Annabelle Law, Geography Senior, Shares Her Experience Presenting at the 2024 AAG Conference

April 30, 2024

Annabelle Law

Annabelle Law, Geography senior, was awarded $400 in department funds to participate in the weeklong 2024 AAG conference. Below, she shares her experience and insights from the event.

Attending the American Association of Geographers (AAG) conference in Hawai’i this year was an experience that intertwined learning, reflection, and immersion in a complex socio-geographical context. The choice of Hawai’i as the conference venue, though controversial due to the island’s challenges with tourism and militarism, provided a unique backdrop for exploring themes of indigenous knowledge, environmental resilience, and community engagement.

The logistical hurdles, notably the high cost of travel and accommodation, underscored the accessibility issues inherent in hosting such events in remote locations. Despite these challenges, the gathering served as a crucial platform for exchanging ideas and fostering connections. For me, the highlight sessions revolved around the experiences of Indigenous peoples — offering insights into their resilience, knowledge systems, and struggles for self-determination.

In particular, sessions like "Islands becoming Archipelagos" and "Returning Fire to Water" showcased innovative approaches to environmental stewardship rooted in Indigenous perspectives. These discussions highlighted the interconnectedness of local actions and global planetary health, emphasizing the importance of place-based knowledge in addressing contemporary challenges.

The unique structure of certain sessions, characterized by intimate discussions among participants, stood out as particularly enriching. Unlike traditional lectures, these gatherings fostered a sense of community and shared purpose, allowing for deeper engagement with the material and facilitating meaningful exchanges among attendees.

Presenting my research poster provided an invaluable opportunity to connect with fellow scholars and practitioners working in related fields. The feedback and conversations that ensued further enriched my understanding and provided new perspectives on my work.

Outside of the conference sessions, I enjoyed the chance to explore O’ahu and immerse myself in the local culture and environment.  Each meal was an opportunity to try local food and restaurants. Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and swimming allowed me to connect with the natural beauty of the island and appreciate its significance within the broader context of the conference.

Despite spending much of the week alone, I felt a profound sense of connection to the place and its history. The juxtaposition of the conference discussions with my personal experiences on the island deepened my appreciation for the complexities of Hawai’i’s socio-cultural landscape.

In retrospect, attending the AAG conference in Hawai’i was more than just an academic endeavor—it was a journey of introspection and connection. It reinforced the importance of centering Indigenous perspectives in geographical research and underscored the need for greater inclusivity and accessibility in academic spaces. As I return home, I carry with me not only new knowledge and insights but also a renewed commitment to engaging with place-based approaches in my own work.