Virtual Themes and Sessions

The Virtual 2020 AAG Annual Meeting will be held Monday, April 6, to Friday, April 10, 2020. Read on for more details about interesting themes and exciting sessions. PLEASE NOTE: All sessions will take place in Mountain Time.

Breaking Theme: Geographers respond to COVID-19

In transforming the AAG Annual Meeting into a virtual event to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Coalition and AAG specialty groups and their chairs helped the AAG leverage the virtual format of the meeting to respond to this pandemic through a geographic lens. We invite you to take part in the breaking theme for this year’s Annual Meeting: Geographers Respond to COVID-19.

This theme highlights the multifaceted expertise and perspective of geographers on the pandemic and its medical, social, economic, political, cultural, and ethical implications. By bridging both social and environmental sciences, geographers are uniquely suited to provide insight into the complex spatial interactions that spread and aggravate the virus, and the geographic implications of the pandemic response efforts.

Our goal with this theme is to turn the adversity we are all facing into a high-profile opportunity to showcase the breadth and relevance of geography to urgent issues, and to learn from such rapidly evolving circumstances to build future preparedness. Virtual panels will be held throughout the week of the AAG meeting to explore the geographical implications of COVID-19 from a variety of angles.

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The AAG would like to thank the following Specialty Groups and their chairs or past chairs for their early leadership  in developing this theme:
Michael Glass and I-Chun Catherine Chang, co-chairs of the Asian Geography Specialty Group
Chetan Tiwari, Chair of the Health and Medical Geography Specialty Group
Xinyue Ye, Past Chair of the China Specialty Group
Austin Kocher, Chair of the Legal Geography Specialty Group
Peter Kedron, Chair of the Economic Geography Specialty Group


AAG Climate Action Task Force Plenary and Sponsored Sessions

AAG and its members have collectively and consistently sought ways for the organization to address climate change and environmental justice, not only through AAG's programming but also through its practices as an organization. Last fall, for example, AAG convened the Annual Meeting Climate Action Task Force to redesign the annual meeting experience in significant and transformative ways that could reduce emissions at a depth and scale suggested by climate science and bodies such as the International Panel on Climate Change. 

When the task force began its work early last fall, the COVID-19 crisis had not yet emerged. Yet thanks to the task force's work, AAG was positioned to transform the annual meeting into a virtual meeting during this unexpected crisis. The task force will continue its commitment to transition the AAG into a leader and model of how large organizations can leverage technology, member ingenuity, and participation to respond to climate change. This year's unexpected test of that commitment will help determine improvements and enhancements for future virtual meetings of the AAG. 

The Climate Action Task Force also assembled a series of virtual sessions on climate change and climate action, including its plenary session on the responsibility of academics in upholding the Paris Accords. 

Climate Action Task Force Plenary with Kevin Anderson: Laggards or Leaders? Academia and its responsibility in delivering on the Paris commitments
Peel away the layers of dangerously naïve hope and unfounded optimism and the mitigation challenge posed by the Paris Agreement now demands a rapid and profound re-shaping of contemporary society. Whilst the models dominating the mitigation agenda employ evermore exotic and speculative technologies to remain ‘politically palatable’, the arithmetic of emissions increasingly embeds equity at the heart of any mathematically cogent strategy. Dress it up however we may like, the Parisian mitigation agenda is ultimately a rationing issue. Until we are prepared to acknowledge this, we will continue our reckless pathway towards a 3-5°C future. Against such a depressing backdrop, is the role of academia to reveal cracks and offer new light or to favour political pragmatism and ‘expert’ debate?

The Climate Action Task Force's plans last fall for a hybrid "virtual hub" taking place in a session room at the in-person Denver meeting helped to prepare us for shifting to a completely virtual meeting. The following three sessions will continue in a completely virtual space:
The Environmental State I: Colonization, Extraction, Conservation
The Environmental State II: Producing Scarcity, Managing Uncertainty
The Environmental State III: Panel Discussion

More sponsored events:
Academic knowledge production in age of climate disruption: relevance, inclusion, connection
Should the AAG Consider Carbon Offsets as Part of Its Transition to Low-Emissions Annual Meetings?
Voices from the Field- Research on the Climate Crisis 1
Voices from the Field- Research on the Climate Crisis 2
“Slow” Geographies and Ecological-Ethical Dilemmas of International Research
New Water and Urban Water Security I

New Water and Urban Water Security II
New Water and Urban Water Security III (Hybrid paper and panel session)


Important Themes Going Virtual from the Canceled AAG 2020 Denver

The AAG is pleased to announce sessions within the three themes for the 2020 Annual Conference will go virtual: The Changing North American Continent, Ethnonationalism and Exclusion around the World, and Expanding the Community of Geography. If you find that your session, poster, or paper corresponds with a theme, please consider adding it to the lineup for our virtual 2020 AAG meeting.


Ethnonationalism and Exclusion around the World

This theme describes and interrogates new political movements based around a more exclusive form of national identity. These movements often draw on race-based appeals, target immigrant populations, and may be violent. While ethnonationalism has been present within every society throughout history, modern-day ethnonationalist movements have given rise to several strong political movements contributing to the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the rise of populist parties in Hungary, Poland and Brazil, and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. An exclusionary nationalist identity has also led to the hardening of borders as well as the vicious repression and destruction of minority groups, such as the Uighur people in China and the Rohingya in Myanmar. As part of this theme, we seek papers and other forums that are broadly concerned with nationalism, ethnic-inspired terrorism, racism, immigration, genocide, borders, populism, electoral geography and other related aspects.

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Lise Nelson, University of Arizona
Merje Kuus, University of British Columbia
Pauliina Raento, Tampere University (Finland)
Natalie Koch, Syracuse University
Wes Reisser, U.S. Dept. of State
Vidyamali Samarasinghe, American University
Jeremy Slack, University of Texas at El Paso
Corey Johnson, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Kara Dempsey, Appalachian State University

Expanding the Community of Geography

This theme looks at how we can increase the active participation of geographers, at the AAG and elsewhere, who may have otherwise felt excluded, moved away from geography as a discipline, or may not realize their kinship with geography. One factor of this exclusion lies with geographers who work in often underrepresented institutions. This includes stand-alone geographers, community college stakeholders, those who work and study at Historically Black and Tribal institutions, and geographers who work outside of the academy. Most people who go on to get a Masters or Ph.D. in geography do not end up working as academics. They may have drifted away from the AAG, and we need to find ways to increase their contribution and interest in our society. As part of this theme, we seek papers and other forums that involve coping with limited resources, enhancing geography at minority serving institutions, community engagement, outreach to geographers beyond the academy, alternative ways of knowing, fostering interaction among stand-alone geographers, and many other related aspects.

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Mike DeVivo, Grand Rapids Community College, Mich.
Jacquie Housel, Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio
David Padgett, Tennessee State University
Nicole Reiz, University of Kansas
Weronika Kusek, Northern Michigan University
Patricia Solis, Arizona State University
Qihao Weng, Indiana State University
Angeline Johnson, University of Toledo (grad)
Joseph Kerski, ESRI
Guntram Herb, Middlebury College
Amanda Rees, Columbus State University
Heather McAfee, Clark College, Vancouver, Wash.

The Changing North American Continent

This theme examines how the land and people have been transformed from pre-history through history. A meeting in Denver, the capital city of the US West, allows us to focus specifically on the transformation of the western landscape, the effects of climate change, indigenous rights, new immigrant geographies of the West, the perils to our ecosystems, water scarcity and distribution, the West as a social laboratory, and other related aspects. We seek papers and other forums that address these topics and that otherwise fit within this broad rubric.

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Yolonda Youngs, Idaho State University
Maria Lane, University of New Mexico
Glen MacDonald, UCLA
Geoffrey Buckley, Ohio University
Patrick Lawrence, University of Toledo
James Meacham, University of Oregon
Jenni Vanos, Arizona State University
Emily Skop, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
Brandon Vogt, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs