Call for Papers: The geographies of loneliness and solitude
Royal Geographical Society with IBG Annual Conference, London, Wednesday 28 to Friday 30 August 2019.
Session convenors: Eleanor Wilkinson (University of Southampton), Sarah Marie Hall (University of Manchester) and Alison Stenning (Newcastle University)
Session sponsorship: Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group & Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
This session seeks to provide a critical, geographical reflection into the so-called ‘epidemic’ of loneliness. Loneliness has been positioned as a pressing health concern, depicted as a risk to both physical and mental wellbeing, but also as a socio-economic issue of inequality. The rise in solo living, geographically distant kinship networks, and declining community bonds are all seen as potential factors that have resulted in this rise in loneliness. People are seen to be living increasingly isolated and detached lives, and this is something which people may increasingly be reflecting on and working to mitigate in their everyday lives. In this context, in 2018 the UK government published the first ‘strategy for tackling loneliness’, which set out ‘to build personal and community resilience’. Yet missing from this strategy is the role that austerity measures may have had in intensifying loneliness. Austerity has resulted in the closures of social infrastructures that offered the potential for connection, such as libraries and children centres, and has also led to housing and welfare reforms that have displaced people from the communities in which they once lived.
The session will also seek to move beyond framing loneliness as a ‘problem’, to examine what Denise Riley has termed ‘the right to be lonely’. Central here is the idea that to be alone is not the same as to be abandoned. What might it mean to desire solitude, and what if our problem might not be disconnection, but too much closeness? In the context of the remaking of domestic and local spaces in austerity, for example, some are being expected to share everyday space in ways that are experienced as uncomfortable or undesirable. This session will reflect upon how solitude may be an integral part of people’s mental wellbeing and ask how this broader discussion of the geographies of solitude might speak back to dominant policy concerns around loneliness.
In these ways, this session seeks to think about geographies of loneliness and solitude both as spaces of trouble and as spaces of hope. We welcome submissions that explore geographies of loneliness and solitude, connection and disconnection, at a variety of scales and in a range of geographical contexts.
Please send 250-word abstracts to all three convenors (E.K.Wilkinson@soton.ac.uk; sa
firstname.lastname@example.org; a email@example.com) by Monday 4th February.