Introducing the Themes for the 2020 AAG Annual Conference

Each year the AAG president helps to identify a few themes for the AAG Annual Conference. While any topic is accepted for presentation at the annual meeting and participants are encouraged to develop their own special sessions, themes encompass a few specific points of interest for our Annual Conference and are used to organize a series of sessions, to focus discussion, and to highlight key events during the conference.

The AAG is pleased to announce three themes for the 2020 Annual Conference to be held in Denver from April 6–10: The Changing North American ContinentEthnonationalism and Exclusion around the World, and Expanding the Community of Geography.

The Changing North American Continent examines how the land and people have been transformed from pre-history through history. A meeting in Denver, the capital city of the U.S. 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.

Ethnonationalism and Exclusion around the World 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.

Expanding the Community of Geography 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.

Since the AAG first introduced themes for the annual meeting, they have been used to emphasize a particular set of interests. These three themes speak to the significance of our meeting’s location in Denver, the political era we find ourselves in, and the need to foster a larger and more inclusive geographical community. Future presidents will focus on different sets of themes and this is as it should be.

If you find that your interests intersect with one of these three themes and would like to serve on a committee, please contact me directly at dkaplan [at] kent [dot] edu. And if you find that your session, poster, or paper corresponds with a theme, please consider adding it to the lineup for our 2020 AAG meeting in Denver.

— Dave Kaplan
AAG President