GeoHumanities: Press Release

Actual material copies of the first issue of GeoHumanities exist and the first issue is available on line as open access. I think it is a wonderful collection that brings something quite different to the table for our conversations across and between disciplines about space and place etc. Here is the press release.

Press Release, 26 October 2015

New AAG journal published

This month sees the publication of the first issue of a brand new journal from the Association of American Geographers: GeoHumanities.

GeoHumanities is a new kind of journal, connecting the traditional humanities to both science and the creative arts.

Dr. David Green, Publishing Director International for Routledge Journals, explains: “In the past decade, there has been a convergence of transdisciplinary thought characterized by geography’s engagement with the humanities, and the humanities’ integration of place and the tools of geography into its studies. GeoHumanities journal will now provide the latest, cutting edge information and peer-reviewed research in the field.”

The journal’s editing is being shared by two scholars well qualified for the job. Tim Cresswell is Professor of History and International Affairs at Northeastern University in Boston, as well as Associate Director for Public Humanities at its Humanities Center. Deborah Dixon is Professor of Geography at the University of Glasgow in the UK.

Dixon explains: “GeoHumanities is an opportunity to bring together original, scholarly articles that blur and blend disciplinary specialisms, but that also carve out new lines of inquiry, and new ways of doing research. And, it is an opportunity to present these alongside practice-based commentaries that speak to all manner of timely issues, from the wicked problems of the Anthropocene to the shifting sense of place created by geolocative media.”

In Issue 1, Cresswell notes, “a philosopher considers the role of place in western movies, a creative video artist engages with the politics of the Amazonian forest, a geographer explores the strange history of a perfumer, a poet contemplates the global connections enacted by a desert train, and a historian uses GIS to study eighth century China.”

This exciting new title adds to the AAG’s historic and prestigious portfolio of journals. As Executive Director Douglas Richardson points out, “GeoHumanities builds on a decade-long AAG initiative to engage research and scholarship at the intersections and convergences of Geography and the Humanities, and the resultant recent publication (also by Routledge) of two ground-breaking AAG books examining these trends and interactions.”

Green adds: “It is Routledge’s pleasure to extend our publishing partnership with the AAG. We are most grateful to the Association, and specifically Doug Richardson and the teams of Editors, for continuing to entrust their journals to Routledge, one of the world’s leading geography publishers.”

All content in the first issue is freely available until the end of January 2016. Visit http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rgeo20 to browse the papers. New submissions are welcome at any time. Visit the AAG website for further information and guidelines: http://www.aag.org/cs/publications/journals/gh

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NOTES

About the Association of American Geographers
The Association of American Geographers is one of the world’s leading scientific and professional societies for geographers, with over 11,000 members worldwide. Since its founding in 1904, AAG members – comprising academics, teachers, students, and professionals – have been sharing interests in the theory, methods, and practice of geography.
The AAG has four scholarly journals, all published by Taylor and Francis: the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, The Professional Geographer, the AAG Review of Books, and GeoHumanities.
Websites: http://www.aag.org and news.aag.org
Twitter: @theAAG
Contact: Dr Jenny Lunn, Journals Director, Association of American Geographers, email: jlunn@aag.org

About Taylor & Francis Group
Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life. As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works, our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine.
From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.
Taylor & Francis Online – http://www.tandfonline.com/
Follow us on Twitter @tandfnewsroom
Contact: Amanda Patterson, Marketing Associate (Geography), Taylor & Francis Group, email: amanda.patterson@taylorandfrancis.com, tel: 215-606-4200

More Thought on the GeoHumanities

Space, Place and the Triumph of the Humanities.

Over this academic year the annual theme of the Humanities Center fellowship program has been Space and Place. As a geographer displaced to History and International Affairs here at Northeastern it has been a delight to be involved in an interdisciplinary discussion of these themes that I believe are so important to life in the 21st Century. Our conversations have criss-crossed the humanities and social sciences in ways which point towards the richness of an emerging inter-disciplinary field known as GeoHumanities. The rise of GeoHumanities has been prompted by recent emerging techniques in Digital Humanities and various forms of Geo coding and mapping. It was these developments that led the eminent Professor of English, Stanley Fish to declare, possibly a little prematurely, “The Triumph of the Humanities” in a New York Times op ed piece back in 2011. He was responding to the publication of the edited collection GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place[1] – a volume that arose from discussions within the Association of American Geographers.

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Fish was excited about a number of technical and theoretical developments that allowed time and space to be represented as constantly in co-constitutive motion. He called this new project a synthesis of Geographic Information Science (GIS) and history that brings to the fore a geographic imagination and poetics that asserts the active and dynamic role of space and place in most, if not all, important questions. It is worth quoting at length his confident assertions.

“What this all suggests is that while we have been anguishing over the fate of the humanities, the humanities have been busily moving into, and even colonizing, the fields that were supposedly displacing them. In the ‘70s and the ‘80s the humanities exported theory to the social sciences and (with less influence) to the sciences; many disciplines saw a pitched battle between the new watchwords — perspective, contingency, dispersion, multi-vocality, intertextuality — and the traditional techniques of dispassionate observation, the collection of evidence, the drawing of warranted conclusions and the establishing of solid fact. Now the dust has settled and the invaded disciplines have incorporated much of what they resisted. Propositions that once seemed outlandish — all knowledge is mediated, even our certainties are socially constructed — are now routinely asserted in precincts where they were once feared as the harbingers of chaos and corrosive relativism.

 

One could say then that the humanities are the victors in the theory wars; nearly everyone now dances to their tune. But this conceptual triumph has not brought with it a proportionate share of resources or institutional support. Perhaps administrators still think of the humanities as the province of precious insights that offer little to those who are charged with the task of making sense of the world. Volumes like “GeoHumanities” tell a different story, and it is one that cannot be rehearsed too often”.[2]

It was certainly heartwarming to read Professor Fish’s words. But it was also a little strange. To someone such as myself it felt as though he has just discovered the wheel. It is ironic that a term such as GeoHumanities should arise as a result of the technical ability to process and display data in new ways. I prefer to see the term as an affirmation of several thousand years of humanistic thought – a history that I will now rehearse in two minutes or so.

A concern with space and place was at the center of classical thought. Aristotle famously argued that place takes precendence over all things[3] because everything that exists must be somewhere “because what is not is nowhere – where for instance is a goat-stag or a sphinx?”[4] Greek philosophers and historians were also geographers. Herodotus, claimed as the father of both anthropology and history, spent much of his time trying to find the source of the Nile and might reasonably be claimed as the father of geography too. Meanwhile, the librarian of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, was busy measuring the earth and developing the system we now know as latitude and longitude and which locates your every thought and move through your cell phone. He is known as a mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer and music theorist.

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The first person to call himself a geographer was Strabo of Amasia – who was a philosopher and historian as well as a geographer. The teaching of Aristotle on the fundamental importance of place was revived in Europe by Albertus Magnus, the German Dominican scholar who tutored Thomas Aquinas. His De Natura Locorum (the Nature of Places) combined cosmology with natural science to insist on the importance of location to everything. He was a philosopher, theologian and Catholic saint. And then there’s Immanuel Kant – most definitely a philosopher who spent forty years giving lectures on geography. This story could go on and includes the great Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun claimed as one of the fathers of history, sociology and economics as well as the unnamed Chinese cartographers of the Han Dynasty.[5] And many more.

I tell this story to make three points. One is that inquiry in the humanities is rooted in a time before disciplines when key thinkers were unhampered by the disciplinary boundaries we live with today. All of those I have mentioned today are claimed my multiple disciplines. Second – in each case some notions of space and place were central to their intellectual endeavours. Spatial thinking was not the invention of either the spatial turn in the humanities or the advent of geocoding and GIS. Third, in many of these cases, forms of representation were key to their endeavours. What GIS is to us now, the invention of longitude and latitude, papyrus or cartographic pens were to them. Fourth, this interest in space and place constantly matched something we might today refer to as humanistic – an interest in the particularities of place – with something we might now call scientific – the measurements and exactitudes of cartographic representations of space. During the Renaissance in northern Italy the arts of cartography and landscape painting were reborn hand in hand with the architecture of Alberti and the science of Leonardo. Humanism – as a world view reborn in the Renaissance – was a world view that included both the arts and the sciences within it. These are entangled in Raphael’s painting of the School at Athens from 1509 which includes Strabo and Ptolomy holding models of the world in the bottom right corner.[6]

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Which is all to say that it would be too easy to take a reductive view of the GeoHumanities as emerging fully formed in the 21st Century as a result of the sudden popularity of the prefix ‘Geo’ which is taken to mean something like ‘locatable on the earth’s surface’. Everything is geocoded and geolocatable. Things can be geotagged. “Geo” of course, comes from the Greek for ‘earth’ or ‘ground’ and it is this, much older Geo that I would like to see included in the term GeoHumanities. The twin dangers facing this new endeavor are first that it is too easily reduced to a technical exercise in using GIS for typically humanistic endeavours without any of the academic context I have pointed too in this talk[7] and, second, that it ignores all these developments and becomes a version of the sub-discipline I know and love called ‘cultural geography’ – just given a different name. I hope that, like this year’s fellowship here at Northeastern, the GeoHumanities is genuinely interdisciplinary or even postdisciplinary. I hope that it does take the remarkable abilities of the Digital Humanities seriously but does not mistake them for something entirely new on the face of the earth. Finally I hope that it does, indeed, help further what Stanley Fish calls ‘the triumph of the humanities’. I do not, however, believe that this triumph is a product of the theory wars of the 1980s (though I have no doubt that the last thirty years of insisting on the importance of space and place for social and cultural theory is massively important). I think the rise of the GeoHumanities is more the current instantiation of humanistic thought that has had spatial thinking at its heart that arose some 2000 years earlier.

It is with this in mind that I have taken on the editorship of the new AAG journal, GeoHumanities along with my colleague Deborah Dixon in Glasgow. Despite its home in an august scholarly association of geographers its editorial board will be genuinely interdisciplinary including both scholars and creative practitioners. It is the next phase in the process that the GeoHumanities volume Stanley Fish referred to was a key part of. I hope it can be as lively and inspiring as the conversations the space and place fellows have engaged in over the past year.

GeoHumanities.cover

References

Bodenhamer D J, Corrigan J, Harris T M, 2010 The spatial humanities : GIS and the future of humanities scholarship (Indiana University Press, Bloomington)

Bodenhamer D J, Corrigan J, Harris T M, 2015 Deep maps and spatial narratives (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana)

Casey E S, 1997 The fate of place : a philosophical history (University of California Press, Berkeley)

Cosgrove D E, 1984 Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (Croom Helm, London)

Cresswell T, 2013 Geographic thought : a critical introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford)

Dear M J, 2011 GeoHumanities : art, history and text at the edge of place (Routledge, London)

Glacken C J, 1967 Traces on the Rhodian shore; nature and culture in Western thought from ancient times to the end of the eighteenth century (University of California Press, Berkeley,)

Knowles A K, 2014 Geographies of the Holocaust (Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN.)

Knowles A K, Hillier A, 2008 Placing history : how maps, spatial data, and GIS are changing historical scholarship (ESRI Press, Redlands, Calif.)

Relph E C, 1981 Rational landscapes and humanistic geography (Croom Helm, London)

Unwin P T H, 1992 The place of geography (Longman Scientific & Technical, Harlow)

[1] Dear M J, 2011 GeoHumanities : art, history and text at the edge of place (Routledge, London)

[2] http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/13/the-triumph-of-the-humanities/

[3] Casey E S, 1997 The fate of place : a philosophical history (University of California Press, Berkeley)

[4] Ibid.

[5] For accounts of this history see Cresswell T, 2013 Geographic thought : a critical introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford), Glacken C J, 1967 Traces on the Rhodian shore; nature and culture in Western thought from ancient times to the end of the eighteenth century (University of California Press, Berkeley,), Unwin P T H, 1992 The place of geography (Longman Scientific & Technical, Harlow)

[6] See Cosgrove D E, 1984 Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (Croom Helm, London), Relph E C, 1981 Rational landscapes and humanistic geography (Croom Helm, London)

[7] For some excellent examples of inventive uses of GIS in the humanities see Bodenhamer D J, Corrigan J, Harris T M, 2010 The spatial humanities : GIS and the future of humanities scholarship (Indiana University Press, Bloomington) Bodenhamer D J, Corrigan J, Harris T M, 2015 Deep maps and spatial narratives (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana), Knowles A K, 2014 Geographies of the Holocaust (ibid., Bloomington IN.), Knowles A K, Hillier A, 2008 Placing history : how maps, spatial data, and GIS are changing historical scholarship (ESRI Press, Redlands, Calif.)

2015 – Adventures in Critical Geosophy

2015 is shaping up to be an eventful year. A number of significant projects and events are on the horizon and they are all exciting and somewhat interconnected. The connecting point is my longstanding interest in what I call ‘Critical Geosophy” – the interpretation of geographical knowledge and its role in the constitution of culture and society. I am thinking here of the ways we are informed by ideas such as ‘place’ and ‘mobility’ in particular. The particular projects/events are:

1) Fence My second poetry book, Fence, is being published by Penned in the Margins in October. I am at the final editing stage. I have been fortunate to read this in its entirety three times (Guelph, Concordia, Queens) and am going to read it again at Cornell later this month. I will also do a selection of it at the Nordic Geography conference in Estonia in June. The book is a sequence that takes the form of a polyvocal montage of my own journey to Svalbard (with Nowhereisland) along with fragmented versions of parts of the travel accounts of English explorer, Robert Fothery from 1613 and 1614 and Leonie D’Aunet – the first woman to visit Svalbard in 1838.The sequence uses a number of different vocabularies to explore the relationship between language, a particular place, the flows in and out of it and a fence. The fence stands for both the separations of territories and the flows that make up place. Along the way we encounter whaling, migrant species, a disco, geology and economic imperialism. It is a form of place-writing that enacts and enlivens my more academic considerations of place and mobility.

2) GeoHumanities Fence is also a example of GeoHumanities in action. While GeoHumanities is a recent term it represents an exciting coming together of the humanities side of geography (the longest standing version of geography), the spatial turn across the humanities and social sciences, recent developments in geocoded software, GIS, forms of visualisation of space, place and mobility, and new ways of engaging with the earth in the creative arts and practices. I have been appointed as one of the first Managing Editors of the new Taylor and Francis journal – GeoHumanities (along with Deborah Dixon at the University of Glasgow). The journal is an initiative of the Association of American Geographers and is the culmination of years of meetings and special sessions at AAG conferences. Despite its disciplinary home, GeoHumanities is a genuinely interdisciplinary journal and will include contributions from across the humanities as well as creative contributions from creative practitioners. We are putting together an international and interdisciplinary editorial board which includes creative writers and artists. The journal will be launched at the AAG conference in Chicago in April and the first issue will appear in October.

3) All Possible Worlds In the summer of 2007, on holiday with my family, we got to the end of reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had been reading the whole series  aloud to Owen and Sam and now Maddy too (she wasn’t around when all this started). The whole reading aloud as a family thing had centred on this series. Anyway – suddenly there was nothing to read so I started writing my own story for the same age group. I wrote 1000 words a day and read it aloud in the evening. Since then I have continued to write it and read it aloud (even as Owen became 21) on family holidays. This last year the momentum has grown and I am almost done. About three chapters left and I know everything that is going to happen. I am excited about the story and my kids all apparently love it. At the centre of it is lovely London (actually several Londons) and the magic of maps. It was partly inspired by the book Sophie’s World which introduced children to philosophy and partly by the Inkheart series which I also read aloud and which featured the danger of writing stories that become real. So – this is another exercise in representing geographical knowledge and its relationship to power. I just need an agent!

4) Living in the Mobility Transition 2014 saw the start of a large comparative project on the future of mobilities. More specifically the project looks at the possible transitions to low(er) carbon mobilities in a range of sites around the world including Canada, the UK, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand, South Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey. This has meant engaging with the literature on socio-technical transitions as well as the policy arena – both of which are new to me. Central to the emerging project is the way imaginations about mobility and the practice of mobility need to be part of any transition to a post-peak oil and lower carbon world. This is something a geographical imagination can bring to this crucial field of enquiry.

5) Topo-poetics I recently finished and defended my doctorate in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway that involved 50 pages of poems as well as 40,000 words of theory. The theory section revolved around the idea of poems as space and places (as well as poems about spaces and places). I developed ideas around the topos of the poem and then explored this in four poets – Elizabeth Bishop, John Burnside, Don McKay and Jorie Graham.  I am going to add a few more poets to this list – probably Lorine Niedecker and Roy Fisher and submit it as a book.

These are all linked by critical geosophy. They all engage with the way geography informs imaginations and forms of representation in worlds that are shot through with power.