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Science of landscapes and landscapes of science: towards a feminist history of geomorphology

Authors: Leonora King*, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Mark Carey, University of Oregon, Michele Koppes, University of British Columbia, Marc Tadaki, Cawthron Institute
Topics: History of Geography, Gender, Geomorphology
Keywords: geomorphology, history, feminist science, critical physical geography,
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite mounting calls in science to understand and respond to the disciplines' internalized biases, many earth scientists still see themselves outside of these critiques, seeking the Truth of an abiotic system separate from human concerns. The field of geomorphology fits within this area, and more analysis of its historical biases, underlying assumptions, and field practices is needed to engage with these critiques.

In this presentation, we aim to disrupt the geomorphology community’s cultural memory of objectivity and neutrality by engaging with its relatively young history. We revisit geomorphology’s history using a lens of Feminist Science and Technology Studies to analyze how gender, race and colonialism have been folded into the fabric of the discipline and influenced the field's trajectory over time. We critically examine historical work done within the field as well as scientific publications from the end of the 19th century to now. Our research to date suggests a complicated evolution of the field with divergent conceptualizations of the Earth, but with a common history that is (a) embedded in a narrative of conquest of a biologized nature, and (b) tending to overlook or even erase women and people of colour, who often appear as the labour force for fieldwork projects rather than as central actors in the discipline’s trajectory. Our work indicates how a reimagining of the field through a feminist lens might create space for new kinds of questions and more inclusive conceptualizations of the landscapes around us.

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