Call for papers — Uncovering policy worlds: the social and spatial lives of policy

Paper session at the Institute of Australian Geographers and the New Zealand Geographical Sociey conference (30th June-2nd July 2014 in Melbourne, Australia).


Tom Baker, University of Newcastle

Russell Prince, Massey University

Social research has long been motivated by questions of policy and expectations of policy relevance. In recent years, the policy process itself has garnered increasing attention from a range of disciplines. In anthropology and sociology, there have been calls to investigate ‘policy worlds’, the environments in which “rationalities of governance and regimes of knowledge and power” are contested and produced (Shore & Wright 2011, p. 2). This is consistent with the way ‘state ethnographies’ have focused on governance institutions as sites of sociality and embodied conduct, sites in which the power of the state is realised (Painter 2006). In reaction to the global circulation of policy concepts and models, there is also growing interest—from geographers and political scientists in particular—in the mobility of policy (McCann & Ward 2011; Peck 2011). This work is concerned with the way travelling policy ideas are shaped by local histories and politics, translated through social interactions, enabled by techniques and networks, and framed by institutional contexts.

Building on these efforts, this session seeks to showcase research on the policy process, broadly conceived. We are particularly interested in critically engaged papers that investigate the socialities and/or spatialities involved in making and influencing policy. Theoretical, methodological and/or empirical papers are encouraged.

Paper topics might include:

  • ethnographic or in-depth qualitative approaches to policy
  • genealogical or historical analyses
  • the role of particular actors and institutions (state and non-state)
  • the mobilisation and localisation of policy
  • the role of knowledge and expertise in the policy process
  • how policy ideas are taught and learnt

Please consult the conference website for the abstract submission procedure ( Abstract submission opens 15 February 2014. Feel free to contact Tom Baker ( and Russell Prince ( if you have any questions.


McCann, E. and Ward, K. (Eds.). (2011). Mobile urbanism: cities and policymaking in the global age. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Painter, J. (2006). Prosaic geographies of stateness. Political Geography, 25, 752-774.

Peck, J. (2011b). Geographies of policy: from transfer-diffusion to mobility-mutation. Progress in Human Geography, 35(6), 773-797.

Shore, C. and Wright, S. (2011). Conceptualising policy: technologies of governance and the politics of visibility. In C. Shore, S. Wright & D. Pero (Eds.), Policy worlds: anthropology and analysis of contemporary power (pp. 1-25). New York: Berghahn Books.