Between xenophobia and cosmopolitanism: Gottmann's geography and the present migrants' crises

Authors: Luca MuscarĂ *, Universita del Molise
Topics: Geographic Thought, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: xenophobia, nationalism, borders, cities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom A, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


If xenophobia and nationalism are again on the rise both in the United States and in Europe, the life and ideas of a geographer-- twice victim of antisemitism and nationalism--could provide inspiration to confront this. Russian antisemitism killed Gottmann's parents in 1918 and forced him to flee to France as a stateless refugee in 1920/21. Resettled in Paris, his response to that crisis was to become a French geographer. The war forced him to flee again in 1940/41 to the US, where he consulted both for the US and French governments. After the war, he experienced twice more xenophobic hostility, in the US (1948), and in France (1951), failing twice to resume his academic career in both countries. Paradoxically, between the new academic migrations, he developed an original theory in political geography, explaining xenophobia as a self-defense psychological reaction by a (national) community exposed to too much change in too short a time (1952). Few geographers noticed it at the time, but once back in the US he put it at work by explaining the difference between Virginia and the urbanized US Northeast in terms of different cultural attitudes toward change. Paradoxically, while this cultural explanation was overlooked, he became a world expert on global city-regions. In his last talk on the world community (1993), he warned that if such a cosmopolitan view was ever to succeed, it would be through respect of cultural differences between communities: some borders were necessary to keep a certain distance.

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