Materiality and intimacy in the geographies of care

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Polly Pallister-Wilkins, Beste Isleyen
Chairs: Polly Pallister-Wilkins

Call for Submissions

We are looking for abstracts on topics that could include:

• The use of digital technologies in refugee management
• Spaces and experiences of transit and/or waiting
• The embodied risks and material constructions of variegated mobility regimes
• Politics of neglect, indifference, ignorance and abandonment
• Hierarchical and differentiated production of space through state- and non-state practices of refugee management
• Visual politics of materiality and intimacy: media representations, photography, etc.
• Materiality, intimacy and field research


There is an increasing focus on both materiality and intimacy in political geography. This work has been important in drawing our attention to the ways in which, for example, border violence is both produced and experienced. Recent events such as the ‘migration crisis’ and the Ebola pandemic have highlighted the role of both material infrastructures and intimate geopolitics in the practicing of care. Material infrastructures such as boats, bus stops, checkpoints, hotspots, hotels, and hospitals have been studied for the ways in which they constitute particular times, spaces and types of care (İşleyen, 2018a&b; Lisle and Johnson, 2018; Mitchell and Sparke, 2018; Pallister-Wilkins, 2016 & 2018a&B; Walters, 2015). Meanwhile intimate geopolitics has worked at mapping the multi-scalar relations between the individual and the global highlighting the constituting role of distance in our understandings of suffering and structuring subsequent interventions (Brickell, 2014; Pain and Staeheli, 2014; Pratt and Rosner, 2012). This panel aims to explore the ways in which materiality and intimacy play a role in shaping the times and spaces of care and constituting particular types of care.

The panel aims at bringing the diverse work on materiality and infrastructures into conversation with the rich work on intimate geopolitics. Work on materiality asks us to consider more deeply the role of infrastructures, technologies and objects in the structuring of peoples interaction with space and its effects. Work on intimate geopolitics asks us to take seriously the embodied effects of (spatial) power and the presence of people’s emotional worlds. How can thinking about materiality and intimacy together help us understand the interface between the material and the socio-political? How does thinking about materiality and intimacy help us, for example, better uncover and interrogate the systems and experiences of those incarcerated in the European hotspots (Mitchell and Sparke, 2018; Painter et. al, 2017; Pallister-Wilkins, 2018b; Tazzioli and Garelli, 2018) that are characterised by violent infrastructures of neglect and an increasing presence of preventable diseases, self-harm and suicide amongst those held? Care giving requires the use of a range of materials from the simple to the complex (see Scott-Smith, 2018) but how are these experienced? What type of embodied effects and affects do such materialities produce amongst those receiving care, such as feelings of alienation generated by the plastic suits used in bio-emergencies, or the dehumanising impact of triage clinics? And how do materialities (of care) impact feelings of dignity and bodily agency and autonomy?


Brickell, K (2014) ‘”The Whole World is Watching”: Intimate Geopolitics of Forced Eviction and Women’s Activism in Cambodia,’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104(6): 1256-1272.

İşleyen, B (2018a) ‘Transit Mobility Governance in Turkey,’ Political Geography, 62, 23-32.

İşleyen, B (2018b) ‘Turkey’s governance of irregular migration at European Union borders: Emerging geographies of care and control,’ Environment and Planning D: Society & Space,

Lisle, D and H Johnson (2018) ‘Lost in the aftermath,’ Security Dialogue,

Mitchell , K and M Sparke (2018) ‘Hotspot geopolitics versus geosocial solidarity: Contending constructions of safe space for migrants in Europe,’ Environment and Planning D: Society & Space,

Pain, R and L Staeheli (2014) ‘Introduction: intimacy-geopolitics and violence,’ Area 46(4): 344-360.

Pallister-Wilkins, P (2018a) ‘Médecins Avec Frontières and the making of a humanitarian borderscape,’ Environment and Planning D: Society & Space 36(1): 114-138.

Pallister-Wilkins, P (2018b) ‘Hotspots and the geographies of humanitarianism,’ Environment and Planning D: Society & Space

Pallister-Wilkins, P (2016) ‘Personal Protective Equipment in the humanitarian governance of Ebola: between individual patient care and global biosecurity,’ Third World Quarterly 37(3): 507-523.

Pratt, G and V Rosner, eds. (2012) The Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time. New York: Columbia University Press.

Painter, J, E Papada, A Papoutsi and A Vradis (2017) ‘Hotspot politics – or when the EU gets real,’ Political Geography 60: 259-260.

Scott-Smith T (2018) ‘Sticky technologies: Plumpy’nut®, emergency feeding and the viscosity of humanitarian design,’ Social Studies of Science 48(1): 3-24.

Tazzioli, M and G Garelli (2018) ‘Containment beyond detention: The hotspot system and disrupted migration movements across Europe,’ Environment and Planning D: Society & Space,

Walters, W (2015) ‘Migration, vehicles, and politics: Three theses on viapolitics,’ European Journal of Social Theory 18(4): 469-488.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Discussant Elisa Pascucci University of Helsinki 16 9:55 AM
Presenter Heather Johnson*, Queen's University Belfast, The ‘Found’ Infrastructures of Mobility and Deterrence: invention and temporariness in asylum seeking 12 10:11 AM
Presenter Polly Pallister-Wilkins*, University of Amsterdam, Survival and predation in the humanitarian economy of Lesbos 12 10:23 AM
Presenter Beste Isleyen*, , Materiality, Visibility and Border Policing 12 10:35 AM
Presenter Debbie Lisle*, Queen's University, The stubborn habits of migration: practicing self-care in humanitarian space 12 10:47 AM
Presenter Jennifer Riggan*, Arcadia University, Amanda Poole*, Indiana University Of Pennsylvania, The Hosting State and Its Restless Guests: Cartographies of Care and Regimes of Im/Mobility in Two Refugee Camps in Northern Ethiopia 12 10:59 AM
Presenter Caroline Oliver*, University of Roehampton, London, Karin Geuijen*, , Building spaces of conviviality? Infrastructures and intimacies in asylum seeker reception in Utrecht, the Netherlands 12 11:11 AM
Presenter Nina Sahraoui*, European University Institute, Care, Control and Border Management. Looking into medical humanitarianism at a Southern EUropean border. 12 11:23 AM

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