“Outward-looking” geographies of education 10 years later: Progress, innovations, and challenges

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Critical Geographies of Education Specialty Group
Organizers: Christopher Lizotte, Olivia Ildefonso
Chairs: Christopher Lizotte


In 2009, Claudia Hanson-Thiem published a paper in Progress in Human Geography titled “Thinking through education: the geographies of contemporary education restructuring.” In it, she identified a shift in geographic scholarship on education from “inward-looking” to “outward-looking” literature. She argued that in contrast to an earlier literature focusing mainly on patterns of school achievement and access, geographers and education scholars working from a spatially-informed perspective were increasingly studying education in order to gain new insights about larger processes of economic restructuring and political change. These outward-looking approaches, she argued, could inform a larger body of work in which education could be “thought through” as constitutive moments of sociospatial transformation relating to neoliberalization, globalization, and the emerging knowledge economy.
In many respects, Hanson-Thiem’s approach has been, consciously or not, taken up by numerous geography scholars in exactly the ways she advocated. Scholars have used primary, secondary, and higher education to think through phenomena such as the knowledge economy (Moisio, 2018), processes of advanced capitalist accumulation (Mitchell, 2018), a radically reduced social wage (Katz, 2016), the militarization of youth (Nguyen 2014, 2016), the geopolitics of secularism and Muslim identity (Lizotte, forthcoming), and numerous other issues. There has also been, however, pushback against such an approach. Holloway et al.’s (2010) response to Hanson-Thiem, for instance, argues that focusing on education and the political economy misses the ways that studying children, youth and family through a more poststructuralist lens can be equally valuable to gaining insights on wider social, economic and political processes (585). At the same time, this does not necessarily suggest mutually exclusive approaches to studying education: for instance, Pimlott-Wilson (2017) argues that the everyday minutiae of lived experience can be easily scaled up to consider wider implications of neoliberal welfare reform, while Ngyuen (2016) links larger-scale changes in U.S. military policy to students’ understandings of their own potential futures.
What is clear that geographies of education are becoming increasingly integrated with geographies of social, political, and economic change both past and present. We feel that ten years following the publication of Hanson-Thiem’s paper, it is an advantageous time to consider how this integration has proceeded and to understand the current state of “outward-looking” geographies of education. Without suggesting that there is a normative way in which such scholarship should be conducted, we are interested in hearing about how geographers and others working in geographical traditions who study education are framing their work. We are also interested in learning whether an outward-looking focus has been fruitful in terms of interdisciplinary enrichment, engagement with educational professionals, or dissemination of research results to wider society.
With that in mind, we invite panelists to reflect on some or all of the below topics:
• The rewards and challenges of doing interdisciplinary education research;
• Engagement with educational professionals and / or education policymakers
• Novel areas of research where education has not been previously considered;
• Support, feedback, and criticism from other education scholars
• What new insights about the political economy have been gained by studying geographies of education
• What theoretical frameworks or methodologies have been effective in taking an outward-looking approach to education

Hanson-Thiem C (2009) Thinking through education: the geographies of contemporary educational restructuring. Progress in Human Geography 33 (2): 154 – 173.
Holloway S, Jöns H, Hubbard P, and Pimlott-Wilson H (2010) Geographies of education and the significance of children, youth and families. Progress in Human Geography 34 (5): 583-600.
Katz, C (2017). The Angel of Geography: Superman, Tiger Mother, aspiration management, and the child as waste. Progress in Human Geography 42 (5): pp. 723-740
Lizotte C (forthcoming) Political geographies of laïcité: secularism, security, and national education. Political Geography.
Mitchell K (2018) Making Workers: Radical Geographies of Education. London: Pluto Press.
Moisio S (2018) Geopolitics of the Knowledge-Based Economy. Oxon, UK: Routledge.
Nguyen N (2014) Education as warfare? Mapping securitised education interventions as War on Terror strategy. Geopolitics 19 (1): 109-139.
Nguyen N (2016) A Curriculum of Fear: Homeland Security in U.S. Public Schools. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Pimlott-Wilson H (2017) Individualising the future: the emotional geographies of neoliberal governance in young people’s aspirations. Area 49 (3): 288 – 295.


Type Details Minutes
Discussant Nicole Nguyen University of Illinois - Chicago 20
Panelist Ekaterina Bezborodko 20
Panelist Caroline Loomis CUNY - Graduate Center 20
Panelist Dan Cohen 20
Introduction Christopher Lizotte University of Helsinki 10
Introduction Olivia Ildefonso CUNY - Graduate Center 10

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