimetically join in the new assemblages of accumulation.

Brett Christophers (25. Januar 2017)

The Political Economy of Financial Indicators

One of the main ways in which “finance” interacts with “society” is through the medium of a range of financial indicators. These indicators mobilize various calculative and representational techniques to capture and communicate in numerical or graphical form selected aspects of the financial world, just as sibling macroeconomic indicators – for output, employment, price etc. – do likewise for the world of the “real” economy. But while there exists a flourishing critical literature on macroeconomic indicators, especially output (e.g. GDP) indicators, the critical literature on finance has had relatively little to say about some of the most important financial indicators. This matters, I argue, because such indicators collectively constitute a crucial proving-ground or frontier-region for global finance, where finance’s potential futures are not just passively envisioned but actively shaped. In this talk I draw on two examples – the yield curve and measures of financial (institution-specific and systemic) risk – to explore the work such indicators are intended to perform, the work they do perform, and the gap, to the extent that one exists, between these two performative outcomes.

Paul Langley (8. Februar 2017)

Financial Folds: Making Markets, Remaking the Social

During the global financial crisis, market innovation was criticised for fuelling speculative excesses that lacked social utility and enriched social elites. A set of financial markets have now emerged that are explicitly differentiated by their ostensible social qualities and potentials. Finance is recast as force for social good. In markets for social impact bonds, for example, the social refers to what is being financed: public policy interventions designed to address the social problems of a particular place. In crowdfunding and peer-to-peer markets, meanwhile, the social refers to how finance is raised: the mobilisation of the sociality of local and digital community relations.  By analysing the remaking of the social that these marketizations entail, the paper will contribute to two critical debates about markets. First, the making of markets is widely explained as processes replete with tendencies to disembed economy from society and thereby proliferate matters of social concern. The paper will explore how the social is now variously enrolled in financial markets, hybrid processes that combine marketization with socialization and generate particular and depoliticized meanings of the social. Second, the making of markets is typically explained as expansionary processes that confront and cross boundaries, both territorial and imagined. The paper will develop Gilles Deleuze’s concept ‘the fold’ to further critical understanding of how financial markets criss-cross the economy/society boundary. Financial folds are myriad seams of inflection, spaces where the social purpose and content that is typically lacking from financial markets is spliced and stitched back into their speculative excesses.

Abstracts 2015

Christian Schulz (11. November)

Post-Growth and Alternative Economies:  Conceptual and Empirical Challenges for Economic Geography

Despite economic geography's increasing interest in environmental imperatives, the majority of the scholarly work and its conceptual approaches merely continue relying on traditional growth paradigms. This is all the more astonishing as debates around the notions of post-growth and alternative economies have gained considerable momentum in cognate disciplines. The paper confronts the partly neo-liberal discourses on the “Green Economy” with the more critical contributions on de-growth economies. It aims at discussing a) the need to further “spatialize” the concept of de-growth, and b) to reveal potential contributions (both conceptual and methodological) economic geographers could feed into the broader academic and societal debates on economic transition towards post-growth regimes. It also problematizes the obvious risk for economic geography to miss yet another boat (P. Dicken). 

Andrew Cumbers (2. Dezember)

Reclaiming Public Ownership: Making Space for Economic Democracy

The twentieth century was dominated by two contrasting utopias: one, a vision of centralised state ownership that could overthrow capitalism and deliver the fruits of their labour to the masses; and the other, Hayek’s market-driven nirvana of individualism, democracy and freedom underpinned by private ownership. Ultimately, both visions ushered in centralising dystopias in the form of totalitarian command economies in the former socialist countries and a corporate driven elite project of privatisation and marketisation under global capitalism. As the twenty first century unfolds – with a financial crisis, economic recession and reheated neoliberal regime of fiscal austerity – there is an urgent need for a more democratic, egalitarian and participatory political economy that reclaims the public realm from its appropriation by elite interests. Yet, whilst private ownership is largely discredited, so too are older models of public ownership. In this talk, I argue that a revitalised framework of decentred and diverse public ownership is essential to this task. Drawing upon recent innovations in local and municipal ownership in Denmark and Germany, I reflect upon a set of spatial and political dilemmas critical to the task of democratising the economy and wrestling elite control in the years ahead.

Gernot Grabher (16. Dezember)

Valuation in the Emerging Sharing Economy: The Intricate Relation Between Societal Values and Economic Value

A polyphony of voices from various fields and disciplines has grown, insisting that the sharing economy is heralding a new phase of capitalist development. However, as the polyphony gets louder, the inherent tensions of the sharing economy become ever more apparent. On the one hand, the sharing economy is celebrated as an alternative mode of socio-economy. Firmly based on communitarian ideals and a re-appreciation of non-market modes of exchange, the sharing economy seems to promise no less than the advent of post-capitalism. On the other hand, the pioneers of the sharing economy like Uber, Airbnb or TaskRabbit are glorified for their cutting-edge business models. These platforms are less seen as post-capitalist projects focused on communitarian ideals, but rather as a new breed of highly promising hyper-efficient enterprises: Uber alone was able to raise $1.5 Billion venture capital.

To better apprehend the inherent tensions of the sharing economy, this presentation elucidates the historical trajectories from traditional sharing practices to the practices in the evolving sharing economy. The talk seeks to demonstrate that the emerging sharing practices are driven by an intricate interrelation between new (societal) values and changing perceptions of (economic) value. The new modes of valuation reflect the changing social and geographical scale of sharing: from sharing in cohesive localized communities (like in the commons, for example) to sharing in ephemeral and globally dispersed crowds. In contrast to the self-regulated traditional sharing practices, the emerging sharing economy is increasingly orchestrated by intermediaries who are able to absorb profits and to extract value.

Katherine Gibson (20. Januar)

Commoning as a Postcapitalist Politics

A resurgence of interest in the commons is part of a movement to rethink how we live in relation to each other and environments in the Anthropocene. If, as economic anthropologist Stephen Gudeman puts it, “a community makes and shares a commons”, we are currently witnessing both the destruction and formation of vastly different ways of constituting community, as some commons are enclosed or destroyed and others emerge and grow strong. The practice of commoning is the process, or more often the struggle, to make and share, to negotiate access, care for, responsibly manage and benefit from what sustains a community. As we face the challenge of acting “as a species” within the multi-species community of life on this planet, it is ever more evident that our lack of ability to “common” our atmosphere, that is, to care for and take responsibility for what presently exists as an open access, unmanaged commons, threatens our very existence. This paper argues for a reinvigorated language and politics of the commons, one that can bring to visibility practices of everyday commoning that operate at multiple scales from the planetary to that of locality or place. In the face of limitless promotion of the individual as the quintessential political subject of modernity, it is time rethink the possibilities for collective action, not only as a public with voice and vote, but as a community-without-essence in which making and sharing a commons is a living, participatory and never-settled commitment.

Patrick Bresnihan (3. Februar)

The More-Than-Human Commons: From Commons to Commoning

The commons has become a ‘prestige’ concept across academic, policy-making and activist circles. It has also been used to refer to many different things: the atmosphere, the internet, the urban square. These are all signs of a movement against neoliberal privatization and the top-down administration of the state. But the commons should not be taken for granted or idealized. This risks ignoring the difficult task of re-inventing and constructing the commons against new forms of hierarchy and enclosure. This talk will argue that the commons needs to be better understood from two perspectives. First, the commons must embrace material and nonhuman forces as critical allies in the struggle to determine more inclusive and just ecological worlds; this is the more-than-human commons. Second, the commons is not just a resource or institutional framework but an ongoing activity that is both experimental and open; this activity is called commoning. These two perspectives will be discussed with reference to my own fieldwork and a range of key texts from science and technology studies, feminist theory and social histories of the commons. The talk develops arguments made in my forthcoming book, Transforming the Fisheries: Neoliberalism, Nature and the Commons (University of Nebraska Press).

Kommentare 2014

Deborah COWEN (University Toronto): The (Techno) Science of Circulation: Global Economy, Unending War, and the Rise of Logistics Space


In the field of logistics, the work of militaries and markets has long been heavily entwined. But how did the ‘revolution in logistics’ – arguably the most understudied revolution of the 20th century - transform the nature of this intimate entanglement? How did this revolution, and the attendant rise of a ‘business science' of logistics, recast global trade and battle space? This lecture tracks the recent life of logistics, from the biopolitics of the battlefield to the boardroom, and back again. It examines a series of key events - from the rise of petroleum warfare, to the birth of the modern supply chain, to the crisis of the ‘Somali pirate’- to highlight the ubiquity of logistics and the profound political, economic and martial transformations that remain hidden in plain sight. Not simply a technocratic field of management, logistics is a highly political technoscience that governs the geopolitics of circulation, recasting state borders and blurring the boundaries of war.


Deborah COWEN, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Editor von Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
http://geography.utoronto.ca/profiles/deborah-cowen/ | http://deb-cowen.net/ | http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/the-deadly-life-of-logistics

Dr Carolin SCHURR (University of Zürich): The A.R.T. of making global families


How are families remade in the age of assisted reproductive technologies? Why do the frontiers of markets of assisted reproduction constantly expand towards the Global South? Following the traces of the emerging market of surrogacy in Mexico, this lecture analyses the effects of the increasing mobility of assisted reproductive technologies. It argues that while assisted reproductive technologies have become routine medical procedures, the making of new fertility markets continues to be an experimental process: international patients have to be matched with local surrogates, biological cycles between surrogates and egg donors have to be coordinated, permits for the import of sperm have to be obtained etc. Drawing on work in social studies of biomedicine and marketization studies, the surrogacy market in Mexico serves to show how biomedical markets are made in an experimental mode.


Caro hat zurzeit ein beneidenswert luxuriös ausgestattetes Branco Weiss Fellowship mit einer Laufzeit von fünf Jahren, die sie in Zürich und London verbringen wird. http://www.society-in-science.org/carolin-schurr.html | http://www.geo.uzh.ch/de/lehrstuehle-und-abteilungen/wirtschaftsgeographie/ueber-uns/mitarbeitende/schurr-carolin

Kommentare 2013

Sian SULLIVAN (Birkbeck University of London) The Natural Capital Myth


The contemporary moment of global crisis in both ecological and economic spheres is also the moment wherein ‘nature’ is being consolidated as ‘natural capital’. Through this, key interlocking elements are systematically joining the previously rather distinct domains of economics, business and finance, with ecology, environmentalism and conservation. The emerging ‘green economy’ assemblage of discourses, actors, institutions and calculative technologies underpins the creation of markets for ecosystem services, including carbon, and is critical in constituting the logic of REDD+ and associated financing. Following approaches in economic sociology that emphasise performative elements in creating what becomes treated as economic, and with particular reference to some proposed financing mechanisms for REDD+, this paper delineates four key shifts enabling external nonhuman natures to become legible and leverage-able as ‘natural capital’. These are: 1. a discursive shift, through which both conservation practice and understandings of nonhuman natures are reframed in economic and financial terms (amongst which ‘natural capital’ and ‘ecosystem services’ are paramount); 2. an institutional shift, in which networks and alliances are becoming constituted as an interlinked assemblage organised around making the core metaphor of nature as natural capital into the materialised reality of accounted for natural capital; 3. a calculative and accounting shift, through which relatively untransformed and restored natures are becoming technically inscribed through numerical signifiers of capital, such that these can be added to and offset against other forms of (ac)counted capital; and 4. a material shift, through which businesses and financiers are turning to accounted for conserved nonhuman nature as ‘natural capital’ assets that can be leveraged as the underlying on which financial investment is secured. I draw on selected works by philosophers Mary Midgley, Michel Foucault and Paul Feyerabend to aid interpretation of these shifts and their world-making characteristics. In doing so, my aim is to enhance understanding regarding the structuring effects of these interventions and the occlusions they necessitate, as well as touching upon possibilities for resistant engagement.


nature; natural capital; green economy; carbon offsets; REDD+; discourse; calculative technologies; institutional assemblage; financialisation; economic sociology; Mary Midgley; Michel Foucault; Paul Feyerabend


Dr Sian Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in Environment & Development, School of Geography, Environment & Development Studies (GEDS) (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/geds/), Birkbeck, University of London, London WC1E 7HX, UK
http://siansullivan.net | @SianSullivanUK | http://studyinggreen.wordpress.com | www.justconservation.org

Bram BÜSCHER (Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Hague)
The Logic of the 'Green Economy' or the Emergence of 'Fictitious Conservation'


Can you change the destructive impact of a system with the same logic that created it? This, it seems, is the key question behind the green economy, and other initiatives to 'economise nature' under contemporary capitalism. Yet, what will happen when we try to render nature and its conservation 'valuable' in capitalist terms? And to what kinds of 'nature' and 'conservation' will this lead? The seminar addresses these questions by positing that the commodities created through capitalist conservation, so-called ‘environmental services’, constitute a radically different type of capital that challenges dominant (Marxist) ideas about the links between value, production and nature. Most importantly, this new type of capital, which I call ‘liquid nature’, necessitates rethinking the relations between circulation and production in contemporary capitalism and how the emphasis in the creation of value is shifting from the latter to the former. Two indications of this shift are seen as key in enabling liquid nature, namely that the valorization of production is increasingly alienated from the act of production and that the value of capital, defined as value in process, increasingly relies on a continuous intensification of capital circulation. The seminar concludes that the upshot of attempts to establish ‘liquid nature’ as the new mode of sustainable accumulation under capitalism result in the emergence of ‘fictitious conservation’.

David LANSING (University of Maryland, Boltimore)
Becoming Neutral: The Spaces of Carbon's Economization


In this talk, I consider the rise of carbon offsetting in Costa Rica, and some of the contradictory practices that must be deployed to render various spaces, bodies, and territories “carbon neutral”. Drawing on ethnographic and historical research on  carbon offset schemes, I discuss the practices and techniques that diverse actors use in the service of “grasping” carbon as an economic object. I show the limits of what such practices can accomplish and discuss the political consequences of creating this new economic object of exchange. Doing so, I make two arguments about carbon offsetting and the commodification of nature more generally. First, nature’s properties do not pose a barrier to its commodification, but rather, the paradox of creating value stymies the production of nature-as-commodity. Second, the idea of becoming carbon neutral through economic exchange is not necessarily the result of global climate policy diffusing to a specific site, but rather, can be traced to the rise of locally diverse governmental techniques for coping with the problem of resource security.

Becky MANSFIELD (Ohio State University)
Neoliberal Biopolitics of Environmental Health: Inequality and Responsibility in Governance of Toxic Exposures


Recent years have seen a dramatic paradigm shift in how the relationship between environments, bodies, and genes is understood and governed. The new science of epigenetics has identified a range of cellular mechanisms that direct biological development without altering the underlying DNA sequence. The emergent field of environmental epigenetics focuses on how environmental toxins, diet, and social stressors shape these cellular processes, with long-lasting and even intergenerational effects. I argue on the one hand that by emphasizing the plasticity of biological development, environmental epigenetics presents a new, non-reductive model of individual and collective health as being the outcome of open-ended gene-environment interactions. Environmental exposures change how bodies function hormonally, reproductively and neurologically; this is especially true of exposures in utero, which have long-lasting developmental effects. On the other hand, I argue that environmental epigenetics is reproducing and even intensifying raced and gendered notions of abnormality and responsibility. Epigenetics is being used to explain all sorts of contested biological outcomes, such as obesity and behavior, casting those as abnormalities that need to be prevented or fixed. Further, the importance of fetal development is turned into an individualist, market-based, and healthist model of epigenetics in which women are told to change how they “choose” to live their lives—“just to be safe.” If women do not choose properly, they can be blamed for negative, racialized outcomes, both individual and collective.

Bronwyn Parry (King's College London) The Practice of Bodily Commodification


The progressive commodification of biological materials and biotechnological artefacts derived from the body (body parts, tissues, cell lines and bioinformation) has sparked some of the most contentious debates in the life sciences – but what exactly does commodification mean in this context?  In this lecture we begin by unpacking the concept of bodily commodification revealing how different (often very partial and unstable) accounts of the practice are deployed in different sectors of this economy and to what effect. We then consider what the technological, economic and regulatory drivers of this burgeoning trade are before finally examining its implications for ethics and social justice.

Key Readings

  • Either: Parry, B. “Entangled Exchange: Reconceptualising the Characterisation and Practice of Bodily Commodification”, pp. 1133-1144 from Geoforum 39, 3., 2008. Or
  • Parry, B. “Economies of Bodily Commodification” in  Barnes, T; Peck, J, and Sheppard, E. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Economic Geography, London: Wiley- Blackwell, 2012. (Chapter 13)
    Lock, M. and Vinh-Kim, N. An Anthropology of Biomedicine. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. (Chapter 8).
    Waldby, C. and Mitchell, R. Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism, London: Duke UP, 2006. (Introduction).

Supplemental Readings

  • Appadurai, A.: “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value”, pp. 3–63 from The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. A. Appadurai.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • Parry, B.C. and Gere, C. M. “Contested Bodies: Property Models and the Commodification of Human Biological Artefacts”, pp. 139-158 from Science as Culture 2, 2006. Parry, B. “Economies of Bodily Commodification” in .
  • Parry, B.C. and Gere, C. M. “Contested Bodies: Property Models and the Commodification of Human Biological Artefacts”, pp. 139-158 from Science as Culture 2, 2006.
  • Budiani-Saberi, D. and Delmonico, F. “Organ trafficking and transplant tourism: a commentary on the global realities”, pp. 925-9 from Am J Transplant. 8, 5., 2008.
  • Hoeyer, K. “Tradable Body Parts? How Bone and Recycled Prosthetic Devices Acquire a Price Without Forming a Market”, pp. 239 -256 from Biosocieties 4, 1., 2009.
  • Landecker, H. Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies. Cambridge Mass: Harvard UP, 2006.
  • Parry, B. Trading the Genome: Investigating the Commodification of Bio-information. New York: Columbia UP, 2004.


Bronwyn Parry
Professor of Social Science, Health and Medicine
Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine 
K4L.25 King's Building
School of Social Science and Public Policy
King’s College London
London WC2R 2LS, UK
Phone: 020 7848 7176
Email: bronwyn.parry@kcl.ac.uk
Department website: www.kcl.ac.uk/sshm