Small Grant Fund Award

By Jacob Fairless Nicholson

Jacob Fairless Nicholson received the Department of Geography’s Small Grant Fund Award, with which he attended the American Association of Geographers (AAG) 2019 conference.

The AAG 2019 precipitated a welcome return to Washington D.C., having spent three months there at the Library of Congress on an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded fellowship last year in 2018. Having cut my AAG teeth in New Orleans – in what was, admittedly, an overwhelming experience – I looked forward to negotiating five days of talks, discussion and mingling in more familiar (and I hoped less frenetic) surroundings.

Highlights of my meeting included sessions on the Geographies of Black Liberation, “Outward-looking” geographies of education 10 years later, Listening as transformative practice, and a book launch of Postcolonialism by Tariq Jazeel. Insights garnered from these and other sessions and lectures equip me with a new set of intellectual tools to think through aspects of my own work on the historical geographies of informal and alternative education in London c.1968-1983 in the weeks and months to come.

Of course, I was also there to present my own work as well as hear that of others. My paper featured as part of back-to-back sessions on Archives and Geography: Knowledge, Politics, Ethics, offered an opportunity to reflect on some of the methodological challenges of conducting archival research in London’s Black community archives. The paper conceptualised ‘being humble in the archive’ and drew on ideas around positionality, privilege and reflexivity specifically in the context of research on the historical geographies of Black communities which I first considered at the pre-RGSIBG workshop ‘Decolonising Teaching and Research in Geography’ hosted by King’s Geography in 2017.

Packed session for ‘Enough!’ chaired by Natalie Oswin at the AAG 2019 conference

Creeping through my third year with the PhD finish line on my radar if not yet in sight, the AAG once again proved well worthwhile. More so than last year, I was able to negotiate session timetables and hotel lobbies with a cool head and forward planning. Though still intense, the AAG in D.C. also allowed me to step back and begin to properly visualise what my future in geography might look like for the first time in my research degree. I am very grateful for that and would encourage any students with research interests covered at the conference next year who haven’t yet been, to seriously consider submitting an abstract for the AAG2019 in Boulder, Colorado and assess the relevant funding options.

I extend my warmest thanks to the Department of Geography Small Grants Fund for their generosity in funding my attendance at the conference.

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