Earlier this year I blogged my temperate frustration with certain pretenses to commonality and solidarity in international academic gatherings. This formed some of the ground for writing, with my friend K, a paper about zombies. More on that later. In the meantime though I wanted to note a contrast between the earlier experience and a more recent one, that being the organisation of the 6th International Conference of Critical Geographies.
The Conference uses the following fee scale, taken from the top:
“High income economies” include: Japan, Persian Gulf countries on the Arabian Peninsula, North America (excluding Mexico), Northern and Western Europe.
“Full fee” is applicable to those with a permanent position or with a possibility of getting institutional funding.
The “reduced fee” is applicable to those with insecure eomployment or with no possibility of getting institutional funding.
“Student/unwaged fee” refers to fees for those with no income and no budget to cover costs from any institutional support.
They have worked hard to ensure that there are accommodation options available to those who do not have the means, or who do not want, to stay in a five-star hotel.
Furthermore, the Conference organisers have committed to ensuring, as far as they can, that their travel reimbursement grants are provided to those who have less financial means than others. They have specifically made the point that state grants are often provided to those in comparatively less need — i.e. tenured faculty.
It’s heartening to see this effort being made to share resources between individuals and economies, and to recognise the socioeconomic inequalities that we bring to academic work. Obviously there are limitations. In the case of the grant funds, the participant needs to have already come up with the cost of travel and be able to wait for reimbursement (something that still precludes me from attending), they also need to be able to take time out of their wage-earning activities without adverse consequence (something else that precludes me from attending). Still, it provides a lever, symbolic at worst, to shift the hegemony of the haves in the making of academic knowledge. It acknowledges those of us who have academic training, do academic work and have something to contribute to research and writing in their field, but who do not have an academic job. This situation largely occurs because there are not enough jobs to go around, but also because we may not want an academic job. Either way, moves like the ICCG’s are support for the idea that this status should not preclude us from thinking, writing, researching, and speaking with a field of peers. Particularly when that field is one concerned with the making of social justice.