Report on the networking meeting Labour Geography 2024

On February 8 and 9, this year’s networking meeting of the Working Group (AK) Labour Geography took place at the Leibniz Institute for Spatial Social Research (IRS) in Erkner. Since the foundation of our working group in 2020, it has been growing steadily ever since. Around 40 geographers and scientists took part in this year’s meeting and exchanged views on current topics and debates in labour geography. Under the motto “Doing Labour Geography”, this year’s conference focused on methodological questions and the (further) development of the research field.

What is Labour Geography?

In the opening lecture, Tatiana López and Oliver Pye gave an overview of what Labour Geography actually is: Spatial perspectives on work have always been an elementary component of economic geography, but for a long time work and workers were viewed passively either from a neoclassical perspective as factors of production or from Marxist and regulationist perspectives as objects of state and capital interests. In contrast, labour geography, which originally emerged in the English-speaking context, focuses on working people as geographically active subjects. ‘Labour’ has three connotations: Labour as a work process (work), labour in the sense of working people (workers) and labour as a collectively acting actor (organized labour). All three aspects are essential in the production of space.

Doing Labour Geography: between substantive exchange, reflection and practical organization

In terms of content, the conference consisted of a diverse programme with three paper sessions and three paper feedback sessions ranging from fields such as labour regime research to digitalization research and questions of social reproduction and organization. In addition to traditional presentation formats, reading-based and intensive peer feedback sessions as well as roundtables complemented the programme.

In addition to the academic exchange, one panel focused on the working conditions and struggles in the German higher education system itself.Based on the experiences from the campaign of the Network for Decent Work in Science (NGAWiss) against the failed reform plans of the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act (WissZeitVG), the struggles of student workers for a collective agreement (TV Stud), the organization of international academics in the Precarious International section of the NGAWiss and the organization at the works group level at the University of Halle (verdi.uni-halle.de), the participants looked back on the successes and failures of the struggles of recent years and discussed strategies for the future.

In line with the guiding theme of “Doing Labour Geography”, Peter Birke reflected on his own research methods and practice in his closing keynote. The presentation thus encouraged an exchange on what transformative research in cooperation with actors from labour movements can look like and how it can be continuously shaped. In small groups, the participants discussed the role of their own research design, the relationship between science and activism and their own positionality in the research process.

Outlook: New team of spokespersons, we will continue in 2025!

The next networking meeting will take place on February 13-14, 2025. The location is still open. There is already a small team that would like to help organize the next meeting. Further interested parties are wanted and are welcome to contact the speaker team directly: kontakt (at) ak-labourgeography.de

In addition, Barbara Orth, Stephan Liebscher and Christiane Meyer-Habighorst have taken over the role of spokespersons for the working group from Alica Repenning and Isabella Stingl and will represent the working group together with Yannick Ecker.

We are already looking forward to the next meeting and would like to thank everyone for their enthusiastic participation and appreciative words for the organization of the event.

Your organizing committee 2024: Yannick Ecker, Lea Molina Caminero, Anna Oechslen, Alica Repenning and Karin Schwiter