CFP 2020 RGS-IBG Conference: Everest as a space of exception: globalization, bordering and adventure

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CFP 2020 RGS-IBG Conference: Borders, borderlands and bordering


Everest as a space of exception: globalization, bordering and adventure


Call for papers for Session at the RGS-IBG Conference 2020

London, 1 – 4 September, 2020


Jonathan Westaway, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Paul Gilchrist, University of Brighton, UK


Mount Everest is a boundary object situated on a major international border between Nepal, a fragile state with weak regulatory regimes, and Chinese-occupied Tibet, an authoritarian regime characterised by territorially maximalist ambitions.  It is at the centre of a complex borderland where the indigenous peoples of the Himalayas experience modernity via commercialised mountaineering and the summit of the highest mountain on earth is commodified as prestige goods for new leisure cultures. This session invites papers that will examine Everest as a ‘space of exception’, where according to the philosopher Michael Marder, ‘neither political law nor the habitus of everyday life apply.’[i]  At altitude human agency diminishes, the power of the state recedes.  The focus of a largely unregulated globalized leisure culture, Mount Everest is increasingly the site of troubling geographies of death brought about by the boom in adventure tourism, a place that gives the lie to Thomas Laqueur’s assertion ‘No culture has been indifferent to the dead’.[ii]

This session will use the forthcoming centenaries of the British post-war mountaineering attempts on Everest coming up in 2021, 2022 and 2024 to frame a wider recontextualization of globalized mountaineering cultures on Everest.  The session seeks papers that challenge us to broaden and deepen our understanding of Everest’s mountaineering history, its symbolic legacy and contemporary meanings. It seeks new historical and geographical perspectives on the multiple contemporary ethical, social and political challenges thrown up by Everest.  Contributions are invited that reflect on the intersection of altitude and history in the construction of Himalayan borderlands.


Papers may like to consider (but are not limited to) the following themes:

  • The legacies of British imperialism.
  • The enduring appeal of imperial metanarratives and archetypes of adventurous white masculinities.
  • Imperial governmentality and knowledge-gathering practices in the trans-border regions of British India.
  • The hidden histories of exploration.
  • The historical construction of ‘mountain races.’
  • Indigeneity and the experience of modernization via globalized mountaineering.
  • Labour hierarchies and welfare.
  • ‘How is precarious high-altitude labour gendered and ethnically stratified?’
  • ‘Overtourism’ and the environmental and social impacts of globalized adventure tourism.
  • Regional geostrategic competition and the weakness of governance regimes and regulatory frameworks in fragile states.
  • Necropolitics and the ethics surrounding the disposal of human remains on the mountain.
  • ‘How does history continue to shape contemporary globalized mountaineering cultures on Everest?’


Please send abstracts of up to 300 words by Friday 31 January 2020 to Jonathan Westaway and Paul Gilchrist


Dr. Jonathan Westaway, Senior Research Fellow, School of Humanities and Global Studies,

University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE, UK.

+44 (0)1772 894169


Dr Paul Gilchrist, Principal Lecturer, Human Geography, School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton, BN2 4AT, UK.

+44 (0)1273 644751




[i] Michael Marder, ‘On The Mountains: or, The Aristocracies of Space’, Environment, Space, Place 2012, 4 (2) 63-74.

[ii] Thomas Laqueur, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (2015).