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New Coastal-Ocean Studies Posts in Germany and the UK

Three new ocean-related job adverts have across my desk in the past two days, so I thought this would be a good place to spread the word. Christian Albrechts University in Kiel has made a number of hires in coastal-marine studies over the past year and is ramping up its expertise in the social sciences in what’s long been a center of ocean research. There are new two post-doc positions advertised there, one in Geography, focusing on social dynamics in coastal areas, and one in Politics, focusing on the ocean as political space and related topics in ocean governance. German language skills are helpful, but not required, for either post, but fluency in English is a must. Also, I’ve been led to believe that there’s some flexibility to the disciplinary qualifications spelled out in the adverts.

At the other end of the career spectrum, the University of Southampton has put out a call for applicants for its Regius Professorship of Ocean Sciences. Although they clearly are envisioning a physical scientist (or perhaps an economist), again I have the impression that they’ll be somewhat flexible if the right applicant comes along.

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ICE LAW Project schedule for Spring/Summer 2017

logo copySince arriving at Durham in 2013, I’ve slowly been developing the core structure of The Project on Indeterminate and Changing Environments: Law, the Anthropocene, and the World (The ICE LAW Project). Thanks to a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust as well as sponsorship from UArctic’s Thematic Network on Arctic Law, I am happy to announce a full schedule of workshops and presentation sessions for Spring/Summer 2017:

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Academic Boycotts, the AAG, and the Trump Muslim Ban

In response to the now week-old (and partially suspended) US ban on migrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations, as well as President Trump’s announcement that subsequent easing of these restrictions would include a preference for non-Muslims, I have been following a growing number of conversations, online and sometimes literally around the office water cooler. It appears that I am far from alone in trying to figure out an appropriate response.

Inspired, in part, by the apparent success that the cancellation of major events has had in generating opposition to North Carolina’s transgender ‘bathroom bill’, and, going back to the 1990s, in forcing recognition of Martin Luther King Day in Arizona, there has been a growing movement to boycott US-based academic meetings. Given the timing of things, and the particular academic community that I belong to, most of my exposure has specifically been to debates surrounding the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, to be held next month in Boston. I’m well aware, though, that similar debates have been transpiring among the membership of other international professional organizations with planned annual meetings in the US.

Before continuing, a bit of self-positioning is in order. As a US passport holder living abroad, I am arguably more affected by this order than US citizens in the US, but less affected than non-US citizens or, of course, citizens of (or past visitors to) any of the seven named states. I also am less affected than any of the countless individuals who, for reasons of skin tone, surname, travel history, birthplace, nationality, or religion, have long sought to avoid US border crossings. On the other hand, although it doesn’t usually weigh heavily on my identity, I myself am the child of a war refugee, and that may also  influence my perspective.

And finally, as editor of a journal called Political Geography, I don’t feel like it would be right for me to be silent on this topic which is most certainly one of political geography. That said, Political Geography has its own long history with boycotts, and what follows are purely my own beliefs and opinions and not those of the journal.

So, here goes…. Continue Reading »

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Papers sought for Ocean Governance kick-off conference, Bremen March 2017


For about a year now, I’ve been working with an international consortium, based out of the University of Bremen, on a European Union COST Action to explore futures for ocean governance. Kimberley Peters and I, co-convenors of the seabed section of the initiative, are soliciting papers for the kick-off conference, to be held March 6-8 in Bremen. For more information and instructions on abstract submission, see the full conference announcement. Note that abstracts are due December 31.


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We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1932

Like so many people, I’m still reeling from the US election. Since long before Election Day, the news media have been suggesting historical analogues for Trump’s elitist populism (or populist elitism): Berlusconi or Mussolini are probably the closest parallels. In the US context, there’s William Jennings Bryan and Andrew Jackson, although neither had Trump’s elitist pretensions. Some have suggested Theodore Roosevelt, and that, it seems to me, gets a bit closer.

But let’s put things into a context less focused on personality and agendas and more on the geo-historic times…. Continue Reading »


Ray Milefsky, 1949-2016

Ray_MilefskyI was saddened to learn of the death of Ray Milefsky, one of the most prominent and engaging individuals in the international boundary community. I didn’t know Ray well (I think I met him three times in my life), but he was the sort of person who made a lasting impression. So, Martin Pratt’s moving tribute on his Bordermap blog has compelled me to add my own contribution to Ray’s memory.

As Martin notes, Ray was a long-time employee of the US State Department’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues, where he was a leading expert in boundary and sovereignty matters. In that role, he was a steady friend of IBRU and a frequent tutor at IBRU training workshops. Although a consummate professional, Ray somehow had the air and enthusiasm of a brilliant amateur, a man who seemed always surprised by his knowledge…and delighted by it. And he shared that delight with others, bringing energy to all those around him. It is perhaps a cliche to call someone ‘full of life’ (and, I suppose, it’s a bit of an oxymoron in an obituary), but I can’t think of a better way to describe Ray. Continue Reading »

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REF as Progressive Force? The Stern Report and the Broadening of ‘Impact’

For the past few days my little corner of the Internet has been filled with reflections on the just released Stern report on the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF). To keep things simple for non-UK readers, REF is an assessment exercise held every five to seven years that the UK government uses to allocate block grants to universities. Not surprisingly, then, universities are always looking for ways to score high on REF and thereby maximise funding. [Actually, I think REF’s influence is disproportionate to the funding that it allocates, but that’s another issue.]

I have to admit that my first reaction when I saw Lord Stern’s recommendations were that if these had been in place four years ago I might not have gotten my current job! Two of the points made by the department to the university to justify my hire were that I would bring publications with me (for the 2014 REF) and that I would provide a means for tying research to an Impact Case Study (for the anticipated 2021 REF). Stern recommends that the former be eliminated and that the latter be deemphasised.

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