Conversations on using assemblage thinking in geography

Conversations on using assemblage thinking in geography

Institute of Australian Geographers Annual Conference, Adelaide

June 29th – July 1st 2016

Call for Papers

Session Organisers: Carrie Wilkinson and Ryan Frazer, University of Wollongong


Geographers are increasingly interested in the possibilities afforded by thinking through assemblage. It appears to be fast becoming an essential addition to the geographer’s toolkit. At its most general, assemblage provides a way of accounting for the ordering of heterogeneous phenomena into a provisional whole. The promise of assemblage, as Müller writes, is a radical “rethinking [of] the relations between power, politics and space from a more processual, socio-material perspective” (2015, p.27). It offers a way of conceptualising forms as they gather, cohere, fracture, and disperse within an always immanent ontology.

The concept’s radical openness to the socio-spatial has led to a diverse uptake within the discipline, with geographers exploring everything from surfing- to city-assemblages. This diversity has been celebrated by those who believe there is not any necessarily ‘correct’ way to either understand or employ the concept (Anderson et al. 2012). Others are concerned that its sometimes vague use has led to it becoming a catch-all to explain all complex phenomena. Buchanan (2015: 391), for instance, suggests that perhaps rather than providing us new ways of approaching a problem, it has “simply [given] us a currently fashionable way of speaking about it”.

With these concerns in mind, the aim of this session is to open up critical conversations on the use of assemblage in geographical research. The session will focus on how geographers are currently engaging with assemblage thinking to realise its promise. We invite theoretically-informed and empirically-based papers that address any aspect of this broad area, but the following questions may wish to be considered:

  • What value does assemblage thinking have for socio-spatial analysis?
  • What are the limitations of using assemblage thinking in socio-spatial analysis?
  • How may we apprehend assemblages with methodological rigour?
  • How may the concept be applied in actual, empirical cases?

Abstracts are due 11th March 2016 and can be submitted via the IAG Conference 2016 website.

Feel free to contact us with any questions:

  • Carrie Wilkinson (
  • Ryan Frazer (



Anderson, B., Kearnes, M., McFarlane, C., & Swanton, D. (2012). On assemblages and geography. Dialogues in Human Geography, 2(2), pp.171-189.

Buchanan, I. (2015). Assemblage theory and its discontents. Deleuze Studies, 9(3), pp.382-392.

Müller, M. (2015). Assemblages and actor‐networks: Rethinking socio‐material power, politics and space. Geography Compass, 9(1), pp.27-41.


Carrie and Ryan are PhD Candidates with the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research and School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, UOW. You can follow them on twitter via @CarrieW2536 @ryangfrazer.

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