Monday, December 21, 2009

I am organising a session for the Royal Geographical Society conference next summer. The call for papers is below.

Call for papers 2010 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference,
1-3rd September 2010, London, UK

Mapping Underground
Representing Subterranean Spaces, Practices and Cultures

Session organisers:
Martin Dodge and Chris Perkins
Geography, School of Environment & Development, University of Manchester

What lies beneath the ground is hidden and usually unrepresented but is vital for many spaces and practices occurring above. In these concealed and largely impenetrable subterranean spaces lurk unknown dangers and the possibilities for adventurous exploration; moreover they serve as potentially profitable resources, as engineering challenges to overcome, as risks to be mapped and managed, as a spring of spiritual well-being or the site of death and burial, as the source of artefacts of the human past to be recovered and conserved, and as a scientific record of geologic histories. The diversity of subterranean spaces, practices and cultures have attracted scholarly attention including concern for symbolic and multi-layered mythologies of representation (Rosalind Williams, David Pike), the strangely sublime nature of underground infrastructures like drains and ducts (Paul Dobraszczyk, Geoff Manaugh), the psychic anxieties of the unmappable underground (Steve Pile), the political economy and social ecology of subterranean facilities and flow (Matthew Gandy, Maria Kaika). Beyond the academy there is also burgeoning ‘amateur’ interest in charting the subterranean extent of cities (with substantial books documenting the arcane underground features of, for example, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Manhattan), along with obsessive collecting behaviour of enthusiasts mapping out all the tunnels and ‘lost’ stations, and recording war-time bunkers, emergency shelters and other forgotten subterranean heritage.

On most topographic maps the representation of space stops at the ground level but there are many specialised geographic visualizations of the underground. Examples include colourful and cryptically labelled geological maps, complex engineering plans of tunnels and sewers, volumetric models, and profiles of strata employed in oil exploration and mineral extraction, geo-physical subsurface displays produced with reflected mapping of radar and sound waves penetrating the solid ground surface. We seek theoretically informed papers that consider how and why the underground has been mapped (and not mapped), relating characteristics of subterranean spaces to different forms of representational practice and visual culture.

Suggested themes might be across the following binaries:
  • Mapping the underground as spaces of weapons and war / representing the underground as a safe refuge and as peaceful resting place
  • Mapping subterranean transportation, flow and mobility / mapping hidden infrastructures of governance, control and monitoring
  • Subterranean spaces of scientific knowledges: geological, geophysical, mineralogical, archaeological, climatic science, speleological, and palaeontological mapping practices / mythological understandings, deeper senses and alternate ways of knowing what lies below
  • The underground as impenetrable, secret, and unknown / urban exploration, photographic exposure and subterranean touristic experiences
  • The Hadean underworld symbolized as site of death and damnation / the earthly underground charted as source of life, rebirth and healing
  • Aesthetic and artistic challenges to envision the underground / technological capacities to more accurately survey subterranean spaces
  • Subterranean sanitary potential for clean water and cleansing wastes / underground spaces seen as soiled, pathogenic, polluted and polluting
  • Mapping space for rubbish dumps and disposal / representing subterranean resources and potential extractive riches
  • Mapping human / non-human animal underground practices
  • Mapping underground spaces of punishment and imprisonment / representing subterranean escape and evasion
  • Mapping the everyday mundane subterranean city / representing the inexplicable, exotic or fantastical things lurking down below
  • Imagined and romanticised undergrounds / mapping the materially engineered and mechanical reality of subterranean services
  • Mapping organic, active and living underground ecologies / solid subterranean spaces seen as lifeless voids or inert geological matter
  • Mapping the liminal boundary between above / below

Proposed papers with a title and short abstract (250 words maximum) should be submitted to Martin Dodge ( by 31 January 2010. Further details on conference are at


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