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RGS Area prize

Newcastle geographer receives award for outstanding research

Published on: 8 December 2021

A geographer at Newcastle University has been recognised with an award from the prestigious Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) for the quality of her research.

Geopolitical importance of language

Each year the RGS-IBG awards recognise different people or organisations for their outstanding contributions to geographical research, fieldwork and teaching, and public engagement. Dr Ingrid Medby has received the RGS-IBG Area prize 2021 for her paper, ‘Political geography and language: A reappraisal for a diverse discipline’.

The Area prize is awarded for the best article by a new researcher published in Area, the journal of the RSG-IBG. In awarding the prize, the judges said Dr Medby's paper was ‘truly excellent’ and praised its ‘bold and meta-disciplinary argument around the role that language plays in thinking about geo-politics’.

Dr Medby said: "I am incredibly grateful - and still really surprised - to receive the Area Prize this year. It must mean that the points I was making in the paper about the geopolitical importance of language resonated with others, which is fantastic. Especially as an early-career researcher and someone whose first language is not English, receiving this prize means a lot. I hope it will lead to more discussions in the discipline about how to diversify both our conceptual and methodological approaches."

Dr Medby’s main research focus is on the Arctic and High North and seeks to broaden the voices and perspectives considered as contributors to the geopolitics of the region. In her paper, Dr Medby uses the example of how the media has used the term ‘new Cold War’ to highlight how language influences worldviews.

Recognising a need for greater attention to and appreciation of language, the paper attempts to redirect disciplinary attention back to the use and role of language in political geography. In doing so, Dr Medby outlines a diverse research agenda that could contribute to emerging issues in political geography as a multifaceted discipline in the 21st century and bring past insights into conversations in the present.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of language in geo-politics, and the words that are being used,” said Dr Medby. “Talk of a ‘new’ Cold War implies similarity with the ‘old’ Cold War, but the world has changed a lot in recent decades, so although it’s a convenient way to refer to relations with Russia, it misses many aspects of how this complex issue is playing out and who the key actors are, particularly in the context of the Arctic.”

Ingrid Medby, lecturer at Newcastle University UK
Dr Ingrid Medby. Photo courtesy of RGS-IBG.

Strong heritage

Dr Medby's award is further recognition of the strong heritage of Geography at Newcastle University.

Next year, the RGS-IBG’s annual conference - the largest annual academic geography conference in Europe – will be held at Newcastle University. The conference regularly attracts over 2,000 geographers from around the world and the University will be hosting in-person, online, and hybrid ways to participate.

Dr Stuart Dawley, Head of Geography, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Royal Geographical Society’s Annual International Conference to the city in 2022.  Promising to be one of the largest conferences ever held at Newcastle University, we are very excited to host this prestigious event. 

"Geography at Newcastle University draws on a very strong heritage that is passionate about supporting the development of the broader geographical community. As we look to our future, we very much value this opportunity to further deepen our connections with the Royal Geographical Society – the UK's learned society and professional body for geography."

Dr Sarah Evans, Research and Collections Engagement Manager at The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), said: “Our annual international conference brings together researchers from around the world to share their research and network with colleagues. Over three days of keynote lectures, presentations, workshops, discussions and more, geographers and those working in related disciplines, come together to discuss the pressing issues of our time.

“Having postponed our planned 2020 conference to 2021 in London, we are really delighted to be bringing the annual conference to Newcastle in 2022. We know both the university and the city will be welcoming hosts, and we are keen for our delegates to see all that Newcastle has to offer. We’ll also be working with the team at Newcastle to facilitate virtual and remote participation from colleagues who can’t join us in person.”

Reference: ‘Political geography and language: A reappraisal for a diverse discipline’ by Ingrid A. Medby. Area


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