AiT Closing Remarks


Thank you to all who have participated in and attended our conference this weekend. We have been working towards this conference for a year, so it has really been a wonderful two days.

Building from the idea that space is not stagnant, but rather alive and occupied by a million stories--ones that have come, are, and yet to be, our conference has covered a wide range of topics from: digital and virtual worlds and space; land-based pedagogies, landscapes of life and death; toxicity and militarism, experimental ethnography, the underworld, and so much more. 

What we would like to focus for a few minutes here in our remarks, are the stories being told this weekend. Like Doreen Massey’s concept that space is a pincushion of a million little stories, our meeting over the past two days has allowed us to theorize and think about space from a variety of viewpoints and narratives. Even with this variety, though, certain stories have carried a thread throughout the weekend.


Opposition and Quotidian Spaces:

Manny’s talk focused on his work in Santa Ana and described the making of urban gardens as a place of opposition to gentrification and perhaps larger capitalist schemes. The focus here, though, wasn’t only on the labor of opposition, but also the everyday practices--the space of enjoyment and being together--that’s also a part of their everyday. 

Scott’s work on virtual activist groups in Illinois helps us to see what the making of an online place for oppositional work looks like, in this particular case, how an online place is made to go against crude contracts, bureaucratic systems, and lack of public funds.

Ben’s work on hackerspaces in both Detroit and San Francisco allows us to think about how oppositional spaces are created, negotiated, and (re)produced within hegemonic spaces. 


Spaces of Aspiration:

Rose and Benedict’s work on regenerative narratives tell a story that prompts an imagination for decolonized computing and decolonized futures by asking us to move toward better practices of land-based pedagogies and right relations. 

Ian’s work on Insurgent planning and thinking of different reforms of urban planning, as either reformist or abolitionist, pushes us to think about planning as practice and the different possibilities of those practices. 


Toxic Spaces:

Marwa’s story is about spaces that are uninhabitable, but inhabited nonetheless and how even the deceased, physical body can be excluded from space through burial.

Jessica shared with us the stories that have been told about Summerland, CA and its mystery oil “seeping” through dynamic visual economies.

Emma took us to the South of Miami to a military base, a for-profit detention camp, and plant nurseries in the South of Miami, to challenge us to think of the unevenly experienced effects of warmaking and wars’ remains in the U.S. suburb. 


Spatial Knowledges:

Dr. Ballestero, our incredible keynote, told a story of how can work to better understand invisible spaces--in this case the underground--to think about aquifers, knowledge production and ultimately push toward an imaginary of thinking with the knowledge we already have to shift away from extractive modes of production. 

Dr. Hamdy’s workshop prompted us to think of alternate forms of storytelling as practices that can simplify, as well as complicate.

D brought our attention to archival impossibility, and shared with us their own “rebel” archives to teach us about carceral spaces and the incarceration of gender nonconfirming people that incites us to think about that which escapes confinement.


Entanglement, Belonging and Contestations:

Jason’s work asking the question, “can there be white spaces of color?” told us about the racialization(s) of sacred spaces and white place-making in spaces of color. 

Janielle’s work took us to redevelopment of Jamaica’s waterfront, to look at what Jamaica hopes to be, and left us with images of the “cleaned out” street of Downtown Kingston - cleaned out of its vendors, and their stalls, but also of Black Jamaician life. She challenges us to think of the state through its aspirations, and understand anti-Blackness as spatially constituted and enforced.

Tawfiq’s work on Swahili coastal consciousness and belonging draws out entanglements and stories of various imaginaires that make and produce a particular place. 


The Body, Affect, and Spaces of Scale:

Jemuel brought us to the scale of the moving body amongst other bodies, to understand his feelings of ambivalence among Filipino-American folk dance enthusiasts and the legacies of Western imperialism. he ended with the powerful statement: Looking back, I asked, “Why do I feel this way?” In closing, perhaps, I would say, “I should feel this way.”

Hae Seo likewise drew our attention to the body, particularly physical features and pro-bono surgery as a technology of governance that produce normative citizens.

Both Gehad and Marianna’s research scaled the meaning and perception of the home to larger geopolitical and environmental structures of capital and disasters. 

 Riley taught us about gene drive research at the scale of the mosquito, and placed proposals to “test” gene drive in the Pacific Islands region as part of a long history of injustice and colonial experimentation that has imagined them as isolated, “tiny dots”.  

These are some of the many threads that we could pull from our conversations this weekend, but we felt these came through very powerfully for us at least.

As we’ve said throughout the weekend and as Kim, Tim, and Prerna now spoke about in their presentation, we are hoping to continue these conversations and these particular threads beyond the AiT Conference.

On the PECE platform, we have a link to a google form which we will email out as well, so you can sign up if you’re interested in joining our spatial stories working group. Thinking ahead, we would love for those interested to create a digital spatial story essay building on their presentations from this weekend. And we can give you the tools to do that. But more importantly we can do it together. 

This weekend we’ve also grappled with questions about not only the medium in which we tell our stories but how we tell different stories. In addition to these essays, we would also like to create a digital space for us to read, think and workshop our various works, writings, and experimentations with medium and form. With Dr. Ballestero’s ethnography studio conversation, beautiful style of science writing and Dr. Hamdy’s workshop on Comics, we’ve been encouraged to think with experimental and creative forms of sharing our work and research.

And we’ve seen glimpses of our colleagues’ creativity during this weekend with Shilpa’s artwork that she intertwines with her research, Manny’s inclusion of song and poetry in his work, as well as Tawfiq’s desire to also think about how to incorporate his poetry into his broader research interests. Just from our own experiences from grad school, we know how important it is to have a group of people to work through these ideas, theories, and creativity forms.

We would like to thank you all again and will be sticking around for awhile if you would like to sign up to be a part of this working group now, but will send out more information via email as well.

Thank you again for a truly incredible and intellectually rich weekend. We hope these conversations will move forward in the future and inspire your work -- and stories-- that are yet to come.



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Contributed date

February 10, 2020 - 6:36pm

Critical Commentary

Closing remarks for 2020 AiT Stories-So-Far: Spatial Knowledges and Imaginaries 

Cite as

Kaitlyn Rabach, "AiT Closing Remarks", contributed by Kaitlyn Rabach, Gina Hakim, Jessica Slattery and Danielle Yorleny Tassara, Center for Ethnography, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 10 February 2020, accessed 9 May 2021.