Decentralized concentration through cyclical events: The geographies of academic conferences in urban and regional development and planning in Brazil, 2004–2013

2020-03-02T11:18:51Z (GMT) by Christiane Fabíola Momm Heike Jons
This article advances research on the geographies of science, higher education, and knowledge production by analysing how the material, social, and intellectual geographies of academic conferences have shaped capacity-building in Brazil. Drawing upon debates about conferences as temporary and cyclical knowledge clusters, mobilities of knowledge, and triadic thought, we present the first longitudinal and comparative geographical analysis of academic conferences by examining Brazil's two major biannual conferences on urban and regional development and planning—the mobile ENANPUR and the stationary SIDR meetings—over a ten-year period. Our multi-dimensional and multi-scalar comparative analysis of ten events with more than 1600 conference papers and 2600 contributing authors reveals that in the context of an expanding Brazilian higher education system, both conferences acquired national reach of paper authors and study sites but with persisting east-west and south-north disparities. We discuss how ENANPUR and SIDR contributed to national capacity-building through 'decentralized concentration' of knowledge production and exchange, mitigating regional disparities via the decentralization of epistemic communities but reinforcing regional imbalances through the concentration of resources in conference locations, coastal states, and the two southern regions. We argue that conferences are an important tool for urban and regional development because they put places and people 'on the map' of epistemic communities and policy agendas, thereby helping to provide expertise for local and regional problem-solving.