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Abstract

Conferences are an ubiquitous and important part of political and academic life, acting as key sites of knowledge creation, public performance, legitimation and protest. Reviewing the current literature and drawing on our own work, this paper suggests that geographers are well-placed to provide insight into conferences through the concepts of visibility, performance and space. We explore the politics of academic, climate and geopolitical conferences, focusing on their production of epistemic communities and their role as sites for the performance of ideological positions and identities. We then explore international summits as protest spaces. We draw attention to a number of scales in our analysis, suggesting the need to attend to the global, national, local and micro-scale of conferences to ask what space and location contribute to conference outcomes and how conferences in turn act back on the landscapes in which they are embedded. We conclude with four reasons why we believe that conferences provide a fruitful – and important – focus for research in geography.