Quiet, discreet and unobtrusive 'Public Geography'

Authors: Bill Howie*, Auckland University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural Geography, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: Public Geography, engagement, New Zealand,academic geographers
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Quiet, discreet and unobtrusive Public Geographies

The increasing focus on the importance of enacting public forms of geography, particularly the need to foster engagement with communities outside academic institutions, has become prevalent. This paper examines this proposition by focusing on empirical data of the diverse range of ‘public geography’ performed by New Zealand’s academic geographers.

In this context, public geography has primarily been shaped by the legacy of sustained conversations with state actors that were established by prominent early disciplinary identities such as Kenneth Cumberland, whose 1981 documentary series ‘Landmarks’ has cast a shadow over the contemporary public reproduction of geography. An effect of this legacy, that is arguably also evident in recent calls to address public geography, has been the strategic failure to identify publics for whom geographic research has the potential to enact meaningful influence.

The examination of the practices of 54 New Zealand academic geographers reveals a performance of largely unobtrusive and seemingly reticent forms of public geography. This includes minimal engagement in public visibility and social media development and discomfort in the use of disciplinary naming as a platform to leverage impact.This suggests that New Zealand’s geographers have to date been less enamoured by the emerging trend in larger western academic contexts towards metricising the social impact of research through public activity. I argue for academic geographers to become more resonant with respect to their research, and attain a greater fine grained appreciation of how public geography can shape the future of their discipline.

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