Dave - good points. This is exactly what I have been trying to say for a
year now, without making much of an impression. 'Fiddling while Rome
burns' was a phrase directed by marxist geographers to the geographical
'space cadets' in the 1970s. I hope there will not be a need to repeat
it now in the contects of CG.
We all have different impressions of what a critical perspective actually is
- but without some combination of radical and applied elements, we will
not be listened to, or affect change, outside of the professional
geography community (and please do not forget the 'applied' side). Writing
self-indulgent critical papers for other
geographers is only part of the job (and a very small part) as I see it -
or one to be reserved for the few who are really good at it, since we
enjoy reading them from time to time.
I am willing to be shot down!
On Fri, 25 Sep 1998, Storey Dave wrote:
> Just some reflections on the Critical Geography meeting in
> Firstly many thanks to Phil Hubbard and Rob Kitchin for an enjoyable
> and stimulating day.
> A number of issues occurred to me in the wake of our discussions.
> 1. There are clearly differing views on the extent to which the CGF
> should become a more formalised entity. The risk of
> becoming more formalised is one of creating hierarchies and
> structures which may be resented by some. The risk of not becoming
> more formalised is a continuing state of indecisiveness over what it
> it is we are and what we should be doing. I am sympathetic to both
> arguments here. However, it seems to me that a reasonably informal
> CGF may be a useful umbrella under which members can organise
> different activities.
> 2. Much of the discussion seemed to hover around relations with the
> RGS (via the Study Groups) and 'procedural' issues over what we can
> or cannot do. It seems somewhat ironic that a 'critical' body which
> has its origins in breaking away from an established organisation is
> still very much pre-occupied with its connections with that
> particular body.
> 3. Many of the seminar sessions revolved around issues of reflexivity
> in research. There seemed to be a lot of angst in the air. I wonder
> do other disciplines spend so much time in similar debates. I suspect
> not - although perhaps they should! Part of me fully acknowledges the
> need for such debate but another part of me feels there is a danger
> of getting lost in a self-reflective quagmire resulting in what might
> be seen by some as a very self-indulgent debate over how we do what
> we do.
> 4. It follows from the above that questions arise over who
> critical geographers are actually talking to. Most of the time it
> seems to be each other. While internal debate is necesssary, do we
> not need to go beyond this? In Coventry, John Bale raised the issue
> of school texts and the apparent reluctance of geographers to write
> for pre-third level audiences (not sufficient kudos in doing so?).
> By the same token we tend not to talk to 'the wider world' via
> newspapers etc. Economists and historians seem more willing to engage
> in such activities.
> 5. A danger in all of this is that we assume we have something
> worthwhile to contribute. In our internal discussions it is sometimes
> easy to lapse into a sense of our own importance . Does the rest of
> the world really care what we do or how we do it? In a discussion in
> the pub afterwards I was quite struck by the fact that those of us
> present (myself included) were unwilling or unable to explain to a
> 'local' what it is was we had been discussing at our conference.
> 6. Beyond conferences and seminars what else do critical geographers
> have to offer?
> Once again thanks to organisers and conributors for generating
> discussion (and for giving rise to the above ramblings!)
> Dr. David Storey
> Geography Department &
> Centre for Rural Research
> University College Worcester
> Henwick Grove
> Worcester WR2 6AJ
> Tel: 01905 855189
> Fax: 01905 855132