Presentation on theme: "Thinking Geographically"— Presentation transcript:
1Thinking Geographically Peter JacksonGeographical Association Conference, April 2006
2Thinking geographically Geography is not just a gazetteer of place names and capital citiesIt’s a unique way of seeing the world, understanding complex problems and thinking about inter-connections at a variety of scales (global to local).
3Thinking geographically Drawing on David Lambert’s distinction between geography’s vocabulary (an endless list of places…) and its grammar or syntax (concepts and theories that help us make sense of all those places…)
4Thinking geographically Might be one way of addressing Geography’s “tired and dated content” (QCA, 2004)Helping to reverse the apparently relentless fall in student numbersIncrease our confidence to take more risks in what and how we teach
5Key concepts Space and place Scale and connection Proximity and distanceRelational thinking
6Other possibilities? Action Plan for Geography: PlaceConnectednessScaleProcessSkillsInter-dependence, environment, sustainability, globalization…
7Space and Place“Space is like sex …it’s there but we don’t talk about it” (Edward Hall)“Place is humanized space” (Yi-Fu Tuan)Time-space compression (David Harvey)Placeless planet, space of flows (Manuel Castells)A global sense of place (Doreen Massey):porous boundariesconnections between placesroots vs routesParadox of place (Noel Castree): unique but connected.
8Scale and ConnectionA hierarchy of scales (from the body to the world)Connections between scales (Margaret Roberts: zooming in/zooming out)Neil Smith’s essay on ‘jumping scales’ in Mapping the futures about homeless in New York (“Tompkins Square is everywhere”).
9Proximity and Distance Not just physical distance (miles or kms)Distant places made ‘closer’ (by TV or the internet) but can remain physically inaccessible, emotionally remoteCaring for ‘distant strangers’ vs a failure of the geographical imagination for those ‘closer to home’ (child poverty, spatial inequality, social exclusion).
10Relational thinkingGeographies of difference (us and them, self and Other, East and West…): desire and dread, fear and fascination (Example: ‘racist soup’ vs the ‘couscous of friendship’ in Marseilles)Geographies of connection (combined and uneven development)Physical and human geography (nature and culture in a more-than-human world).
11An example: consumer ethics Where thinking geographically can help resolve some of the complexities and contradictions of our everyday lives‘Ethical consumers’ as a self-conscious minority (Fair Traders) vs. the ethics that underlie all our consumption choices (cf. the language of ‘decent’ vs ‘junk’ food, eating a ‘proper meal’ etc).
12Ethical dilemmas?Buying (imported) organic fruit and veg often leads to an increase in ‘food miles’Reducing food miles (farmers’ markets) vs better regulation (high-street supermarkets)Buying ‘local’ produce vs the needs of distant strangers (Third World producers)Buying eco-friendly goods from the supermarket having driven there in a four-wheel drive…
15Thinking geographically about the Oxfam goat… Initial reaction is positive – example of ‘caring at a distance’Part of a wider social movement (Make Poverty History wristbands and rock concerts)An alternative to self-centredness and the commodification of Christmas (“Am I bothered?”)
16Ethical complexity… Buying a goat as just another commodity: “Never mind the iPod, the surprise hit of the Christmas shopping season was the goat” (The Times 21 February 2006)Other ‘bestsellers’ (Christian Aid): a fishing net for Mali £35, a water tap in Bolivia £24, two months’ salary for a teacher in India £30, two sheep in Senegal £80, a mosquito net for an Angolan family £11.
17The commodification of charity? A response to ‘donor fatigue’?cf. immediate response to the Asian tsunami versus slower response to Rwandan genocide or Sudanese famineCharity shops now increasingly like their commercial competitorsBut charity was never ‘pure and simple’ (mixed motives: noblesse oblige, enlightened self interest, paternalism…)
18Charity begins at home?Easier to be generous to distant strangers than to give practical help those closer to home?Buying a goat as an impersonal and marketised relation vs giving your time and your self?An opportunity to parade your generosity to family and friends?
19Ecological arguments?The World Land Trust (patron: Sir David Attenborough):“charities like Oxfam and Christian Aid have forgotten that goats eat everything. Camels, which Oxfam offers for £95, are even more destructive.”John Burton (chief exec, World Land Trust):“They haven’t thought this scheme through properly ... They don’t understand the connection between habitat degradation and poverty.”“The goat campaign may be a pleasing gift and a short-term fix for milk and meat, but in the long term the quality of life for these people will slowly be reduced with devastating effect.”
20Geographies of responsibility Doreen Massey (Geografiska Annaler, 2005):against a ‘Russian doll’ model of care and responsibility (a nested set of loyalties from home and neighbourhood to nation and world)just as we are responsible for the past because the past continues in the present, so are distant places implicated in our ‘here’need to rethink ‘relations at a distance’
21Relating at a distance“If the identities of places are … the product of relations which spread way beyond them (if we think space/place in terms of flows and (dis)connectivities rather than in terms only of territories), then what should be the political relationship to those wider geographies of connection?” (Massey, 2004: 11).“A real recognition of the relationality of space points to a politics of connectivity…” (ibid: 17).
22ConclusionThinking geographically as a uniquely powerful way of seeing the worldNo ‘right answers’ to difficult ethical questionsBut a language (set of concepts and ideas) that help us see connections and inter-connections that other may miss.