09.30-17.00, Friday 15 June 2012, JCR Lecture Theatre, St Catherine's College, Oxford

Workshop supported by History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group and the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

The focus of the workshop is to discuss whether the discipline of geography has a canon or not. Did geography have a canon that has been forgotten? Or did it never have one? Or was there just a weak canon? And if there is/was a geographical canon, what/who should be on it? Why? Why has there been such relative reluctance to enforce a canon, in comparison to related fields? What sorts of implications have disagreements about a geographical canon had for the disciplinary community? Have historians of geography spent too much time in recent years investigating the hidden histories and micropractices of geography, to lose the bigger picture? We believe that the wider context of higher education across the UK, the rest of Europe and North America, and its implications for Geography in particular, make this an important moment for further consideration of these questions in their intellectual and political contexts by as a wide a community as possible, including geographers and related practitioners.

The format for the event involves six contributors, each speaking for 30 minutes, with 15 minutes for discussion of each paper. There will also be an extensive audience discussion session, providing plenty of time for audience interaction.

Attendance and refreshments at the workshop are free, but prior registration is required (for lunch numbers etc.). Please email Richard Powell (richard.powell@ouce.ox.ac.uk) to reserve a place as soon as possible, and by 31 May 2012 at the latest.

HPGRG are also pleased to announce that a number of bursaries are available to support the travel costs of postgraduates, postdoctoral fellows and early career researchers attending the workshop. Applicants should send full name, position, contact details, estimate of travel costs and a statement (100 words maximum) of research interests and why you wish to attend the seminar to Richard Powell (richard.powell@ouce.ox.ac.uk) by Friday 18 May 2012.

This workshop has been made possible through the support of HPGRG and a RGS-IBG Research Groups Grant awarded to HPGRG.

Workshop Schedule: The Geographical Canon?

Venue: JCR Lecture Theatre, St Catherine's College, Oxford - Friday 15 June 2012

09.30-10.00Registration and Introduction
10.00-10.45Forgetting ourselves: canonicity and memory in geography
Dr Innes Keighren, Royal Holloway, University of London
10.45-11.30The Canon versus the Classic?
Dr Avril Maddrell, University of West of England
11.30-11.45Coffee/Tea
11.45-12.30The Geographical Tradition, divergent geographical canons and the functioning of geographic discourse
Professor Robert Mayhew, University of Bristol
12.30-13.15Geography Education and the Geographical Canon
Jo Norcup, University of Glasgow and University College London
13.15-14.15Lunch
14.15-15.00Canons and Wars: Military Geography and the Limits of the Discipline
Associate Professor Matthew Farish, University of Toronto
15.00-15.45Geography and other disciplines
Professor Andrew Barry, University of Oxford
15.45-16.00Tea/Coffee
16.00-17.00General discussion
Chair: Dr Richard Powell, University of Oxford

Abstracts [alphabetical by author]

Geography and other disciplines

Professor Andrew Barry, University of Oxford

This paper starts out from the assumption that whatever we take Geography to be we have to begin by understanding its earlier and possible relation to other disciplines. My argument draws some inspiration from Deleuze and Guattari's assertion, when discussing the work of Kafka, that "a minor literature doesn't come from a minor language, it is rather that which a minority constructs within a major language". The identity of the minor discipline of Geography, I suggest, has to be understood in terms of its relation to the major disciplines of the social and natural sciences. The task of Geography, I argue, is not to try to synthesise or integrate the social and natural sciences, but to work across their boundaries and interrogate their limits. In the paper I discuss how this vision of Geography has implications for what we take to be the geographical canon.

Canons and Wars: Military Geography and the Limits of Discipline

Associate Professor Matthew Farish, University of Toronto

If there is a canon in contemporary human geography, it is unlikely to include many works from military geography, a field that has become detached from the rest of the discipline over the last half-century. Any yet military academies are sites where a geographical canon lives on, supplemented rather than challenged by material on the new technologies and locations of war. Building on these two propositions, and working largely from a North American context, this paper departs from the particularly academic discussions of 'canon wars' to consider the relationship between the persistence of canons and the production of violence. This is a relationship familiar to many historical geographers, who have traced links between texts and practices of empire. While I aim to extend these studies into the recent history of military geography, my aim is not to prioritize the power of specific texts, but rather to consider the collective educational role of certain entrenched ideas.

Forgetting ourselves: canonicity and memory in geography

Dr Innes Keighren, Royal Holloway, University of London

This talk examines how memory and contested notions of canonicity have together shaped geography's disciplinary identity. It considers how certain texts have, at turns, been promoted as defining manifestoes of what geography should be, and castigated as representative of the discipline's most egregious intellectual foibles. At its core, this talk seeks to understand which texts (and which geographies) we chose to remember and which we endeavour to forget.

The Canon versus the Classic?

Dr Avril Maddrell, University of the West of England

To what extent is the discipline of geography shaped by its canon? Does a disciplinary canon represent a core textual identity or exclusionary discursive hegemony? To what extent do notions of a canon result in gender and other biases in geographical thought and practice? In addressing these questions I argue for a prioritision of 'Classics' over a 'Canon' whilst remaining sensitive to the dangers of 'Classics' in turn becoming 'canonised'.

The Geographical Tradition, divergent geographical canons and the functioning of geographic discourse

Professor Robert Mayhew, University of Bristol

All forms of academic discourse tend to function via the modes of community formation and the delimitation of areas of shared interest which "the canon" produces. It is suggested in line with Frank Kermode that canon formation is necessary to enquiry, but that geography follows neither the modes of canon formation of the humanities nor those of the physical sciences. As such, the problems geography as a discipline suffers in terms of finding shared grounds for discourse and debate stem not from the lack of a canon per se, but from the lack of either a shared canon or of shared understandings of how such a canon might be formed.

Geography Education and the Geographical Canon

Jo Norcup, University of Glasgow and University College London

Geography education, its publications and practices, are often overlooked when reflecting on the way geographical knowledge and ideas are made. In asking questions of what constitutes and defines the ideas, materiality and practices that 'make' canonical works, this paper will reflect on the place of geography education giving particular attention to the status of 'ephemeral' and 'grey' publications.

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