Historical Methods for Critical Geography

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Historical Geography Specialty Group, Cultural Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Oak Alley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Organizers: Elizabeth Hennessy, Levi Van Sant
Chairs: Sharlene Mollett


Historical Methods for Critical Geography
Organizers: Elizabeth Hennessy and Levi Van Sant

Geography is always a product of history. Critical geographers often draw attention to the ways that the past shapes the present – whether through the lasting legacies of oppression and exploitation, or by highlighting memories of struggle and the rearticulations of emancipatory visions. Such work examines a broad range of themes, from the ways that the plantation past shapes the possibilities of the present (McKittrick 2013, Woods 2007), to how conservation plans often replicate colonial-era environmental governance (Davis 2009), to the ways in which the injustices of colonial urban planning continue to structure cities across the global south (McFarlane and Rutherford 2008). Yet despite such attention to the legacies of the past, critical geographers rarely reflect explicitly on historical methods. Thus, this session addresses both practical questions of how to do historical research as well as theoretical concerns about what is at stake in how we understand history and its relations to the present. Panelists will reflect on their own historical and geographical research in political ecology, postcolonial studies, urban geography, and development studies to launch a discussion framed by the following questions: From historical materialism, to genealogies, to post/colonial approaches, what are the strengths and shortcomings of prominent approaches to history in the discipline? How do geographers combine field-based and archival research (Offen 2004)? How do we find and read subaltern archives to supplement those kept by state institutions? Ultimately, the panel investigates how rigorous attention to our use of historical methods in the present can open possibilities for a more just and sustainable future.


Chair: Sharlene Mollett, University of Toronto
Mohammed Rafi Arefin, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Nathan McClintock, Portland State University
Levi Van Sant, Georgia Southern University
Elizabeth Hennessy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Discussant: Mona Domosh, Dartmouth University

Diana Davis, “Historical political ecology: On the importance of looking back to move forward,” Geoforum, 40 (2009) 285-286.
Derek Gregory, The Colonial Present, Malden, MA: Blackwell: 2004.
Katherine McKittrick, “Plantation Futures,” Small Axe, Volume 17, Number 3, November 2013 (42), 1-15
Colin McFarlane and Jonathan Rutherford, “Political Infrastructures: Governing and Experiencing the Fabric of the City,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 32, Issue 2 (June 2008), 363–374.
Karl Offen, “Historical Political Ecology: An Introduction,” Historical Geography, 32 (2004) 19-42.
Clyde Woods, “‘Sittin’ on Top of the World’ The Challenges of Blues and Hip Hop Geography,” Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, Clyde Woods and Katherine McKittrick, eds., South End Press, 2007, 46-81.

Sponsors: Historical Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Mohammed Arefin University of Wisconsin - Madison - Madison, WI 10
Panelist Nathan McClintock Portland State University 10
Panelist Levi Van Sant Georgia Southern University 10
Panelist Elizabeth Hennessy University of Wisconsin - Madison 10
Discussant Mona Domosh Dartmouth College 10

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