Geography Against Positivism

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme: Expanding the Community of Geography
Sponsor Groups:
Organizers: Coleman Allums, Matthew Harris
Chairs: Coleman Allums

Call for Submissions

AAG 2021: Geography Against Positivism

Critical responses to positivism and scientism have proliferated across philosophy and the social sciences throughout the last half-century (Foucault, 1970; Haraway, 1988; Law, 2004; Feyerabend, 2010; St. Pierre, 2019). While Geography and other disciplines have at least partially absorbed these critiques (we might point, for example, to Katz, 1996; Massey, 2005; Ettlinger, 2014; Cockayne et al., 2017; or Allums, 2020), a closer reading reveals that now-conventional distinctions between qualitative and quantitative, activist and not, objective and subjective, or scientific and traditional/vernacular/embodied knowledges do not necessarily account for the more fundamental divisions between antagonistic approaches to inquiry. If research produces the phenomenon it purports to describe, positivism constrains what is produced and described in ways we can never fully grasp; in multiple registers, lingering or latent positivist assumptions underpinning geographic inquiry still structure researcher subjectivity, participants, data, and the field as stable entities while articulating the relationships between them. Positivism and scientism narrow the scope of what constitutes research—geographical, social, critical, or otherwise; they render analysis the only mode of inquiry capable of producing legitimate knowledge at the expense of other modes of engaging, questioning, connecting, interpreting, speculating, and living our world.

With the foregoing in mind, we welcome papers that treat one or more of the following:

What are the limitations of positivist ways of knowing, and how do these particularly limit geographic inquiry? Limitations could reflect critiques of method, data, interviews, fieldwork, validity, coding, subjectivity, representation, language, knowledge, or critique itself.

What modes of inquiry or approaches to research do you employ to address the ethical, ontological, and/or epistemological constraints of positivist geographic research? Approaches could include postqualitative inquiry, thinking with concepts, problematics, social and minor theory, decolonial thought, Black geographies, speculative methods, or experimental forms.

How is critical geographical inquiry uniquely positioned to challenge or disrupt positivist or instrumental epistemic hegemonies within the academy and beyond?

Abstracts should be submitted to coleman.allums@uga.edu and mattharris@uga.edu by October 26th. Decisions will be communicated by October 28th so that participants can submit abstracts to AAG by the October 29th deadline.

Allums, C.A. (2020). Traces: Philosophy, interpretation, and method in postqualitative human geography. Professional Geographer, 72(1), 88-95.
Cockayne, D., Ruez, D. & Secor, A. (2017). Between ontology and representation: Locating Gilles Deleuze’s ‘difference-in-itself’ in and for geographical thought. Progress in Human Geography, 41(5), 580–99.
Ettlinger, N. (2014). Delivering on poststructural ontologies: Epistemological challenges and strategies. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 13(4), 589–98.
Feyerabend, P. (2010). Against Method. London: Verso.
Foucault, M. (1970). The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. New York: Vintage Books.
Haraway, D. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science questions in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), 575–99.
Katz, C. (1996). Towards minor theory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14(4), 487–99.
Law, J. (2004) After method: Mess in social science research. New York: Routledge.
Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage.
St. Pierre, E. (2019). Post qualitative inquiry in an ontology of immanence. Qualitative Inquiry 25(1), 3–16.


Description

AAG 2021: Geography Against Positivism

Critical responses to positivism and scientism have proliferated across philosophy and the social sciences throughout the last half-century (Foucault, 1970; Haraway, 1988; Law, 2004; Feyerabend, 2010; St. Pierre, 2019). While Geography and other disciplines have at least partially absorbed these critiques (we might point, for example, to Katz, 1996; Massey, 2005; Ettlinger, 2014; Cockayne et al., 2017; or Allums, 2020), a closer reading reveals that now-conventional distinctions between qualitative and quantitative, activist and not, objective and subjective, or scientific and traditional/vernacular/embodied knowledges do not necessarily account for the more fundamental divisions between antagonistic approaches to inquiry. If research produces the phenomenon it purports to describe, positivism constrains what is produced and described in ways we can never fully grasp; in multiple registers, lingering or latent positivist assumptions underpinning geographic inquiry still structure researcher subjectivity, participants, data, and the field as stable entities while articulating the relationships between them. Positivism and scientism narrow the scope of what constitutes research—geographical, social, critical, or otherwise; they render analysis the only mode of inquiry capable of producing legitimate knowledge at the expense of other modes of engaging, questioning, connecting, interpreting, speculating, and living our world.

With the foregoing in mind, we welcome papers that treat one or more of the following:

What are the limitations of positivist ways of knowing, and how do these particularly limit geographic inquiry? Limitations could reflect critiques of method, data, interviews, fieldwork, validity, coding, subjectivity, representation, language, knowledge, or critique itself.

What modes of inquiry or approaches to research do you employ to address the ethical, ontological, and/or epistemological constraints of positivist geographic research? Approaches could include postqualitative inquiry, thinking with concepts, problematics, social and minor theory, decolonial thought, Black geographies, speculative methods, or experimental forms.

How is critical geographical inquiry uniquely positioned to challenge or disrupt positivist or instrumental epistemic hegemonies within the academy and beyond?

Abstracts should be submitted to coleman.allums@uga.edu and mattharris@uga.edu by October 26th. Decisions will be communicated by October 28th so that participants can submit abstracts to AAG by the October 29th deadline.

Allums, C.A. (2020). Traces: Philosophy, interpretation, and method in postqualitative human geography. Professional Geographer, 72(1), 88-95.
Cockayne, D., Ruez, D. & Secor, A. (2017). Between ontology and representation: Locating Gilles Deleuze’s ‘difference-in-itself’ in and for geographical thought. Progress in Human Geography, 41(5), 580–99.
Ettlinger, N. (2014). Delivering on poststructural ontologies: Epistemological challenges and strategies. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 13(4), 589–98.
Feyerabend, P. (2010). Against Method. London: Verso.
Foucault, M. (1970). The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. New York: Vintage Books.
Haraway, D. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science questions in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), 575–99.
Katz, C. (1996). Towards minor theory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14(4), 487–99.
Law, J. (2004) After method: Mess in social science research. New York: Routledge.
Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage.
St. Pierre, E. (2019). Post qualitative inquiry in an ontology of immanence. Qualitative Inquiry 25(1), 3–16.


Agenda

Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Matthew Harris*, University of Georgia, Housing the crisis: A minor inquiry into Oakland’s housing crisis 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Heather Miles*, University of Manchester, Noticing, learning and feeling: more than positivist textualities of community-based participatory mapping 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Alison Braithwaite*, University of Waterloo, Understanding the corporation through emotion and affect 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Alex Colucci*, Kent State University, Mythic Positivism, Fluid Epistemologies, and Replacing Geography’s Default Positions 15 12:00 AM

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