Call for papers

NZGS Conference 2016 Session: Democracy in and from the Antipodes


In this session, we want to engage critical theorisations of democracy within geography and particularly from the Antipodes. Here we don’t mean the kind of democracy that is ‘unapologetically harnessed to the project of capital accumulation’ (Brown 2011:47). Rather, we mean the kind of democratic politics that creates space for alternative visions for a future that is more equitable and just – both environmentally and socially.


This session comes at a time when many social scientists are drawing on the work of political theorists such as Mouffe, Ranciere and Zizek to argue that the Western world is characterised by depoliticisation (Allmendinger and Haughton 2011; Wilson and Swyngedouw 2014). That is, contestation and disagreement are displaced by technocratic managerialism, the privileging of the free market and bland populism. For instance, Swyngedouw (2009) argues that climate change is framed by elites as a problem that can be solved by technocrats and experts and thereby ignoring the need for radically different economic, political and social ways of living. And yet, Larner (2014) cautions against broad-brush characterisations of depoliticisation, warning that such sweeping claims render invisible already existing contestation and innovative ways democracy is reclaimed. Instead she paints a much more complex picture of the state of democracy and possibilities at the current juncture. Similarly others (Thomas 2014; Diprose 2015) have argued that greater attention should be paid to the processes by which spaces for different political imaginaries are narrowed or indeed opened up.


Taking our cue from these debates, and seeking to engage political theory from the Antipodes, we invite theoretical and empirical contributions that address these themes and may be linked to environmental concerns, trade (for instance the TPPA), and other socio-political issues (such as social welfare reform). Areas of focus may include:

-          How can democracy be theorised from (post)colonial contexts (particularly Aotearoa New Zealand)? What might this mean for radical democratic theory which is dominated by European voices?

-          What relevance do notions of the post-political have in the Antipodes? Are there other theoretical frames that are more useful to explain the complexity and democratic possibilities in Aotearoa New Zealand?

-          How has democracy been articulated and enacted by individual subjectivities and/or collectives in ways that challenge, alter or resist capitalist discourses and depoliticising processes? What are the possibilities for a more environmentally and socially just world generated by such articulations?

-          Conversely, what are some of the processes by which contestation and / or difference is delegitimised?

-          What is the relationship between neoliberalism as it is currently articulated in Aotearoa New Zealand and a broadly conceived democracy?

Please submit a short abstract (250 words or less) to session organisers Amanda Thomas, Victoria University of Wellington (amandacarolinethomas@gmail.com), Sophie Bond, Otago (Sophie.Bond@otago.ac.nz) and Gradon Diprose, Open Polytechnic (Gradon.Diprose@openpolytechnic.ac.nz).


Amanda Thomas

Victoria University of Wellington

Aotearoa New Zealand