CfP: “Nomadic Identities, Archipelagic Movements, and Island Diasporas”

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Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos 2020

5-9 October 2020, Miami, Florida, USA
This conference brings together researchers from across the globe to explore urban life on islands and archipelagos as well as island life in the city.
Islands are often associated with peripherality, yet even remote, sparsely populated islands host urban centres and are affected by distant urban processes. In the case of some near-shore small islands, physical separation from the mainland and spatial limitations can encourage port industries, dense urbanisation, the transport of products and ideas, construction of social capital, consolidation of political power, formation of vibrant cultures, population concentration, and ultimately the development of major cities. Examples of such densely populated island cities include Abidjan, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kochi, Lagos, Malé, Malta, Mombasa, Montreal, Mumbai, New York City, St Petersburg, Singapore, Venice, and Xiamen.
Fostering dialogue between the fields of island studies and urban studies, this interdisciplinary conference will feature presentations that explore and critique the varied connections between the urban and the insular from a diversity of perspectives on culture, planning, politics, architecture, economy, politics, history, and environment worldwide. We welcome papers and panels focusing on individual case studies as well comparative analyses and conceptual frames. This is the fifth conference in the ICUA series, following conferences in Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Funchal, and Zhoushan.
Conference theme: Nomadic identities, archipelagic movements, and island diasporas
Far from being static forms, fixed in time and space, islands are places of constant movement. Travellers transit through them, and tourists ‘island hop’ across them. Young islanders move away for work, with many returning home later in life, often after years of maintaining connections through remittances and holiday visits. Islanders who move to big cities on the mainland often construct new forms of island identity, creating diasporic communities that may over time develop different cultures, customs, and values from those of the homeland with which they identify. Such processes are present both for islanders who move abroad (from Filipino au pairs in Northern European cities to Pacific Islanders in Auckland to Caribbean islanders in New York City) and those who migrate internally from the periphery to the centre within large islands and archipelagos. For others, movement is itself a way of life, with many islanders joining the international fishing and shipping fleets that service today’s global urbanism.
Islands also attract temporary and permanent labour migrants, acquiring new residents who work in such varied industries as construction, fishing, oil, mining, and state administration.
With varying degrees of local consent, some islands have become military hubs for remote continental powers, with Diego Garcia, Greenland, Guam, Hawaii, Iceland, Manus Island, and Okinawa all being subject to USA militarisation. Islands, which have long served as places of exile and imprisonment, are increasingly being used to ‘offshore’ unwanted migrants and other politically sensitive individuals, with detention centres, immigration camps, and high-security prisons being present in places such as Christmas Island, Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), and Nauru. Islands as diverse as Antigua, Lampedusa, Lesbos, Malta, and Uummannaq have coped with and adapted to influxes of migrants as a result of conflict, poverty, or natural disaster. Similarly, the prospect of rising sea levels as a result of climate change is causing both islanders and mainlanders to consider a future in which the many islands — both central and peripheral — may be increasingly inundated by the sea.
While the details are new, these processes bear resemblances to those that have occurred for millennia: islands have long served alternatively as refuges for peoples fleeing disaster, as strongholds for peoples seeking to keep out invaders, and as places of exceptional precarity at the intersection of land and sea.
As a result of these diverse processes, both island and mainland cities become hubs of island movements, coming to host diverse arrays of architectural, culinary, social, and economic practices.
About Miami
The Miami area was for millennia inhabited by the Tequestas, who cultivated a marine lifestyle among the region’s numerous islands, wetland hammocks, and bays. However, the colonial encounter – first with the Spanish and then the British – occasioned the destruction of the Tequesta civilisation. By the early 1800s, the first plantations worked with slave labour had been established in the area: as in so many parts of North America, the archipelagic city of Miami has its roots in genocide, slavery, and transarchipelagic forced migration.
For much of the past century, the Miami area has been a hotspot for the development of island cultures. The barrier islands that would become Miami Beach were stabilised and developed for agriculture in the last decades of the 1800s, before being redeveloped for tourism, connected to the mainland by bridge, and nearly doubled in size by land reclamation in the first decades of the 1900s. The barrier islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne to the south underwent divergent patterns of development.
Even much of the solid ground on what is now regarded as the mainland was constructed through drainage operations and land reclamation. Waves of migration from the Caribbean (particularly Cuba and Haiti) in the second half of the 20th Century led to the formation of major island diasporas, which have left their mark on Miami’s culture, politics, and economy. Miami is today a vibrant and diverse city, which places its islandness on display. At the same time, however, this very island character, as exemplified by Miami’s famous beaches and wetlands, places it at special risk from climate change and rising sea levels, raising fresh questions concerning the city’s island futures.
About the conference
On 5-6 October, delegates will have the opportunity to explore Miami’s island communities, with tours of and visits to the barrier islands of Key Biscayne, Virginia Key, and Miami Beach as well as Little Havana, Little Haiti, and other neighbourhoods. Conference presentations will be held on 7-9 October. (Note: Precise itineraries are subject to change.)
Keynote speakers
• Kevin Grove (Florida International University)
• May Joseph (Pratt Institute)
• More to be announced.
How to propose a presentation
20-minute presentations are welcome on any aspects of urban island studies. Presenters are particularly encouraged to orient their talks toward the conference theme of ‘Nomadic identities, archipelagic movements, and island diasporas’. To propose a presentation, please fill in this form and e-mail it to Write ‘Abstract for ICUA 2020’ in the subject line of the e-mail. If you wish to propose an organised session of 3-4 papers, please contact convenor Adam Grydehøj (
The first deadline for abstracts is 28 February 2020. However, we recommend that potential delegates submit their abstracts early if they wish to have a chance to take advantage of the early registration deadline. Abstracts will be considered on a rolling basis. 
Registration & accommodation
The deadline for early registration is 30 April March 2020, after which registration fees will rise by 500 Danish kroner. The final deadline for registration is 30 June 2020. We recommend that potential delegates submit their abstracts early if they wish to take advantage of the early registration rate. All speakers must pay a conference registration fee, but Miami residents who wish to simply listen to presentations can attend free of charge. You can register by filling out this registration form and e-mailing it to Write ‘Registration for ICUA 2020’ in the subject line of the e-mail. The registration fee may be paid by credit card or bank transfer.
Categories of registration.
Full Conference: Covers attendance on the excursions on 5-6 October and at the presentations on 7-9 October. Includes lunch and dinner on 5-9 October. Does not include transport to and from the conference venue (Graham Center at Florida International University). Early registration fee: 4250 Danish kroner.
Short Conference: Covers attendance at the presentations on 7-9 October. Includes lunch and dinner on 7-9 October. Does not include any transport. Early registration fee: 2250 Danish kroner.
Basic Conference: Covers attendance at the conference presentations (7-9 October). Includes lunch on 7-9 October. Does not include any transport. Early registration fee: 1500 Danish kroner.
The organisers will recommend a number of accommodation options. It is recommended that Full Conference delegates stay at a hotel in South Beach, which will serve as our base for meals and excursions. More information coming soon.
If you have any questions, please e-mail convenor Adam Grydehøj (
Publication opportunities
Conference delegates are invited to submit written papers for consideration by Island Studies Journal (, an open access journal published by the University of Prince Edward Island’s Institute of Island Studies. Island Studies Journal is indexed in Scopus and SSCI. Note that all publication is subject to peer review and that the paper review process for the journal is separate from the abstract review process for this conference.
This conference is a collaboration of:
• Island Dynamics
• Department of Global & Sociocultural Studies, Florida International University

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