Programme

The IAFOR International Conference on the City (CITY) is an interdisciplinary conference held alongside The IAFOR International Conference on Global Studies (Global). Keynote, Featured and Spotlight Speakers will provide a variety of perspectives from different academic and professional backgrounds. Registration for either conference will allow participants to attend sessions in both.

This page provides details of presentations and other programming. For more information about presenters, please visit the Speakers page.


  • The Introvert and the City
    The Introvert and the City
    Keynote Presentation: Dr Liz Byrski
  • Writing the City: Buenos Aires in New Millennium Crime Novels
    Writing the City: Buenos Aires in New Millennium Crime Novels
    Keynote Presentation: Professor Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz
  • Catalonia’s Referendum on Independence from Spain
    Catalonia’s Referendum on Independence from Spain
    Keynote Presentation: Dr Bill Phillips
  • Football, Politics and the City
    Football, Politics and the City
    Keynote Presentation: Phil Ball
  • Visible Signs of Ageing: Representational flattery, ageing women and agency in women’s fiction
    Visible Signs of Ageing: Representational flattery, ageing women and agency in women’s fiction
    Keynote Presentation: Dr Liz Byrski
  • The way and wherefore of Spain’s current political crisis: Catalonia… again
    The way and wherefore of Spain’s current political crisis: Catalonia… again
    Featured Panel Presentation: Dr Montserrat Camps-Gaset & Michael Strubell
  • How can writers respond when the future looks fearful?
    How can writers respond when the future looks fearful?
    Featured Panel Presentation: Philip Ball, Gloria Montero and Professor Liz Byrski
  • ¡A España no hay presos políticos! / In Spain there are no political prisoners!
    ¡A España no hay presos políticos! / In Spain there are no political prisoners!
    Keynote Presentation: Dr Cornelis Martin Renes
  • The Cities We Fled
    The Cities We Fled
    Featured Panel Presentation: Professor Susan Ballyn, Professor Donald E. Hall & Professor Liz Bryski
  • IAFOR Silk Road Initiative Information Session
    IAFOR Silk Road Initiative Information Session

Previous Programming

View details of programming for past CITY conferences via the links below.

The Introvert and the City
Keynote Presentation: Dr Liz Byrski

December 2012: I walk out of the building into the cold damp air and pause on the steps waiting for my heart to stop pounding, my legs to stop shaking, praying that I will not faint here in London, not vomit on the steps of the British Museum. Can I make it back to the hotel without making an exhibition of myself? Cautiously I make my way to a nearby seat, and sit, head tilted backwards, eyes closed, taking deep breaths until the feeling passes. Eventually I see a taxi draw up outside the gates and I get up and walk shakily towards it, waving at the driver. Seconds later I lurch into the backseat. ‘You all right, Love?’ The driver asks. ‘Fine thanks,” I give him the address of the hotel, and sit there, rigid, grasping the armrest so tight it hurts my fingers. I have been in London for 13 days, eight more than my tolerance level, and it’s the third time this has happened: one more day to go. I am an introvert in the city.

In this presentation I will consider my love-hate relationship with various cities in which I have lived, the reasons I have fled from them, the physical and emotional effects of being in any city, and my specific problem with being in London.

Read presenter biographies.

Writing the City: Buenos Aires in New Millennium Crime Novels
Keynote Presentation: Professor Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz

On October 27, 2002, María Marta García Belsunce met her death in her home in one of the exclusive gated communities known as “countries” in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. María Marta’s family members and doctor said that she had suffered a domestic accident, held a wake, and interred her. But a district attorney called for an autopsy: it revealed that she had five bullets in her head. The García Belsunce crime and its brazen cover-up immediately turned into a media sensation and became emblematic of things gone terribly wrong in the supposed bucolic bliss of the “countries.” It also became a “true crime” reference for several Argentine crime novels set in fictional “countries.” In these novels, the gated community serves as a venue to critique the new modes of class differentiation brought about by the neoliberal economic model. Their plots incorporate and transform the country-house setting popularised by Agatha Christie. Instead of offering reassuring closure and justice, they illustrate the absence of justice, denouncing the sense of impunity among certain elite groups.

This presentation discusses how recent Argentine crime novels are renovating conventions of the classic detective genre to engage pressing issues confronting not only Buenos Aires but also cities around the globe. Integrating insights from sociological studies, it considers how selected crime novels explore contemporary ills, such as drug and human trafficking, institutional and police corruption, and the exacerbation of class difference manifested in increased urban poverty and urban flight. Although these works inevitably present a grim conclusion in regard to justice, there is often a happy ending on the personal level, as the characters look to human bonding as a balm for ravaged souls.

Read presenter biographies.

Catalonia’s Referendum on Independence from Spain
Keynote Presentation: Dr Bill Phillips

On October 1, 2017, Catalonia held a referendum on independence from Spain. The Madrid government declared not only that the referendum was illegal, but that it would not happen, and deployed thousands of Spanish police and para-military guards to seize ballot boxes and papers, close down the polling stations and prevent voting from taking place. The response of the Catalan people was to occupy the polling stations - many of which were schools - days ahead of the vote to avoid them being locked down by the authorities. Printing presses and plastics factories were raided and material seized, and the Catalan finance ministry was searched for evidence of public money being used for voting purposes.

Despite Madrid's efforts, however, voting went ahead and more than two million people were able to cast their ballot. The Spanish police attacked a number of polling stations in which senior Catalan politicians were registered to vote. These included the President of Catalonia's polling station in Girona, numerous others in Barcelona, and the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament's polling station in Sabadell. The images of police violence against peaceful voters were broadcast around the world.

The count, conducted in a state of very real fear by many of the local electoral committees, returned an overwhelming result in favour of independence. Three days later the most successful general strike ever held in Catalonia was held in protest at Madrid's policy of violence, repression and refusal to negotiate. In the evening the Spanish king, Philip VI, appeared on television to address the nation; visibly angry with the Catalan people, he gave his unequivocal support to the Madrid government's actions and that of the police.

Read presenter biographies.

Football, Politics and the City
Keynote Presentation: Phil Ball

Football stadia have long been associated with political events and sentiments, confounding the rather pointless complaint that sport and politics should not mix. The city of Barcelona understands this only too well, where the old stadium Les Corts became an implicit shelter and focus for anti-Franco sentiment after the Civil War. On a smaller scale, football grounds have always been a vindication of local sentiment, a place where the pious can gather to support their representatives whilst at the same time reiterating their cultural exclusivity. We are "this" and you - the visitors - are not this.

With the assertion of identity a constant throughout human history, a more fragmented contemporary version has persuaded architects to transform the semiotic value of football stadia, since multi-national corporations posing as football teams can no longer be associated with anything resembling urban decay. Football stadia now stand apart from their urban surroundings - not necessarily physically apart, but visually and aesthetically divorced from the urban morphology that once created them. These are futuristic assertions, breaking with the idea that a football ground is somehow a sacred guardian of tradition. Barcelona has the Sagrada Familia, but it receives fewer visitors than the Camp Nou. Is this the new opium of the people, the antidote to a fearful future where identity and consensus will become increasingly harder to pin down? When all else fails for the new Winston Smith of some dystopian urban future, will he eschew rebellion, don his team scarf and head for the gleaming temple of fortnightly unison? One rather suspects he might.

Read presenter biographies.

Visible Signs of Ageing: Representational flattery, ageing women and agency in women’s fiction
Keynote Presentation: Dr Liz Byrski

We live in a mediated society in which the representational flattery provided by sympathetic and admiring images of people like us provide the reassurance that we are members of the tribe. The flattered self is a mediated self and that combination endows us with a sense of significance and agency. But at a time when we celebrate increased life expectancy and are urged to remain in the workforce much longer than previous generations, ageing women are largely absent from the representations of popular culture. The focus is on youth, beauty and sexiness, on staying young and looking younger, and the varied and dynamic lives of older and elderly women are sidelined into invisibility.

I was approaching sixty when, despite the growing number of ageing women living full and interesting lives, I couldn’t find novels that told those stories. Walter Benjamin suggested that writers are people who can’t find the books they want to read so they write them instead. I took Benjamin’s words as advice. In this paper I discuss my own experiment in developing a body of popular fiction deliberately designed to create a sense of agency among older women readers, and some of the responses to these ten, best-selling novels.

Read presenter biographies.

The way and wherefore of Spain’s current political crisis: Catalonia… again
Featured Panel Presentation: Dr Montserrat Camps-Gaset & Michael Strubell

"In 2010 Spain’s Constitutional Court issued a landmark ruling that inadvertently laid the ground for Sunday’s independence referendum in Catalonia.”

“In the largest demonstration Barcelona has ever seen, 1.5 million citizens according to the Catalan Police marched in Catalonia’s capital after the banner ‘Catalonia, Europe’s new state’.”

“In a vote in the regional Parliament, Catalan lawmakers voted 72 to 63 to a plan for independence from Spain by 2017. The Spanish Prime Minster promised to halt the move for independence.”

“Spain is enduring the most serious challenge to its territorial integrity since October 1934, when the Catalan authorities rose against the democratically elected government of the second republic”.

“Apart from Brexit, this is Europe’s greatest challenge since the wars in the Balkans”.

The media are full of dramatic headlines on Catalonia.

This Conference is being held in the midst of a serious institutional crisis which unfolds daily, and renders a detailed abstract – three months ahead – impossible or at least foolhardy. The extracts from media reports serve as a backdrop to our joint paper.

We shall try and provide the background delegates need to understand what has driven the situation to the recent events: a declaration of independence, an immediate takeover of direct rule, with dismissal of the Catalan government (now part in exile, part in pre-trial detention), forced elections, and every legal effort being made to prevent a majority in the new Parliament from forming a pro-independence government.

This means a brief overview of Catalonia’s 1000-year history, with particular attention to more recent events, and especially since the long-standing dictator, Generalissimo Franco, died peacefully in his bed in 1975. The three-way fugue since 2010, of Catalan civil society, Catalan politicians and Spain’s leadership, will frame the latter part of our presentation as will a consideration of the main values being claimed both by pro-independence and pro-Unionist sides.

Read presenter biographies.

How can writers respond when the future looks fearful?
Featured Panel Presentation: Philip Ball, Gloria Montero and Professor Liz Byrski

As the writer Nancy Kress remarked, "Fiction is about stuff that’s screwed up". She’s probably right, in the sense that some of the best writing has arisen from historically turbulent times – whether its focus was on the past, present or the future. Turbulent times have tended to produce equally turbulent responses from writers, often obliging them to use the future as a metaphor for the present – think Orwell’s 1984 written in 1948 as a contemporary response to totalitarianism. How fearful did the future look back in 1948 to Orwell, and how fearful does it look to us now, in 2018?

The news that we are on the brink of apocalypse may indeed be fake, but there is undoubtedly a current sense of unease about the future, in sharp contrast to the post-conflict era of the 1960s and 1970s when everything seemed possible, we made love and not war, and technology appeared to be offering us infinite horizons.

Enter the writer, to try to make sense of it all, or to just reflect and even comfort us. Maybe in troubled times, more people look to both fiction and non-fiction as succour, as a way of testing out their own hypotheses. The success of Yuval Noah Harari’s recent Homo Deus would seem to be proof of this – offering us an individual interpretation of how a fearful future might look, but also of how it might be avoided. On a more modest scale, with our future allegedly so fearful, what can writers offer now?

Read presenter biographies.

¡A España no hay presos políticos! / In Spain there are no political prisoners!
Keynote Presentation: Dr Cornelis Martin Renes

This statement was recently (April 11, 2018) made by the Spanish Minister of Justice, Rafael Català, in reply to the Catalan Separatist´s demand that he address the numerous arrests that had been taking place since the October 1 referendum on CataIan independence, on the unlikely charges of corruption, rebellion, sedition and terrorism. The minister followed this up by accusing Catalan separatists of bullying Spanish nationalists in Catalonia and worse.

Yet, Catalan separatism is characterised by its democratic, pacific character, avoiding acts of aggression at all costs. This feature is what earned the support of many inside and outside Catalonia after the state's violent interference with the referendum, which redefined the issue of independence as a lack of democracy. It also shows pacifism is not only a moral choice but a strategic device too - to defend the Catalan cause in a context of structural power deficit which furnishes the Spanish state with almost all means of oppression (police, army, judiciary) and financial and economic control.

I would argue that Spanish nationalist discourse covers up this imbalance by recourse to a pseudo-democratic discourse which claims victim status but in reality serves to impose the Spanish constitutionalist order, taking the separatist cause out of the political arena by criminalising it.

Read presenter biographies.

The Cities We Fled
Featured Panel Presentation: Professor Susan Ballyn, Professor Donald E. Hall & Professor Liz Bryski

In this panel, Susan Ballyn of the University of Barcelona and Donald E. Hall of Lehigh University will discuss the cities of their birth: Bath, England, UK, and Birmingham, Alabama, USA, respectively. While we often celebrate cities as places of vibrant artistic and cultural innovation and stimulation, cities can also feel like traps to some citizens if the values and priorities they embody are not compatible with the lives and interests of those inhabitants. In discussing their personal journeys out of their birth cities, the two panelists will pose questions to the audience for all to consider: What do we need from cities? How do some cities become lost in their pasts and therefore unable to embrace the changing needs of their populations? What causes some cities to languish, stagnate, and alienate, while other reinvent themselves and thrive? After speaking for 20-25 minutes each, the panelists will ask the audience to provide their own thoughts on cities as sites of pleasure and pain.

Read presenter biographies.

IAFOR Silk Road Initiative Information Session

As an organization, IAFOR’s mission is to promote international exchange, facilitate intercultural awareness, encourage interdisciplinary discussion, and generate and share new knowledge. In 2018, we are excited to launch a major new and ambitious international, intercultural and interdisciplinary research initiative which uses the silk road trade routes as a lens through which to study some of the world’s largest historical and contemporary geopolitical trends, shifts and exchanges.

IAFOR is headquartered in Japan, and the 2018 inauguration of this project aligns with the 150th Anniversary of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when Japan opened its doors to the trade and ideas that would precipitate its rapid modernisation and its emergence as a global power. At a time when global trends can seem unpredictable, and futures fearful, the IAFOR Silk Road Initiative gives the opportunity to revisit the question of the impact of international relations from a long-term perspective.

This ambitious initiative will encourage individuals and institutions working across the world to support and undertake research centring on the contact between countries and regions in Europe and Asia – from Gibraltar to Japan – and the maritime routes that went beyond, into the South-East Continent and the Philippines, and later out into the Pacific Islands and the United States. The IAFOR Silk Road Initiative will be concerned with all aspects of this contact, and will examine both material and intellectual traces, as well as consequences.

For more information about the IAFOR Silk Road Initiative, click here.