Monthly Archives: July 2015

Call for articles Urban Island Studies Journal Special issue|‘Peripheral Discourses of Modernity’ (2016)

Call for articles Urban Island Studies Journal

Special issue | ‘Peripheral Discourses of Modernity’ (2016)

Deadline for articles: 31 January 2016

Islands are paradoxical. Although perceived as peripheral relative to mainlands and continents, islands are also centres of affective, cultural, and identity reference for those who were born and/or live on them. As spaces of transit and encounters, insular peripheries are moreover sociocultural and political realities marked by transgression, innovation, and (re)creativity….

For more information about the special issue:

About Urban Island Studies


Panel on ‘Pop-Up Economies: Placemaking, Urban Sociality and the Politics and Cultures of Transitory Public Spaces’

Panel on ‘Pop-Up Economies: Placemaking, Urban Sociality and the Politics and Cultures of Transitory Public Spaces‘ as part of the ‘Minor Culture’ conference, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, December 2015

Panel convenor

Professor Susan Luckman (University of South Australia)

About the ‘Minor Culture’ Conference

The Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA) presents Minor Culture, a three day conference that creates a space for inter-disciplinary dialogues around the study of place, identity and marginality. The conference runs from 1-3 December 2015, with a ‘prefix’ postgraduate day workshop on 30 November 2015.

NOTE: Call for papers has now closed

Monumental Controversies

Check out Tonya Davidson’s assessment of the Canadian conservative government’s controversial proposal for a monument to the Victims of Communism.  This builds on her extensive research on memory, monuments and identity, including the National War Memorial in Canada and migrants memories of their homelands and villages in Croatia.

Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Ottawa Canada
Memorial to the Victims of Communism, Ottawa Canada (from The Toronto Star)

Greece and the spatialisation of economic guilt

Satyajit Das commented on the geographical framing of financial crises:

European politicians and central bankers have provided useful geographical clarifications. Prior to succumbing to the inevitable, the Ireland told everyone that they were not Greece. Portugal is now telling everyone that it is not Greece or Ireland. Spain insists that it is not Greece, Ireland or Portugal. Italy says it is not in the “PIGS”. Belgium insists it was no “B” in “PIGS” or “PIIGS”.

Although never defined, in these discourses “Greece” becomes the spatial figure for an economic guilt complex, labelled as the geographical site of our own fears of disentitlement and moral discourses condemning profligacy.

At the same time as pointing out this process of spatialisation of crisis, the article turns on metaphors of economic “contagion”.  The understandings of flow, transmission and mobilities embedded in the idea of contagion have been critiqued by authors such as Van Loon, Anderson, Street and Nicols over many years in Space and Culture.

-Rob Shields (University of Alberta)

Debtor Colonies, Democracy and International Finance

The Greek / Euro debt crisis has elicited strong editorial writing in places such as The Guardian where George Monbiot argued:

The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

The same programme is imposed regardless of circumstance: every country the IMF colonises must place the control of inflation ahead of other economic objectives; immediately remove barriers to trade and the flow of capital; liberalise its banking system; reduce government spending on everything bar debt repayments; and privatise assets that can be sold to foreign investors.

Using the threat of its self-fulfilling prophecy (it warns the financial markets that countries that don’t submit to its demands are doomed), it has forced governments to abandon progressive policies. Almost single-handedly, it engineered the 1997 Asian financial crisis: by forcing governments to remove capital controls, it opened currencies to attack by financial speculators. Only countries such as Malaysia and China, which refused to cave in, escaped.

Consider the European Central Bank. Like most other central banks, it enjoys “political independence”. This does not mean that it is free from politics, only that it is free from democracy. It is ruled instead by the financial sector, whose interests it is constitutionally obliged to champion through its inflation target of around 2%.

Alex Tsipras has successfully broadened an economic debate into a broader debate about democratic self-determination in the context of financial crises that are created by unrealistic lending by banks and private investors guaranteed by IMF bailouts that effectively socialize debt and take over the risk incurred by private financial corporations.  cites Matthias Matthijs and Mark Blyths’ The Future of the Euro in making a similar argument about the people versus the global financial elite:

“There are no sustainable technocratic solutions to the euro problem, which is an inherently political one, and will need political solutions. Democracy is not a mere error term in the non-linear regression of governance.” That is a lesson the eurozone elite has yet to learn.

From the usurous rates of credit cards and loan companies,  to bank fees, to the encouragement of consumer driven economic expansion, the unequal terms of banking have been apparent to the retail public for several decades.   Current debates over austerity policies have eroded the certainty of Thatcherite penny-wise logic of sustenance style economics.   Are we at a historical moment when the moral authority of banks and bankers is decisively questioned and the international financial system is unveiled as a form of colonialism that is global rather than being limited to regions – The “Asian” financial crisis, “African” debt and so on.

Rob Shields (University of Alberta)