I am currently reading and writing with an eye to — among other things — a collection of articles in the Journal of Cultural Geography (abstract below) for which I am working alongside Weronika Kusek as a guest editor.
Previous versions of most articles were presented in Los Angeles at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers. The sessions are recounted at materialsensibilities by Tara Woodyer, who presented in Los Angeles and is contributing to the upcoming collection.
How is research in cultural geography done? How should it be done? What are key assumptions for practitioners of cultural geography? What tools? Recent scholarship suggests that there is no consensus on these questions.
For instance, while traditional ethnographic research remains highly visible in the sub-discipline, its practitioners are now being called upon to respond to critiques of ethnography that have long exercised cognate disciplines (Wainwright 2013). Against cultural geography’s “textualist” tendencies (Thrift and Dewsbury 2000), Non-representational Theory also continues to influence research in the sub-discipline. But “Non-rep” Theory’s promotion of “enactive” research sits uncomfortably next to its understanding of the world as prior to language (Dewsbury et al 2002). In certain ways consistent with Non-rep, but more squarely concerned with questions of power, recent years have also seen the emergence of topological and non-Euclidean approaches to cultural geography (Allen 2011). Often influenced by post-Marxist and post-structuralist social theory, such contributions frequently are explicit about the need to allow and account for “mess” (cf. Law 2004), raising questions about the status of culture, and about where cultural distinctiveness is located – questions likely to be pushed still further by emerging post-positivist and post-empiricist approaches to cultural geographical research.
The above-described lack of consensus has generated methodological innovations in cultural geography. These methodological innovations and their consequences for the sub-discipline are the focus of this special issue of the Journal of Cultural Geography, which takes as its point of departure the papers presented as part of two sessions at the 2013 AAG Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
The issue brings together ~5000 word essays in which scholars reflect on decisions made in ‘the field,’ or during ‘data analysis.’ Some contributors argue for and against particular research strategies, guided by concern for the ethical and political stakes of favoring any one approach to research now current in the sub-discipline (e.g., ethnographic, historical materialist, and so on), or for the phenomena that a current approach to cultural geography makes visible or obscures. Other contributors address the gap between how we as cultural geographers understand and practice cultural geography in our scholarly work and how we understand and teach it in our classrooms. All contributors address the question of what it is that contemporary approaches to the sub-discipline share which allows them to cohere under the sign of ‘cultural geography.’
Allen, J. (2011). Topological twists: Power’s shifting geographies. Dialogues in Human Geography 1(3), 283-298.
Dewsbury, J. D., Harrison, P., Rose, M., and Wyle, J. (2002). Introduction: Enacting geographies. Geoforum 33, 437-440.
Law, J. (2004). After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. New York: Routledge.
Thrift, N., and Dewsbury, J. D. (2000). Dead geographies, and how to make them live again. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18, 411-432.
Wainwright, J. (2013). Geopiracy: Oaxaca, Militant Empiricism, and Geographical Thought. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.