Lancaster University: Working with South Korea on mobility futures and the climate emergency

International relations between Lancaster and South Korea were strengthened further on Friday with the signing of a partnership agreement.

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Lancaster University and Konkuk University, South Korea, took place at the University’s Forrest Hills conference centre.

The MoU between Lancaster and Konkuk was first signed for two years in 2020 with provision for an extension for a further three years.

The agreement is the result of close collaboration between Lancaster’s Centre for Mobilities Research [CeMoRe] and Konkuk’s Academy for Mobility Humanities [AHM} since 2017 and has been undersigned by the departments of Sociology and English Literature and Creative Writing (ELCW) whose staff – including Dr Nicola Spurling and Dr Yang Hu from Sociology and Professor Lynne Pearce from ELCW – have led the initiative.

At the signing on Friday, Professor Patrick Rebuschat, the Director of Internationalisation at the University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Professor Inseop Shin, the Director of the Academy of Mobility Humanities at Konkuk, authorised the new agreement on behalf of Lancaster’s pro-VC for Education Professor Wendy Robinson and Prof Han Geuk Seo, the Executive Vice President and Provost of Konkuk University, who were unable to attend in person.

The extension has been approved in the light of an extensive programme of events, exchange visits and publications planned between the two universities as the result of securing UKRI funding earlier in the year. This includes the conference at Forrest Hills at which the signing took place.

The theme of the conference, organised by Professor Pearce and Dr Spurling, was ‘Auto/biography, Mobilities and the Climate Emergency’ with participants debating how climate change is causing us to review our personal and collective futures in so many ways.

The UKRI ‘South Korea Connections Grant’ was awarded to a consortium of four universities – Royal Holloway and Aberystwyth together with Lancaster and Konkuk – with a remit to explore how mobilities research can be used to help tackle the global challenges relating to mobility futures such as the climate emergency, displacement and mobility justice.

Lancaster’s Centre for Mobilities Research was founded by Professor Mimi Sheller, formerly of Lancaster University, and the late Professor John Urry, in 2003. It is recognised around the world as the ‘home’ of mobilities research. Following on from a conference held at Lancaster in 2014, colleagues from the Centre have also played a leading role in developing the new subfield of Mobility Humanities, which has drawn in scholars from disciplines such as English, History and the Visual Arts to work alongside those located in Geography and the Social Sciences.

The University of Konkuk, meanwhile, has been awarded government funding for seven years with the aspiration of becoming a world-leader in Mobility Humanities scholarship and now supports an impressive programme of teaching and public engagement, as well as research, in the field.

The UKRI grant will enable CeMoRe and AMH – along with colleagues from Royal Holloway and Aberystwyth – to meet and work together over an 18-month period both virtually and in-person. As well as an intensive programme of conferences, seminars and exchange opportunities for both staff and PhD students, colleagues will be working together on publications that seek to advance the contribution arts and humanities subjects can make to urgent and topical debates that concern all.