Sunday, September 14, 2008

A few thoughts . . .

First, the upside to getting caught in that deluge that hit Chicago this weekend is that I got to see this article -,0,7460890,full.story - which probably would have escaped my attention otherwise. I found myself reading this article very differently with my (still limited) exposure to human geography - especially after our class discussion last week about how so much of this field grew up around the study of Chicago - than I would have before.

Second, why I (sometimes) hate academia (I know, I know - that doesn't stop me from wanting to make a career in it), and how I was reminded of that by Key Texts. In this case, I don't know whether to blame the authors of the books being reviewed, or the people reviewing them, or the people summarizing it all in Key Texts. All I know is that I like to think of myself as reasonably well-read and well-educated, but completely baffled by the following from p. 131: "Deutsche began her critique by accusing Harvey of relying on a masculinist and ocularcentric epistemology that unreflexively professes confidence in the ability to clearly grasp causal connections free of complications that might be introduced by the viewer's social positionality. This 'totalizing' view, she maintained, underlies Harvey's deployment of a rigid Marxist analytic aimed at taming an unruly postmodernism filled with difference and possibility. It also explains his failure to recognize any limits in his perspective, as well as his lack of acknowledgement of both feminist work on postmodernism (not in any way an easy combination: see Nicholson, 1990) and feminist representational theory, particularly as it circulated within the domain of art." Seriously? Ocularcentric? It's not even in the Oxford English Dictionary! (My dad is an optometrist, and he says Deutsche might have meant "oculocentric" - I think he said it has to do with the field of vision that is directly in front of the eye.) In another chapter of Key Texts, a book was described as "part of a wider corpus of path-breaking work . . . ." Most of us outside the Vatican would call it a body of work, but then we're not up for tenure yet.

I will stop complaining for a moment, because there also are things I really liked about this book. While reading Phil Hubbard's chapter (21) on Geographies of Exclusion and the introduction about the "Woolloomooloo Girl," I couldn't help thinking about the recent controversy surrounding Vogue's photo shoot in India, which juxtaposes terribly impoverished people with luxury goods from the fashion industry

There actually were a lot of things I liked about this chapter, including the discussion of "examples of the 'imperfect' people who, through history, have been depicted as troublesom Others who need to be located 'elsewhere.'" I suspect many who read that might think of Indian reservations as one such example; I actually think of Indian Country quite differently. First, the majority of treaty tribes are on reservations by mutual consent - we chose to stake off territory that would set us apart. (Of course, that's a simple reading of history. The power relationships weren't always equal, and I suspect most tribes actually believed they would be left alone on their reservations and not bothered by Americans. My point, though, is that while America might have wanted to locate us "elsewhere," many of us wanted to be away from Americans, too.) However, the second has to do with the reverse, at least as it concerns American Indian policy. In the 1950s, in what was known as the "Relocation" era, the federal government encouraged Indians to move off of reservations and into cities, resulting in large urban Indian populations not only in the cities closest to Indian Country (Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City), but in places one might not expect (Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas). Like many poor migrants who find themselves in new urban environments, many of those Indians found themselves concentrated in certain parts of the city. Even so, Relocation might be an interesting counterpoint to those who see American Indian geography as a geography of exclusion.

That's all for now.

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