Presenting at the Association of American Geographers annual conference

Dr Mary Gearey, Senior Research Fellow from the School of Environment and Technology reflects on her latest conference presentation and participation at AAG Washington 2019

There seemed to be a problem on the streets of Washington DC when I arrived last week at the beginning of April. Dotted along the streets, scores of lonely, abandoned scooters, harshly left propped against streetlights, blossoming cherry trees, shop doorways.

Who would care for these miscreant mobile technologies? Luckily with 9000 physical and human geographers in town for the annual Association of American Geographers (AAG) meeting help was on hand with both theoretical and applied solutions. Read More

Re-naturing cities

Dr Mary Gearey, Research Fellow in our school, joined 40 other British and Brazilian researchers for a four day, Newton funded workshop in July, exploring methods, strategies and theories in support of ‘re-naturing cities’. The event was held in Goiania, Brazil, Mary tells us more about it here.

The Newton funded workshop brought together researchers from a wide range of disciplines including Architecture, Ecology, Public Health, Urban Planning, Human Geography, Soil Science and Land Management to share expertise around developing green infrastructure in highly dense urban spaces. My work on public perceptions in support of urban wetlands expansion contributed to a series of round-table seminars which explored a wide range of subjects from improving green roof structures to expand biodiversity, to extending community participation in developing public spaces through growing fruit, vegetables and flowers in street side rain gardens.

Complementing existing ‘grey’ infrastructure – the buildings, roads, transport networks which are the fundamentals of city spaces – with ‘green’ infrastructure – city parks, tree lined greenway cycle paths and wilder areas such as urban wetlands – offers urban dwellers the chance to improve their health and well-being in a range of ways. From cooling down the ‘heat island’ effect of cities, both now and with a view to future climate change impacts, as well as improving air and water quality, expanding nature into cities via urban parks, green ‘wedges’ of land set aside for plants and trees and softening buildings through living walls and mobile gardens housed in skips, offers city dwellers a respite from noise and traffic fumes and improves access to nature for everyone, not just wealthier residents.

This Newton funded workshop has demonstrated that the research I currently undertake within SET exploring the value of wetlands for local communities as part of a Natural England Research Council (NERC) project alongside Professors Neil Ravenscroft and Andrew Church has an international resonance and impact, and highlights the wonderfully diverse range of work undertaken by University of Brighton researchers.

This is my second time in Brazil, disseminating and undertaking research on behalf of SET and the University of Brighton. In November I worked with Physical Geographers at UNIVALI University in the South of the country, supported by a Santander Bank travel grant.

Both times in Brazil I’ve got close up and personal with the wildlife; last time it was a surprise encounter with a rainforest bush rat in a rangers’ toilet, this time with this very cute monkey (pictured). We found him in our hosts’ campus at the Federal University of Goias and thought he was adorable, rolling around on the floor and clapping his hands– until we discovered he was working a con act with another monkey who was going through people’s bags searching for food when we were distracted. What a cheeky monkey!

Support for female researchers in STEMM

As part of International Women in Engineering Day 2017, Dr Mary Geary, research fellow in our school, shares her experience of a career in STEMM research and the support she received from the University of Brighton on returning to STEMM research after a career break.

Find out more here.

Day eight: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.


Today we took a boat along the Madeira river which is a tributary of the Amazon river. We arrived at a remote village, only accessible by boat. We were greeted with a local shop and some buildings that appeared relatively new. Then we discovered the history and current context of this place. This small village was flooded, during January last year. These floods destroyed housing, health services and businesses and the people took refuge in the Amazon. They came back to rebuild their village, but there is a further threat. The government wants to build a hydro-electric power station, permanently flooding the area. They are trying to relocate all of the villages some miles into the Amazon, destroying their community and making their fishing livelihoods impossible.

What became clear was that women took a lead role, both in rebuilding the village, regaining services and in resisting the government’s push to remove them permanently from their homes. The OWmne’s association was a powerful force in this community. Not only this, but these women were also looking for new forms of income and we were shown the crafts that they are making to be sold. It was a fantastic experience and illustrated how women are given positions of leadership and control, in ways that men would be expected to take in the UK.

Day seven: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day four

Alex Ratts opened the day by talking about gender, race and space and Black women’s movements in Brazil. She focused on two authors: Beatriz Nascimento who studied Black (Afro-Brazilian) histories which is now part of Brazilian schooling because of her and Leila Gonzale one of the founders of the Unified Black movement, which is a key Black movement in Brazil. She started a collective of Black women inside of this movement.  These authors’ writing, linked with other women and men, and Brazil, focusing on the ways Black women live with racism and sexism. They emphasized the importance of writing of the self as a form of creating resistance and making new knowledges from our own experiences. These authors are becoming more and more importance and are starting to be part of the canon of feminist and black research.

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Day six: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day three

Today was focused on when who experienced multiple forms of exclusion.

Sonia Beatrix Dos Santos explored health issues for Black women and the fight for the right to health in women’s issues in Brazil. The paper showed how Black feminists have been key in developing not health care for impoverished Black women who didn’t have formal jobs.  By fighting for healthcare as part of the constitution, these feminists massively improved the situation for Afro-Brailian women. However, these women are subject to both racism and sexism and there is still a lot to be done. This includes recognising the specifics of afro-Brazilian health needs and empowering Black women in communities to think about health issues. Even with healthcare in the constitution, some 30% of Black women in labour needed to go to more than one hospital to receive maternity care. There are regional differences, and Dos Santos noted that the North-east of Brazil is the worst.

Angela Sacchi’s paper then explored gender in Indigenous communities, explaining that in Brazil’s Indigenous communities, women occupy a range of roles, not only raising children, but also around health and other practices. Nonetheless, men and women have different roles, use space differently and have differential access to public participation. There are a lot of of struggles, and there are differences with women’s movements, that do not recognize their own ethnocentricism.

Xose Manuel Solla focused on empirically examining geographies of sexualities in the Spanish context. Looking at journal articles published in Spain, he argued that the dictatorship in Spain created an important difference between Anglo-geographies and Spanish geographies.  Geography in Spain was very closed and difficult. Exploring over 5,000 journal articles from 19 journals between 1990-2013, there were 9 articles in 23 years on sexualities in geography journals and 6 of these were published between 2007-2012.  Gender fared slightly better with 172 articles- 3.5% of articles published but these are irregular over time and generally averaged around 5 per year. Most of those published were in one specific journal from a progressive Barcelona University,

Day five: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day two

A day packed full of exciting papers, some highlights were:

  • The opening paper by Benhur Pinos Da Costa, which explored the history of sexualities internationally, but adding in Brazilian experiences. Finishing with a discussion of small towns in Brazil, Da Costa explored how gay men find space to gather, meet and create relationships and kinship networks even in places that are not accepting of their identities.
  • Jan Simon Hutta’s exploration of how sexualities and gender are policed and controlled in a peripheral area Baixada Fluminense (Fluminense Lowlands), a region in the state of Rio de Janeiro, sought to challenge the idea that safety and security lies in the state and the all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people will be protected by the police. Instead he argues that the state and police cannot be relied on for some who challenge sexual and gender norms and live in peripheral areas. For those who are more marginal relationships, friendships and gaining respect in local communities are key.
  • Maria Rodo-De-Zarate used maps of feelings to understand the similarities and differences of young lesbians experiences of space in Brazil (a place called Ponte Grosse) and Spain (Barcelona). She showed how these girls do not have the same feelings about space as straight girls, public spaces Spanish girls felt uncomfortable, in Brazil those spoken to could not show their feelings, walk hand in hand in public space, despite legal protections. She argued that not being able to experience love, care and solidarity and deprives people of their humanity. It is necessary to identify these injustices spatially to create more just and fair societies.
  • Cesare Di Feliciantonio discussed the importance of thinking about queer migration and social welfare together.  Too often migrants are presumed to be straight and gay men especially seen to be wealthy and white. Thinking about young gay men who moved from Italy to Berlin and from big cities in Italy to small towns showed that for young people the material conditions in which they exist are really important. For Italian family connections are really important socially, economically and culturally, but they can also be constraining.  Interestingly gay men can experience more freedom in small towns where their families are not present.

Overall the day illustrated the diverse experiences people have of sexualities, and how sexualities are lived differently in differently places, and at different times.