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2019 RSA Annual Conference Plenary Speakers

Pushing Regions beyond their Borders


Urban and Regional Horizons Plenary Panel – Pushing Regional Studies beyond its Borders?

The aim of this panel is to facilitate discussion and stimulate debate around the current state of urban and regional research, and how this is sitting in the face of the big global challenges – globalisation, urbanisation, technological change and innovation, climate change, inequality, geopolitical turmoil. A series of invited panellists will each deliver a short opening position statement. This will then be followed by open discussion among the panellists, prompted by questions from the audience.


  • Mercedes Delgado, MIT Innovation Initiative, USA & Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
  • Sergio Montero Muñoz, Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios sobre Desarrollo (CIDER) Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
  • Isabelle Anguelovski, Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) and Hospital del Mar Institute for Medical Research (IMIM), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Ben Derudder, Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium
  • David Bailey, Economics, Finance & Entrepreneurship Department, Aston University, UK


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Spatial Economic Analysis Lecture – “I Come to Bury Growth, Not to Praise It” Rachel Franklin, Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University, UK

Rachel Franklin is Professor of Geographical Analysis in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) and the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University. She is also one of four chairs appointed to expand Newcastle’s international, cross-disciplinary reputation in Spatial Analytics and Modelling (SAM@Newcastle).

Franklin’s primary research focus is in spatial demography and the interplay between spatial analytics and demographic change, in particular quantifying patterns, sources and impacts of spatial inequality. Current projects, for example, study the role of spatial scale and context in understanding the manifestation and impacts of depopulation across neighbourhoods, cities, and regions in the United States. She also maintains an ongoing interest in pedagogy, especially the teaching of methods. She has taught spatial analysis, GIS, and quantitative methods for well over a decade, with a pedagogic orientation towards policy applications and the social sciences and humanities. With Dimitris Ballas, Graham Clarke and Andy Newing, she is co-author of a recent textbook aimed at teaching GIS for the social sciences.

Franklin is the current editor of the journal, Geographical Analysis, previous book review editor of the Journal of Regional Science, and a member of the editorial boards of Population, Space and PlaceUrban Climate, and Spatial Research and Planning. For eight years (2010–2018), she was the Associate Director of the Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) initiative at Brown University and also held an academic appointment in Population Studies. Other professional experience includes the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Association of Geographers (AAG).

She received her PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona (2004). Her previous degrees are from Indiana University: BA in French and Political Science and MA in West European Studies.

ABSTRACT: I Come to Bury Growth, Not to Praise It

The economist Kenneth Boulding reportedly noted that, “Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” Accepting limitations on growth is, however, quite different from accepting the inverse of growth: shrinkage, decline, or contraction—and this tends to be true whether we speak of economies, populations, household incomes, or firm sizes. As regional researchers, we recognize, moreover, the importance of place, context, and interaction in any investigation of growth/decline in one particular location. In this talk, I reflect on regional perspectives on a postgrowth world, taking the case of population loss as my example. I show how our conceptualization of the causes and impacts of depopulation—particularly at a subnational level—has been shaped by implicit growth bias. Building on our existing knowledge, I highlight other aspects of loss that bear further study and discuss the need for new methods, models, and data for understanding a world of less, not more.

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Territory Politics Governance Annual Lecture – “Taking Back Control? The Myth of Territorial Sovereignty and the Brexit Fiasco.” John Agnew, Department of Geography, University of California Los Angeles, USA

John Agnew (Ph.D., Ohio State University, 1976) is Distinguished Professor of Geography with research interests in Political Geography, International Political Economy, European Urbanization, and Italy. Professor Agnew teaches courses in Political and European Geography. He is also a Professor in UCLA’s Department of Italian and was Visiting Professor of Political Geography at Queen’s University, Belfast, 2012-14. Editor-in-Chief, Territory, Politics, Governance.

ABSTRACT: Taking Back Control? The Myth of Territorial Sovereignty and the Brexit Fiasco

The UK referendum on leaving the European Union (EU) in 2016 was based around the issue of regaining a control or sovereignty that had been lost with membership in that supranational organization. Irrespective of the fact that many people seemed to vote in the referendum on the basis of attitudes towards questions not directly related to EU membership such as immigration from countries outside the EU, the negotiations over leaving focused on how to go about disentangling the UK from the rules and regulatory authority of the EU. These turned out to be far from easy. Much of this reflects the fact that sovereignty itself is invariably contingent. Only in few historical cases, usually associated with autarkic regimes exercising control over large territorial empires, has any sort of absolute territorial sovereignty even approached possibility. The purpose of this lecture is to use the case of Brexit to examine three aspects of the contingency of sovereignty: 1 The major ways in which sovereignty has been organized historically, 2 The character and role of the language of sovereignty in the Brexit “debate”, and 3 Why the focus on territorial sovereignty and its recapture should be so persuasive to so many people notwithstanding its geographical complexities.

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POLICY THURSDAY – Policy Plenary Panel

Organised in partnership with the Directorate-General for Regional Policy of the European Commission, Belgium

This panel will discuss how to promote growth of jobs in cross border regions and aims to go beyond the EU cooperation programmes. Despite the single market, obstacles are still present in border regions and strong cooperation requires multilevel engagement. In particular, legal and administrative obstacles often require national governments to engage with regional and local stakeholders to find solutions. The EU is promoting new tools such as the European Cross Border Mechanism and new approaches to support cooperation through both dedicated cooperation programmes and the mainstream programmes.


  • Ignacio Sanchez Amor, Secretary of State for Territorial Policy, Spain
  • Nathalie Verschelde, Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission, DG Regional and Urban Policy, Unit D2 – Interreg, Cross-Border Cooperation, internal borders, Brussels, Belgium
  • Jesús Gamallo, General Director for External Relations and EU, Regional Government of Galicia, Spain
  • Franziska Sielker, Senior Research Associate, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, UK and Interim Professor, International Planning Studies, Technical University of Dortmund, Germany
  • Laurent Frideres, Head of Unit for Evidence and Outreach, ESPON EGTC, Luxembourg

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Borders Plenary – “Pushing Borders beyond their Borders? A Search for a Common Ground in Regional and Border Studies”

Anssi Paasi, Department of Geography, University of Oulu, Finland

Anssi Paasi has been Professor of Geography at the University of Oulu, Finland since 1990. His research aims at combining political and regional geographic perspectives. He has focused on theoretical issues related to territory/region-building processes, political borders and spatial identities at various spatial scales. He has also been interested in how these ideas are mobilized in regional planning/development. He has recently co-edited (with Martin Jones) Regional Worlds: Advancing the Geography of Regions (Routledge 2015) and (with John Harrison and Martin Jones) “Handbook on the Geographies of Regions and Territories” (Elgar 2018).

Chair and Rapporteur: Martin Jones, Staffordshire University, UK

Profile Picture - Martin Jones

Professor Martin Jones is Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University. He previously held the position of Director of the White Rose Social Science Doctoral Training Centre (WRDTC) and Professor of Urban and Regional Political Economy at the University of Sheffield and was Pro-Vice Chancellor at Aberystwyth University. Martin is the originator and co-editor of the journal Territory, Politics, Governance and plays an active role in learned societies through the Regional Studies Association. Martin is an interdisciplinary researcher, working in the broad area of society and space and specifically on the interface between economic and political geography.

Rapporteur: James W Scott, Karelian Institute, Finland

James W Scott is Research Professor at the Karelian Institute. His principal fields of research include:  Urban and regional development, cohesion policy, border regions, regional and urban governance, metropolitan area problems, European and North American geography. Professor Scott has been a central figure in the establishment of the BRIT (Border Regions in Transition) network. Since 1999 he has coordinated several medium-size and large research consortia funded by the EU’s Framework Programmes, the European Science Foundation, the Finnish Academy and other sources. He has also provided extensive expertise in the analysis of European Cohesion and cross-border cooperation policies for DG REGIO, ESPON and the FP7 project GRINCOH. In addition is scientific coordinate of the Horizons 2020 project (RELOCAL) that investigates the role of the local level in Cohesion and Territorial Development.

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