A Discipline of Color

Authors: Audrey Kobayashi*, Queen's University
Topics: History of Geography
Keywords: ,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 12:30 PM / 1:25 PM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is an ironic tension in the discipline of Geography between a racist and colonial past, and a present brimming with passionate commitment to address injustice, inequity, and violence both physical and epistemic. The tension became strongly evident during the 1960s and ‘70s (and for some, even before), as some geographers took to the streets for freedom and others became engrossed with ideas about how to redefine our understanding of the human and the humane. Some fought hard to maintain the past, often just for its own sake, while radical geographers sought to overturn the past. It is worth examining the trajectory, both political and intellectual, that has brought us to now, as recent events push us to recall the heady social upheavals of a half century ago. The past beckons, whether through nostalgia, forgetfulness, adamant revisionism, or stubborn recidivism. A resurgence of interest in the civil rights movement, in the student movement, in intellectual experiments such as situationism, is coupled with questions over what worked and what went wrong. What happened to Marxism? Is humanism over? Who won the relevance debate? But the question of racism has been ever present, albeit shifting and transforming. None of the competing paradigms of the past were able to come to terms with racism either within or without the discipline of geography. We are still attended by past thinking and ways of acting, a discipline thoroughly saturated in the problem of color.

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