Dear, Michael, Jim Ketchum, Sarah Luria, and Doug Richardson, eds. GeoHumanities: Art, History, Text at the Edge of Place. London: Routledge, 2011.
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 maps this emerging intellectual terrain with thirty cutting edge contributions from internationally renowned scholars, architects, artists, activists, and scientists. This book explores the humanities’ rapidly expanding engagement with geography, and the multi-methodological inquiries that analyze the meanings of place, and then reconstructs those meanings to provoke new knowledge as well as the possibility of altered political practices. It is no coincidence that the geohumanities are forcefully emerging at a time of immense intellectual and social change. This book focuses on a range of topics to address urgent contemporary imperatives, such as the link between creativity and place; altered practices of spatial literacy; the increasing complexity of visual representation in art, culture, and science; and the ubiquitous presence of geospatial technologies in the Information Age.
GeoHumanties is essential reading for students wishing to understand the intellectual trends and forces driving scholarship and research at the intersections of geography and the humanities disciplines. These trends hold far-reaching implications for future work in these disciplines, and for understanding the changes gripping our societies and our globalizing world.
Stanley Fish, "The Triumph of the Humanities":
[W]e can read events not merely historically, as the product of the events preceding them, but geologically, as the location of sedimented patterns of culture, economics, politics, agriculture. What is being attempted is a reorientation of perception, an alternative way of interpreting the world in which “space is not merely in the service of time, but has a poetics of its own, which reveals itself through a geographical or topological imagination rather than a historical one” (Paul Smethurst, “The Postmodern Chronotope”).
The interplay in these quotations between a literary and a geographical vocabulary tells us what GeoHumanities is all about; it is the elaboration, by methods derived from the humanities, of “the stratified record upon which we set our feet” (the title of another essay and a quote from Thomas Mann). It is the realization, in a style of analysis, of the “spatial turn,” a “critical shift that divested geography of its largely passive role as history’s ‘stage’ and brought to the fore intersections between the humanities and the earth sciences” (Peta Mitchell in “GeoHumanities”).
“Intersections” is perhaps too weak a word, because it suggests two disciplines that retain their distinctiveness but collaborate occasionally on a specific project. The stronger assertion, made by many in the volume, is that the division between empirical/descriptive disciplines and interpretive disciplines is itself a fiction and one that stands in the way of the production of knowledge.
An apparently empirical project like geography is, and always has been, interpretive through and through. “The map has always been a political agent”(Lize Mogel), has always had a “generative power” (Emily Eliza Scott), and that power can only be released and studied by those who approach their work in the manner of literary critics. Geography “demands a reader who is at once an archeologist, geologist and geographer, a reader who … is at all times attentive to the stratification of history, memory, language, and landscape and who can read obliquely through their layers” (Peta Mitchell).