Working the Archives: Methodological Challenges of Doing Historical Research in Geography 1

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Qualitative Research Specialty Group, Historical Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Christian Siener, Monica Varsanyi
Chairs: Monica Varsanyi


Stuart Hall once remarked that “every new configuration contains masses of the old” (Akomfrah 2013). If we take this insight seriously then historical research is of the utmost importance, yet various methods remain understudied and new methodological challenges continue to arise. In this session we build on historical-geographical scholarship and methodological discussions published in various journals, including Historical Geography, Progress in Human Geography, and Area. Most recently, Geography Compass has launched a section on historical geography (Griffin 2018). Following this recent resurgence of interest in historical geography and historical methods in geographical research, and as a growing number of geographers have become captivated with the “allure of the archives” (Farge 1989 [2015]), this is a good moment to engage with methodological questions related to historical research in geography: is there a uniquely geographical approach to working in the archives and utilizing historical data? what would geographically-minded history look like? when we engage with historical methods, are we doing history or social science? to what degree can we establish causality using archival materials? is archival research inherently qualitative or can it be quantitative? what are the ethical concerns of using archival data? is historical geography a subfield or a methodological approach that spans subfields? can archives alone provide evidence robust enough for a convincing understanding of social change? and so forth. Papers in this session engage with these and related themes. We are specifically interested in the methodological challenges of doing historical and archival research in geography, and as geographers.

References Cited:
Akomfrah, John. 2013. The Stuart Hall Project. Smoking Dog Films.
Farge, Arlette. 1989 [2015] The Allure of the Archives. Yale University Press.
Griffin, Paul. 2018. “Introductory Editorial: Historical Geography,” Geography Compass 12(9).


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Yda Schreuder*, University of Delaware, Evidence from Freight Records and Protocols at the Amsterdam City Archives in the Seventeenth Century 15 1:10 PM
Presenter Naomi Adiv*, University of Toronto, Privatization of municipal public space and access to archival budgetary records 15 1:25 PM
Presenter Patricia Martin*, Université De Montréal, Reconstructing historical geographies of counter-revolution in Mexico: the methodological dilemmas of working with the archives of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad 15 1:40 PM
Presenter John-Henry Pitas*, University of Maryland - Baltimore County, Historical natures and archival research: The production of historical space through content curation and clip files. 15 1:55 PM
Presenter Christian Siener*, CUNY Graduate Center, Camp LaGuardia and the Changing Politics of Coercion and Consent 15 2:10 PM

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