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Rethinking Remoteness, Isolation, and Peripherality

10-18 September 2019, Svaneti & Tbilisi, Georgia

This multidisciplinary conference critically examines the purported drawbacks and potential benefits to remoteness, isolation, and peripherality.

Remoteness, isolation, and peripherality have become lenses through which certain territories and communities are valued and assessed. These concepts have come to be regarded as markers of vulnerability, marginality, and lack of modernity.

Yet all three concepts are fundamentally relational, presume centre-periphery relationships that may not be relevant to all parties involved. Territories such as Greenland and New Caledonia may seem remote and isolated from the perspective of their distant metropolitan powers, Denmark and France, but for those living in these territories, the periphery is itself the centre. The city of Manchester in Northern England is often regarded as remote from and peripheral to the economic powerhouse of Southeast England, yet the population of Manchester’s urban area exceeds that of many European countries. Places that were once deemed remote, such as Australia, can come to be taken on their own terms, while important power centres, such as Ancient Carthage, can dwindle and ultimately be buried beneath the earth. Lognyearbyen, Svalbard (site of the first REMOTE conference in 2017) appears on the map to epitomise remoteness, yet this tiny arctic town is a hub of international activity.

What do remotemess, isolation, and peripherality mean in practice? Who decides whether a place or a people in remote, isolated, or peripheral, and how do these determinations affect life in places that have acquired the label? Being labelled in this manner can sometimes give a community access to aid and support, but it can also pigeonhole a community into acting out its remoteness, can hinder efforts at embracing one’s own centrality. For Indigenous communities and minority nationalities located on or beyond the edge of a majority culture, an uncomfortable tension can develop between preserving local cultures and lifestyles on the one hand and performing in accordance with metropolitan and neocolonial expectations on the other. From China’s Great Western Development Strategy to Australian development efforts in Melanesia to attempts within Western liberal democracies to decentralise public administration by relocating government bodies out to ‘the provinces’, initiatives to address the disadvantages and inequalities resulting from peripherality and remoteness often mean increased political and economic dependence on a distant centre of power.

How to make attend and make a presentation.

Presentations are welcome on all aspects of remoteness, isolation, and peripherality worldwide. Presentations may take an empirical, comparative, or theoretical focus. Presentations last 15 minutes and will be followed by around 5 minutes’ question time. Note that, due to the ‘remote’ location of the conference, audio-visual aids will not be available for presentations.

The first deadline for abstracts is 30 September 2018. (Later abstracts may be accepted if there is room available at the conference, but people who submit an abstract prior to the deadline will have the first opportunity to reserve a spot and to take advantage of the early registration rate.) You can submit your abstract here. The deadline for early registration is 30 November 2018.

About Svaneti & Tbilisi, Georgia.

Svaneti, located in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, is the homeland of the Svan people. The conference will be held in Mestia, a village on the Inguri River in Upper Svaneti. The conference group will also travel to Ushguli, which at an altitude of 2100 meters above sea level is among the highest settlements  in Europe.

Although peripheral to the great kingdoms and empires of the region, Svaneti’s control over the mountain passes made it strategically important in ancient times. Svaneti’s dramatic natural landscape of mountains, glaciers, and rivers has sculpted strong cultural traditions and contributed to the preservation of its exceptional built heritage in the form of hundreds of distinctive tower houses and scattered valley villages. As a result, Upper Svaneti was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

In recent years, road improvements and the opening of a small airport have greatly increased Svaneti’s accessibility, leading to an abrupt tourism boom. Svaneti is thus undergoing a period of rapid cultural and economic change.

The conference begins and ends in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city. Tbilsii lies on the ancient Silk Road between Asia and the Mediterranean and has long been a meeting place for cultures. Today, Tbilisi is once again positioning itself between the East and the West by seeking to harness China’s Belt and Road initiative for economic and political benefit. Delegates will explore Tbilisi’s rich historical tapestry, including its exquisite Medieval old town. We will also visit the nearby ancient city of Mtskheta, home to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Jvari Monastery.


About the conference.

Delegates should arrive in Tbilisi on 10 September to participate in a tour of Tbilisi and Mtskheta on 11 September. On 12 September, the group will travel to Mestia in Svaneti, a day-long trip including stops along the way in the historic cities of Kutaisi and Zugdidi. On 13 and 16 September, we will explore Mestia and its surroundings, including Chalaadi Glacier and the village of Ushguli. Conference presentations will be held in Mestia on 14-15 September. On 17 September, we will return to Tbilisi, with stops around the ancient city of Gori. Delegates can depart Tbilisi from 18 September.

If you have any questions, please e-mail convenor Shawn M. Clankie (