Geographers, Libraries and Me

HDR candidate Jen Li blogs about her recent attendance of the Institute of Australian Geographers conference.

By Jen Li (opens in a new window)

4 July 2014

I am listening to Jamie Peck speaking about moving fronts in urban theory and different ways theorists have conceptualised cities, sitting in between two friends from the University of Wollongong, in a packed lecture theatre at the University of Melbourne. It is the opening keynote of the 2014 IAG conference; I am surrounded by geographers and I am home.

The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) conference this year was jointly held with the New Zealand Geographical Society, in the lovely city of Melbourne. I attended the conference along with a number of other academics and postgrads at the ICS, and my attendance was funded by the IAG, ICS and UWS. It began with a postgraduate day where we listened to older academics’ words of wisdom, met other students, and had the opportunity to ask questions and have discussions about doing a PhD and what happens next.

The conference itself was intense. Packed over three days, each day began at 8:30am and didn’t end until 5 or 6, with around ten parallel sessions in each timeslot. I trawled through the programme before the conference, orange highlighter in hand, looking for the papers I wanted to see, the people I wanted to listen to, and noted with dismay that at almost every timeslot, there were at least three sessions I wanted to be at simultaneously. Hermione Granger’s Time Turner would have been extremely helpful at this conference.

At the conference this year, I listened to talks about care-full encounters with refugees in Newcastle, public transport as a contact zone in urban multicultures, suicide by pesticide ingestion in India, green infrastructure and heat adaptation in western Sydney, associations between the built environment and cardiovascular disease mortality in Montreal. I listened to talks about how to create healthy, liveable cities and how geography has a place in global health education. I listened to geography legends present keynote lectures and I was inspired to think about how we, as geographers and citizens, can change the world.

After the conference, the urban geography study group held a mentoring event for postgrad students. We presented our work and received feedback from our more experienced colleagues, and it was great to have the opportunity to have more in-depth conversations with people whose work I admire and reference.

This conference has been inspiring, engaging, wonderful. It was fantastic to see old friends from other universities around the country, and to make new friends. My brain was happy, my stomach was happy, and the IAG continues to be my favourite conference experience.

A final note and a confession: The conference dinner was held this year at the State Library of Victoria. I might be slightly biased in saying this given the topic of my PhD, but I think this is quite possibly the most spectacular building in all of Melbourne. I managed to get a sneaky peek at the La Trobe Reading Room before it closed, and vowed to return to look at it properly. At the dinner, someone at my table told me she liked my presentation from the previous year’s IAG, and someone said that I made libraries sexy. I replied that it was libraries that made libraries sexy, and the State Library of Victoria is testament to that. And to the confession  on the day after the conference dinner, I skipped one of the sessions to go to the library. I went with a new friend, and we spent time in the grand reading room, looked at it from above on the viewing platform, and saw an exhibition on books and memory. It seems that no matter where I am in the world, I manage to find an exhibition somewhere with some very old books. I am like a homing pigeon for books.

The official conference hashtag on Twitter was #IAGNZGS2014. There was a lot of tweeting happening throughout the conference, and this is my conference experience, in Twitter-recorded real time. 

Jen Li's twitter feed from the IAG 2014 conference.