Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Key Texts in Human Geography (chp 20 - 26)

D. Gregory – Geographical Imaginations

Gregory attempts to clarify critical theory in geography and engages in a trans-disciplinary project to understand the production of bodies, places, and spaces. Like many of the authors of post-1970s human geography, he rejects grand theory and grounds modernist narrative within specific contexts. The three parts of GI address how:

  • space and representation have been thought and acted upon

  • the connections between space and representation, politics, and poetics (particularly in relation to the contemporary role of the city

  • the "uncomfortable space" between historical materialism and postmodernism

GI takes on Gramsci's challenge of the "conjunctural analysis" of investigating the complex and historically specific terrain of a world that is contextual and relational.

D. Sibley – Geography of Exclusions

Sibley offers a study of socio-spatial boundaries and asks, What are the exclusions and repressions inherent in processes of becoming individuals? Sibley's work opens up questions within geography of how subjectivity and power are formed relationally with the construction of boundaries and varying spatial scales. His work shares overlap with Communications in both an interest in how media shapes socialization, as well as the use of A. Giddens' scholarship. Eventually moving beyond Giddens' structuration attempts to transcend the structure/agency debate, Sibley demonstrates the potential of psychoanalytical theory in human geography.

G. Tuathail – Critical GeoPolitics

Throughout the early 20th century, the academic domain of geopolitics was fundamentally interested in statecraft. This approach utilized the positivist-inspired spatial sciences to abstract world power, using the nation-state as the basic unit of analysis. Tuathail challenged this traditional model, instead inquiring into how geopolitics is practiced by agents at discrete sites of knowledge production. He asked how descriptions and representations of the world (geo-graphy or Earth-writing) are inherently political. Space and the writing of space then becomes synonymous with the exercise of power.

T. Barnes – Logics of Dislocation

Barnes' scholarship, emerging within the postmodern 'cultural turn' of the 1990s, mounts a savvy attack upon modern Enlightenment's universalism, foundationalism, and essentialism. Enlightenment thought is characterized by the assumption that:

  1. progress is achieved through rationality

  2. humans are autonomous beings with fixed identities

  3. the world has inherent order that is discoverable though value-free inquiry

  4. universal truths correspond with reality and are knowable by humans

Barnes acknowledges three approaches (post-developmentalism, feminism, and post-colonialism) that challenge the ontological 'isms' of modernity and attempts to pave a similar alternative path for economic geography. Barnes makes the following propositions for economic geography:

  • processes are best seen in spatial and temporal specificity (versus as universals)

  • economic study must include a wide range of social practices

  • ethnographic and qualitative approaches are valid ways of knowing (i.e. are constructivist and not foundationalist)

  • scholars should employ reflexivity in research

S. Whatmore – Hybrid Geographies

Whatmore's work is consistent with the other authors in that her project is one of 'rethinking' traditional categories and boundaries. Her focus in this book is the relations between humans and the natural world. She upsets the conventional dualism of nature/society to offer the view of the world as constituted through hybridity and hybrid relations. Her writing is nuanced, as is her playful methodological shift to the "risky and imaginative." She posits a world that is always in becoming, partial, and provisional. Nature and society are co-constituted through relational space.

Amin and Thrift – Cities

Continuing with the theme of “let us re-define everything one more time,” Amin and Thrift rethink urban geography to focus on the everyday practices. They challenge the assumptions underlying our notions of what ‘Big’ elements make up a city, posing the alternative of the “ongoing incompleteness, the fuzzy-ness, the strange, often unpredictable elements that make up a city.” They employ new metaphors to cast cities within an alternative urban ontology that recognizes human and non-human actants in the life of cities. They pose three themes of the network, machines, and sites of power as a ways to understand how cities emerge though complex patterns of multiple, conflicting orderings.

D. Massey – For Space

Massey offers an alternative, non-Euclidean ‘imagination’ of space. She posits space as the product of interrelations, a ‘sphere of possibility’ of multiplicy and heterogeneity, always becoming and never closed or fixed.

Rock on.

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