CFP: A 2-day workshop on illicit geographies hosted at the University of Alabama

This is a 2-day workshop, hosted at the University of Alabama May 4-5, 2020. Organized by Jared Margulies (University of Alabama), Francis Massé (University of Sheffield), and Brittany Gilmer (University of Alabama)

We invite abstract submissions for an intensive two-day workshop on illicit geographies and environmental change. We welcome interest from researchers engaging with critical, leftist, and/or more radical scholarly traditions from a range of disciplines, including but not limited to political and environmental geography, green criminology, political ecology, political economy, and anthropology. The aim of the workshop is to share ideas and engage in critical dialogue within a collaborative and supportive intellectual space, and to forge a nascent community interested in studies of the illicit, their intersections with environmental processes, and emancipatory politics. A more tangible output of the workshop is that all papers will be included in a special issue on illicit geographies, subject to successful peer-review. For this reason only unpublished abstracts by authors interested in being included in this special issue will be considered for the workshop.

While the study of illicit activities largely remains within the purview of criminology and sociology, an increasingly diverse field of disciplines have begun to engage with illicitness and the effect of illicit activities on socio-environmental relations. Our particular interest here is in the growing interest by critical scholars who are engaging with politically-motivated research on and within illicit geographies attuned to concerns about environmental change. This would include researchers interested in more foundational, historical, and political contours of what defines illicitness, and how the framing of certain practices, behaviors, and economies as ‘illicit’ produce environmental inequalities. More emancipatory and radical perspectives on theorizing illicitness are emerging across a range of subdisciplinary fields for critically and creatively pursuing pertinent questions about environmental change and the political ecologies of illicit economies. This is not to say that we should not take the existence of illicit activities seriously in and of themselves. Indeed, new markets, increasing demand for natural resources, and the ongoing pursuit of avenues for capital accumulation are producing novel geographies, flows, environments, and political-economic configurations that are themselves illicit, or blur the lines between what is and is not legal. Beyond producing their own economic, social, and ecological inequalities and injustices, these new dynamics provoke important questions about how we understand the relationship between licit and illicit in different contexts, and why this matters.

Workshop Proposal: The workshop will run for a full 2 days hosted at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL. Participants will come to the workshop prepared with a working draft of their manuscript and will then present and receive feedback as part of a dedicated critical response session. Each participant will have 1-hour dedicated to working through their manuscript among a supportive peer group working on similar topics. Papers will be circulated two months in advance for all participants to read. Each participant will have 15-20 minutes to present their paper followed by a 40 minute critical response session in which participants will provide feedback, ask questions, and engage in discussion through a facilitated dialogue. The feedback and critical response session has two objectives: 1) Providing feedback and asking questions to help the author further prepare their draft for submission to a special issue; and 2) Identifying emerging and cross-cutting empirical, conceptual, and methodological themes from the various papers and discussions to help frame the special issue and thinking around illicit geographies and their environmental consequences.

Accepted participants will be expected to circulate ~4,500-7,000 word drafts to workshop participants with an expectation that they will become full-length manuscripts for submission to a special issue (approximately 8,000-9,000 words depending on the journal). We intend to first submit the SI proposal to the journal Antipode.

Through empirical contributions highlighting new geographies and configurations of (il)licitness, and how the illicit shapes and co-produces environments, papers might engage in and advance a variety of theoretical and conceptual subjects. These might include such topics/themes as:

  • Methodological innovations in studying illicit activities.
  • Contributions to theorizing ‘illicitness’ from a variety of intellectual perspectives.
  • Reflections on ethics and praxis in engaging with communities/individuals/research subjects engaged in illicit activities/economies.
  • Intersections of the illicit with environmental change. This might include but is certainly not limited to such subjects as illicit mining, illicit geographies at sea, forms of white collar or financial crime, illegal wildlife trade, narco-economies, and illegal dumping/waste economies.

From the submitted abstracts we will choose 6-9 paper to participate in this workshop. If your abstract is selected, your participation, including travel and accommodation, will be fully funded. We particularly encourage submissions from scholars in the global south, early career researchers, and otherwise underrepresented backgrounds in academia.

Deadline for abstract submissions by July 31, 2019

Please send a document including paper title, authors, contact information, a 300-word abstract, and up to 5 keywords to by July 31, 2019. We will send notifications of acceptance by August 20, 2019.

For more information please do not hesitate to get in touch via email:, or

The workshop will be held on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL May 4-5, 2020. All accommodation (up to 3 nights), meals, visa fees (if applicable) and transportation costs will be covered by the workshop. There is a small possibility of minor date adjustments to the workshop, but this will be communicated to accepted contributors at the earliest.

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