Pragmatism in Geography: Between Objectivity and Affect Lies Social Hope-2

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group, Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM (MDT)
Room: Galerie 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Robert Lake
Chairs: Robert Lake


How can geography discern a path toward betterment of the human condition? Several well-worn paths toward this goal have encountered the limitations of their presuppositions. The quest for objective representation of an external truth, bequeathed from the Enlightenment, has deteriorated variously into authoritarian modernism (Scott, 1999); the tyranny and hubris of expertise (Mitchell, 2002); the retreat into abstraction and theorization (Harman, 2014); or the deceptive comfort of conceptual validation through ideological purity (Rorty, 1982, 1991). The encounter with affect has, from a different direction, too often descended into egocentric fascination with auto-ethnography or the self-affirming seductions of sentimentality and “consolatory distraction” (Nelson, 2017). Both objectivity and affect flounder as revelatory strategies when confronted with the complexity, unpredictability, and indeterminacy of the social world (Rogers, 2009). Faced with the evacuation of teleological certainty—a reliable route linking means to ends—how can geographers identify a practice of knowledge production conducive to social hope? This session seeks to explore the possibilities of philosophical pragmatism as an approach to praxis that evades the pitfalls of earlier orthodoxies. As exemplified in the voluminous writings of John Dewey (e.g., 1929, 1948), pragmatism abjures the rigidity of foundational principles and theorization from abstraction while recognizing contingency, relationality, experimentalism, and the validation of knowledge through practice.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Trevor Barnes*, University Of British Columbia, What geographers should talk about when they talk about geography: Bill Bunge’s maps as pragmatist conversation 20 10:00 AM
Presenter Alice Huff*, UCLA, Pragmatism in Practice: Interrogating the Role of Uncertainty and Learning in (Geographies of) Radical Democratic Politics 20 10:20 AM
Presenter Regan Koch*, Queen Mary University of London, Practicing conviviality: Notes from the experimental spaces of ‘pay-what-you-can’ restaurants 20 10:40 AM
Presenter Antònia Casellas*, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Grant Saff*, Hofstra University, Pragmatic dilemmas in urban planning: the case of Plaça dels Àngels, Barcelona. 20 11:00 AM
Discussant Robert Lake Rutgers University 20 11:20 AM

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