Although I have been to conferences before, I have never been to one quite as big as the RGS-IBG annual conference. With around 2000 delegates, and 414 sessions to choose from, I couldn’t really comprehend the size of it until I saw it for myself. Over the course of 4 days, I went to 13 sessions, and listened to 40 papers. I have had a great week, although I do feel like I need another week to recover (It’s a good thing I’m on holiday as I write this!) I have met some great people, and listened to some fascinating papers on a range of topics from war, conflict, protest and fascism through to music, cold war bunkers and gay bars.
The overarching theme of the conference was co-production, the idea of producing knowledge and other outputs in collaboration with others. As a historical geographer, it was not something that I thought really applied to me. However, during a panel discussion at the conference on co-production, it was pointed out that all knowledge is co-produced. No knowledge, or anything else for that matter, is produced in a vacuum, it always involves other people to some extent. When I do archival research, I am working with the people who wrote the sources, the people who chose to preserve them, and the people who look after and organise them. I think it is important to be aware of these other actors that contribute to your research, not only in order to give them the credit they deserve, but also to ensure that your research is as informed and considered as possible.
One thing that was really brought home to me over the course of the conference was how far I, and the other PhD students who started at Royal Holloway with me, have come. We started almost a few weeks short of a year ago, and we’ve all achieved a lot since then. I was surprised at the number of people I knew at the conference, I didn’t realise how many interesting and engaging people I have met at various events since last September. I did not present, but many of my colleagues did, with a few even presenting two papers. I only saw one of them, but it was lovely to see her (Mel Nowicki, @melnowicki) research taking shape. It can sometimes feel like a PhD will never end, so it was really reassuring to realise that I am making progress.
So I think it’s safe to say that my first major academic research was a resounding success. I have had a lot of fun, a lot of ideas, and some interesting thoughts on the process of PhD. Roll on next year!