Geography of geography: towards a commitment to place

Authors: Arnisson Andre Ortega*, University of the Philippines
Topics: Social Theory, Geographic Thought, Geographic Theory
Keywords: decolonization, geography, place, knowledge production
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Decolonization efforts must confront the spatial politics of geographic knowledge production, question Anglo-American hegemony, and cultivate commitment to place. In a neoliberalizing academy where productivity is measured and ranked, emphasis on legitimacy, compounded by labor insecurity/precarity, has produced a hypercompetitive space hinged on fashionable theories, academic celebrities, and publication in key journals. Not surprisingly, Global South universities have followed this trajectory by adopting oppressive policies on tenure, research and publication with the aim of becoming “globally-competitive.” For southern scholars motivated by a commitment to place - that is, praxis-oriented engagement in their localities - this means difficult concessions surrounding work-life balance, research, teaching and political work. Faced with lack of funding, limited access to resources, and low pay, the readily-available scholarly space often involves consultancy work, operationalization of well-funded foreign instrumentalist projects, or problematic engagements/relationships with northern researchers. This effectively constricts possibilities for praxis, political work, and organic research, let alone theory-building. These conditions heighten the already enduring neocolonial geography of Geography, one where theory building is conducted and disseminated by “northern” scholars and their institutions, and situates the south as laboratories for theory-testing and “southern” scholars as native informants. This paper not only calls for a critical reflection on “northern” privilege in knowledge production but also encourages action and commitment to place, particularly in fostering southern scholarships that are praxis-oriented. Decolonization must destabilize the globalization of northern neoliberal practices in scholarly productivity and significantly intervene in the political economy of research.

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