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Progress in Human Geography History and philosophy of geography: real wars, theory wars

Neil Smith Prog Hum Geogr 1992; 16; 257 DOI: 10.1177/030913259201600208 The online version of this article can be found at:

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History and philosophy of geography: real wars, theory wars

Neil Smith
Department of Geography, Rutgers University,

Brunswick, NJ 08903,

GIS uber Alles

war against Iraq in 1990-91 was the first full-scale GIS war. It put geography on the public agenda in a quite palpable if impalatable way as it claimed an estimated 200 000 Iraqi lives (Bamaby, 1991 ) . The Defense Mapping Agency and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Research Laboratory provided the digitized map data for the Desert Shield operating area; a California company supplied the ruggedized DOS-based software called Map, Operator, Maintenance Station (MOMS); the pilots slotted the resulting portable GIS (Geographic Information Systems) packages into cockpit computers, and the turkey-shoot, as a USA general called it, was on (Schulman, 1991). Geosmart bombs were not only programmed to seek and destroy real-life targets but to photograph them as they did so. On the ground, tank commanders picked their way through the desert using smart, 3-D simulations of the terrain ahead. And the global citizens of CNN (Cable News Network) were treated to map-rich battle simulations throughout the perverse extravaganza thanks to GIS software and techniques similar to those guiding missiles and artillery. Certainly, applying advanced GIS and related technologies to the conflict in the Persian Gulf substantially increased the missions effectiveness and contributed to the safety of military personnel, enthused one GISer (Schulman, 1991: 28-29). Thus did GIS and related technologies contribute to the killing fields of the Iraqi desert. The development of sophisticated computerized cartographic technology has, in the last year, definitively altered the way in which modem warfare is fought and staged and the way it is consumed by a global public transformed into video voyeurs. By comparison, academic advocacy of GIS seems deliriously detached. In a recent editorial Openshaw complains that GIS is misunderstood and underloved. GIS matters, he thunders, because it can encapsulate (some might say imprison) the core of geography! (Openshaw, 1991: 622). Geography suffers a crisis of fragmentation and only GIS can put it all back together again; only GIS can offer an emerging all-embracing implicit framework capable of integrating and linking all levels of past, present, and possible future geographies (p. 628). Its application-independent tool-kits transform the discipline: Suddenly,


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geography looks like a huge integrated GIS on which various nondata layers of interpretative [sic.] subjectivity have been built (pp. 624; 627). He is astounded at the implications of all this. A geographer of the impending new order may well be able to analyse river networks on Mars on Monday, study cancer in Bristol on Tuesday, map the underclass of London on Wednesday, analyse groundwater flow in the Amazon basin on Thursday, and end the week by modelling retail shoppers in Los Angeles on Friday. What of it? Indeed, this is only the beginning (p. 624). With increasing geographic information, he enthuses, the utility of soft and so-called intensive and squelchy-soft qualitative research paradigms could fade into insignificance (p. 622). Openshaws grandiose exuberance for a new geographic order is buttressed by a platitudinous morality: Is there not a moral duty, he asks, to help society and the world to unlock and understand the key patterns and relationships that may exist encrypted in these data bases for individual countries, for planet earth, and later on for other planets and other universes? (p. 625). Such extravagant ambition for GIS, on and off the battlefield, should at least help to provoke a debate that has been bubbling under the surface since the mid-1980s. The Messianic disciplinary hopes often attached to GIS denote a technocratic turn according to Taylor (1990), a retreat from ideas to facts, and a return of the very worst sort of positivism, a most naive empiricism. The late J. B. Harley (1989: 2), in a widely read deconstruction of cartography, addressed a similar point: As they embrace computerassisted methods and Geographical Information Systems, the scientistic rhetoric of map makers is becoming more strident. Associated claims for a new geography, Taylor argues, are inimical to the field insofar as they feign an intellectual neutrality in the interpretation of data. Such a geography would be defined by its application-independent techniques rather than by any substantive concern with specific aspects of space, nature and landscape. There is surely no question but that GIS provides a battery of sophisticated computer techniques of wide and variable utility. The problem, rather, lies in the outlandish disciplinary ambitions, the radical exclusion of other perspectives, and the dangerous and self-defeating renunciation of an intellectual (as opposed to technical) agenda that too often accompany the programatic advocacy of GIS. As Taylor (1990) suggests, most GISers have by-passed the 1970s critiques of positivism, simply ignoring any broader questions of social and political context. Openshaw and the Iraq war notwithstanding, the GIS hoopla has cooled even as GIS techniques have become less exotic, and the time is ripe for a critical and contextual history of GIS beyond existing internalist treatments (Chrisman, 1988; Coppock, 1988; Tomlinson, 1988; but see Anderson, 1969). That the text and context of GIS is heavily underwritten by a military agenda is no secret, of course, but such connections - too often made in the abstract - became brutally evident on our television screens in early 1991. A considerable percentage of students who learn GIS in USA classrooms graduate to military and related jobs; the Defense Mapping Agency with 9000 employees is the single largest employer of USA geography graduates. Despite the fact that many of the techniques, their applications, and the resulting maps are classified by governments around the world, there is a curious lack of reflection on this military-geographic connection. Where such a connection does emerge, the mode is usually pedagogic rather than reflective. In a recent Australian textbook on defence applications of GIS - a text incidentally that should cure even the most ardent devotees of self-flagellation concerning the irrelevance of geography - Ball and Babbage make the point very directly: A GIS offers a unique and invaluable solution to the demand for geographical information, both physical and human, generated by the new focus of

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Australian defence planning (Ball and Babbage, 1989: 1). The book carries a preface from the Minister of State for Defence, Kim Beazley, who argues that a comprehensive geographic information system is vital to the development of a national defence capability (Ball and Babbage, 1989: xxix). Technology does not cause war, of course, but the traditional liberal argument that techniques are separate and separable from their uses, is equally simplistic. On the one hand, integration with the military is often deliberately fostered: The benefits [of GIS] will not, however, flow automatically into the Defence organization. The corporate development of Defence GIS is deserving of early high-level attention (Ball and Babbage, 1989: 7, 242). On the other hand, even among more liberal advocates, embarrassed into silence by the integration of GIS with military agendas, there is a clear sense of the larger social and moral imperative of GIS. According to Worrall (1990: 1), the success of GIS will depend on the extent to which the array of techniques and technology are practically applied and their successfulness in making social decision-making processes better, stronger and more accessible.... GIS is a tool of considerable promise and potential to public policymaking. It is hardly credible, then, that the rest of this survey of developments and applications fails even to mention military uses of GIS (see also Goodchild, 1991). GIS elevates to a new height the military constructions of geography, and this needs to be opened up for critical and historical investigation. Denis Wood makes this point with


computer graphics are in the service above all else of the military, and secondarily automobile manufacturing where CAD/CAM systems play important roles in the destruction and marginalization of millions of jobs.... That is, computer graphics mainly promote death, either directly, through the support of weapons systems, or indirectly, through the use and production of cars (in the United States cars kill more people between the ages of 1 and 37 than most other causes combined) (Wood, 1989: 118-19).

In this light, and especially given the brutal GIS war against Iraq, moral duty to help society seems perversely disingenuous. II l

Openshaws appeal to a

Geography, war, history

An old saw has it that war is good for geography. Or as Yves Lacoste (1976) put it some years ago: La geographie, ga sert, dabord, a faire la guerre, a title that might be translated not at all literally as Geography, thy name is war. The connection is longstanding (US Naval Institute, 1958; OSullivan and Miller, 1983; Pepper and Jenkins, 1985), but was publicly exposed with the recent war. Wars, cold or hot, observes Raskin (1991: 514), change the political maps of the world and blow away the ideologies that created and were created by those maps. In this latest war for a new (American) world order, even George Bush was given to geographic pronouncements, albeit in the negative. In his address to the US Congress on March 6, 1991, Bush began with the following declaration: Weve learned in the modem age, geography cannot guarantee security and security does not come from military power alone. It is no accident that this beyond-geography theme recalls the political realism of the late 1940s and 1950s when the first new world order was meant to begin. Bushs new world order represents a second try at 1945 - the effort at a new American century as Bush has put it - this time without Soviet opposition. In the recent tomes of media commentary on the new world order it has been entirely missed that German refugee geographers from Nazism were the crucial conduit for translating Hitlers neue Welt Ordnung into English-language usage. Specifically, Hans Weigert concluded his popular (1942) book Generals and geographers - devoted to explaining German

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geopolitics to an American audience - with a precold war plea that the second world war allies develop their own geopolitical vision for the postwar world: The people of North America now have a last chance to learn in time the lessons of a humanized geopolitics. These lessons will direct us to a structure of a new world order in which the social, economic, and political systems of the East [Russia and China] and the North [led by Britain] will harmonize with our own institutions (Weigert, 1942: 258, emphasis added). George Bushs circumspection about the uses of geography did not go unchallenged
however. The conservative New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal admonished Bush to have done with such inane simplifications and to recognize the errors in American ambivalence toward geography. Such ambivalence, he argued, may have to do with the countrys own geographic position, its isolation from Europe, and the fact that no foreign wars have been fought on its soil since 1812. After this promising start, Rosenthal mooted a geographic determinist apology for Israeli strategy in southwest Asia (the middle east, in Eurocentric parlance). Blythely disenfranchising the entire Jordanian citizenry with a short clickety-clack of his keyboard, Rosenthal argued that Jordan already was a Palestinian state and that Palestinians should go back there. Israeli leaders and especially Israeli commanders, he said, learned from the war the importance of a strategy based on geographic room (Rosenthal, 1991: A31). The horrifying parallels to Nazi claims apparently escaped Rosenthal entirely, but the advocacy of an Israeli Lebensraum and forced transportation to the east surely evoked shivers among Palestinians, and should have inspired disgust from concentration camp survivors. The military uses of geographic knowledge are as old as war itself, of course, and integrally related to state-building and imperial pursuit. Good critical and contextual works on the history of ancient geography are rare, and so the recent book by Sorbonne historian Claude Nicolet, Space, geography and politics in the early Roman Empire (11999 ), . was eagerly awaited. In a somewhat polemical intervention in antiquarian debates over the origin and evolution of the Roman Empire, Nicolet seeks to redress the historicist assumptions and the erasure of geography that have dominated classics research. In sometimes excruciating detail, he traces the dialectic of Roman conquest, the extension of Roman geographical knowledge, and the mapping of the known world. He focuses on two spatial texts: first, the Res gestae compiled by Caesar Augustus (first Roman Emperor), published posthumously in AD 14, and including a comprehensive summary of geographical conquests and the results of military surveys; and secondly, Agrippas detailed map of the known world which was posted several years earlier near the Forum. Just at the time when the Empire was being consolidated under Augustus, argues Nicolet, geography comes to play an unprecedented influence over history. He is comfortable with the idea that cartography and the representation of space are highly political enterprises, and yet the textual deconstruction is in other ways very traditional. He sees the accretion of geographical knowledge in pre-Kuhnian progressivist terms and is keen to celebrate Augustus and Agrippa as alternative geographic heroes. Nicolets book delivers only a sliver of the promise suggested by its title. For all but the most ardent classicists, thirsty for textual disquamation of the early Roman Emp:ire, a much better introduction to the military importance of ancient geographical ideas and practices can be found in Dvomiks Origins of intelligence services, a not so recent book dedicated to General William Donovan, founder of the OSS (the US Organization of Strategic Services - precursor to the CIA). Dvomiks is a broad perspective, stretching from the Assyrians, Hittites and Egyptians, through the Greeks and Romans, to the Byzantine and Muslim worlds (Dvomik, 1974). For its unobtrusive assumption of

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in military history, it is a fascinating read, informative, accessible, and useful in the classroom. Overlapping historically with Dvomik is Pryors (1988) consideration of geography, technology and war in the establishment of the Mediterranean world between the seventh and sixteenth centuries. Influenced by the Annales School, and especially by Braudel, Pryor argues that the struggles between Christendom, Islam and Byzantium were fought on, around, and about the sea, involving a crucial nexus of geography, technology and war. In the last analysis, he says, geography, technology and the forms of war had highly influential effects on the general evolution of Mediterranean history (Pryor, 1988: 199). Christendom won, of course, and with it capitalism, and the rest, we might say, is geography. From the hearth of Europe - as we are now well aware with the pending 1992 quincentennial - an unprecedented drove of explorations, expeditions and discoveries was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, and the emergence of modem geography, divided into national schools, was intricately bound up with such adventures. There was a mixed tone to this work. In the scientific construction of global space, empire and the geographical elsewhere, Europeans scrambled both to learn from and to surpass the recorded knowledge of the Greeks and Romans as well as later Arab thinkers (Sezgin, 1987; Wamtz, 1989). In France, such exponents included Jean-Baptiste-Bourguignon dAnville who reconstructed a Mimoire sur lEgypte ancienne et moderne based, not on field experience but on maps, travel descriptions, cadastral records and other documents available from the libraries of Paris (Godlewska, 1989). Entwined with these scientific constructions were direct descriptions associated with the Napoleonic and later expeditions to Egypt and Algeria, in which geography would assist the state in determining the nature and usefulness of conquered races and places (Godlewska, 1989: 205; see also Godlewska, 1988; 1991; Taylor, 1989). The resulting amalgam of ideology and technology offered by geographical writers of the day is increasingly subject to intense scrutiny by contemporary critics in a variety of disciplines, much of it taking off from Saids (19978) classic Orientalism. The practice of geography has not only contributed to the conduct of war and imperial expansion but is influenced by it. The first International Geographical Congress was scheduled for Brussels in 1870 but had to be delayed until the following year because of the Franco-Prussian war. In the first half of the twentieth century, the history of the International Geographical Union was dogged by two world wars and the in-again, outagain status of German geography (R6ssler, 1990a). At the most recent 1988 IGU Congress in Sydney, it was reported that some highly sensitive maps of the remote, Himalayan borderlands between China and India, reluctantly brought to the Congress and displayed by the Chinese delegation, were stolen. Regarding geography and war in Germany, meanwhile, the continuing excavation of the Nazi years continues to uncover new layers of geographic involvement. In her Wissenschaft und Lebensraum, R6ssler ( 1990b) gives the fullest account yet available of the way in which a battery of geographers contributed to Nazi planning for Germanization of the eastern borderlands. In a discussion of the institutions, ideologies and individuals involved, Rbssler shows that after 1933 many geographers were able to apply existing research interests to the practical problems of establishing a Lebensraum for the German Reich. Their work involved planning as well as research, although the loss of the war prevented the implementation of these plans and at the Nuremberg trials, for that reason, it was decided not to proceed with prosecutions (see also R6sler, 1989). Nonetheless, as Ros~;ler and her co-worker Gerhard Sandner emphasize, the involvement of geographers should

geography imbricated

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be dismissed as an aberration. The discipline itself underwent a significant transforma.tion. Sandner (1990) traces the emergence of anti-semitism in German geography prior to 1933, and Fischer and Sandner (1991) analyse the way in which the geography seminar aft Hamburg was transformed under the influence of Siegfried Passarge, an avowed and active Nazi. Joining geography and history these days can be a perilous pursuit, as the naive:, politically motivated proclamations of Bush and Rosenthal illustrate. The reassertion of geography in historical analysis has brought increasingly public hints, generally from outside the field, of a new geographic determinism. The prominent economist Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution, for example, in a televised talk in December 1990 to the right-wing think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute, explained European dominance vis-a-vis Africa as the result of geography: although half the size of Africa, Europe has a longer coastline, nowhere in Europe is more than 500 miles from the sea, and Europe unlike Africa had excellent navigable waterways. The popular appeal of such simplistic and

anti-intellectual determinism is usually expressed to the detriment of oppressed peoples. The left is not immune from this determinism, which is in many ways the reverse side of historicism, so ubiquitous in the English-speaking world. As Nicolets (1991) stud.y reminds us, however, French historical and social writing has often involved a more frequent integration of spatial concepts. It was Lucien Febvre, founder with Marc Bloch of the Annales School, who admonished, Historians, be geographers. And it was Fernand Braudel, who dominated the second generation (1945-68) of Annalistes, who took this advice seriously enough to write what he called geo-history. A recent history of the Annales School summarizes some of the obvious links between Vidal de la Blache, Febvre and Braudel, but also suggests Friedrich Ratzels influence on Braudel. In melding Vidals possibilist, place-rooted regionalism with a more structural conception of historical change, Braudel spawns a geographical determinism, according to Burke (1990: 36-40; see also Archer 1990). Burkes is a very straightforward and not especially probing account of the Annales School, but the indictment of geographical determinism is reasonable as far as it goes (see also Kinser, 1981). A more nuanced disentanglement of Braudels determinism from his appropriate recentring of geography remains to be done.



geography: science of space, science of nature

Traditional histories of science often fasten on a particular figure - Copernicus or Galileo, Newton or Bacon - as symbolizing the inauguration of modem scientific thought, but the Dutch historian of science Reijer Hooykaas has countered that we should more aptly see Prince Henry the Navigator as prompting the scientific revolution (Hooykaas, 1979). Drawing on the work of Hooykaas and other contemporary historians of science, David Livingstone, who has devoted considerable effort to clarifying the social and intellectual origins of modem geography, argues that geographical progress has been seen, of late, as a significant ingredient in the emergence of modem science (Livingstone, 1990: 364). On the fulcrum between empirical observation and more traditional, authoritarian cosmol~ogies, driven by exploration and discovery on the one side and by the conceptual demands of natural theology on the other, geography in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries sat at the splinter point where science separated itself from philosophy. Livingstone explores the resulting tangle of religious, magical, scientific and practical themes that dominated geography on the cusp of modem scientific thought.

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Corroborative testimony comes from Wamtzs (1989) posthumously published study of Varenius. Among scholars now claimed as geographers, the German scholar Bernhard Vareniuss (1622-50), with his Geographia generalis, is widely credited with initiating the study of modem geography. Wamtz (1989) emphasizes Vareniuss intellectual context and evolution; he practised geography as a branch of mixed [applied] mathematics (Warntz, 1989: 172), and his book went through successive editions including several edited by Isaac Newton. Wamtzs originality lies in revealing Geographia generalis as a sharply contested text (in mathematics and philosophy) between Cartesian and Newtonian visions of the world. The division of natural and social sciences from mathematics and philosophy was only stirring, of course, and so it was a stipulation of the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Cambridge University in the seventeenth century that lectures in geography be presented. Sufficiently indistinct and novel was geography as a separate field of study that in the 1650s, following his death, Varenius was known in the Netherlands, where the Geographia generalis was first published, as THE Geographer

(Warntz, 1980: 174). The separation of geography from cosmology and astronomy, philosophy and mathematics was a historical process, and Kant, like Varenius is treated as a watershed figure. His broadly Newtonian conception of space, if not his geographical writing, is subject to continual philosophical commentary (e.g., Waschkies, 1987), and in geographical circles
there has been a revival of interest in Kant. Published responses to the reflective discussion of Hartshornes work, 50 years after the publication of The nature of geography (Entrikin and Brunn, 1989), vary considerably: Gould (1991) affirms the unacknowledged neoKantian subtext of Hartshomian and related geographies while asking in frustration why so much effort was expended on The nature, a text that is virtually meaningless to most of todays geographers; Livingstone ( 1991 ) takes a more elliptical perspective, affirming the need for contextual histories of geography but questioning whether geography even has a nature; in response Entrikin ( 1991 ) reaffirms the validity of assessing Hartshornes work, and with it the potential richness of the Kantian and the neo-Kantian tradition for

geography (p. 338).

Whereas absolutist Newtonian conceptions of space have been under increasing attack geography since the late 1960s, GIS, whether or not contaminated by nondata layers of interpretative subjectivity (Openshaw, 1991: 627), reinstates a mordant Newtonianism of space. By contrast, the legal field seems to be on the verge of discovering the idea of postNewtonian relational space. In a pathbreaking article, Laurence Tribe (1989) argues that legal conceptions of space - indeed the eighteenth century spatiality of the USA Constitution itself - are thoroughly Newtonian. Legal doctrine is largely blind to the idea that social and juridical space is socially produced and that, further, the very process of judicial observation alters the social space it would adjudicate. There is a social geometry of law, Tribe insists, and it is a curved space in which neither individuals, private property nor the state should be seen as discrete billiard balls on a given social table, but rather as themselves progenitors of space. The curvature of geographical space is now so readily accepted as not to seem odd at all. Generalizing from earlier work suggesting the transformation of space-time relations consonent with contemporary restructurings of capitalist social and economic relations, Harvey (1990) explores the reflexive and contested character of conceptions of space and time, and calls for a historical geography of these concepts. Kirby (1989) delineates a political space that is equally curved, while the supposed centrality of space in postmodernism suggests an extradisciplinary acknowledgement of the curvature of social in

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space. Becker (1990) imports postmodernism into the rigid confines of German geography. Henri Lefebvre (1991) truly was the pioneer in much of this work. But the shift from absolute to relative and relational conceptions of space is a highly uneven process: the redoubt of GIS aside, an ambivalent confusion of absolute and relative conceptions of space also informed the push for locality studies. A similar conceptual struggle is played out in the debate between Meyrowitz (1985; 1989) and Kirby (1988; 1989; 1990). Where

Meyrowitz argues the destruction of territoriality at the hands of modem communications technology, Kirby sees the resilience of localities and champions a defence and reassertion of regional identity. That both processes may be going on concurrently seems very likely, but it leaves us with the conceptual dilemma of how to articulate this. Marstons (1990) and Herods (1991) discussions of the social production of scale may intimate some

Insofar as geography has traditionally seen itself as a science of nature as well as of space, physical geography has come to dominate the discussion of nature, human geography relinquishing significantly the interrogation of nature in favour of space (FitzSimmons, 1989). Histories of physical geography are not so common and critical and contextual histories even less so, which is perhaps surprising given the political uses of much physical geographical knowledge (but see Bork, 1989). Nowhere has this been more true than in North America. John Wesley Powell and Grove Karl Gilbert are widely seen as originators of USA geomorphology, and as much as they were concerned with exploring a new science, they both did their most prominent and sustained work in the employ of various government surveys between the 1860s and 1880s. Sacks (1991) recent discussion of Gilbert focuses, quite reasonably, on breaking down the sharp dichotomy that is often drawn between the empirical, pragmatic, process-oriented Gilbert and the theoretical, form-oriented Davis, and only hints at the connection between an emerging physical geography and a national agenda for the American west in the late nineteenth century. The story remains to be told of the way in which physical geography provided an environmental technology and ideology for building a nation. This connection between physical geography and national interests in state building surfaces in strange ways. In the 1880s there emerged a quite torrid debate between Canadian and USA geologists over the nu ming and interpretation of the Huronian system. The Huronian system of rocks lit s beneath the Cambrian surfaces of the Canadian Shield but above the Laurentian, al j exists not just in Canada but in parts of the northern USA. V iitiam Eagan (1989) recon tructs the geological debate, which involved the fledgeling Canadian Survey and US Geological Survey as well as local geological traditions in the USA. At odds was whether the Huronian System was indeed a separate formation worthy of its own name; the Canadians argued that it was a discrete system while the USA geologists largely but not entirely opposed this. In the ensuing debate, not only questions of scientific reputations, but national ownership of mineral rights, and questions of national identity were at stake. The public battle that emerged in 1991 in response to the Smithsonian Institutions refreshingly revisionist interpretation of the nineteenth century frontier, The west as America, suggests the extent to which mythologies of nature embody national and political ambitions. Critiquing the conventional wisdom of the glorious frontier, the Smithsonian exhibit revealed the unsavory or equivocal or simply mundane aspects of the conquest of the west, reinterpreting the frontier experience in less heroic and arguably more realistic terms (Truettner, 1991). Certainly the brutality to nature and humanity was acknowledged, if often in a hectoring tone. The exhibit was quickly pilloried by the Repub~lican

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Senator Stevens from Alaska, who threatened to cut off funding to the Smithsonian a:nd promised close Congressional scrutiny to ensure the patriotic correctness of future exhibits. Daniel Boorstien, previously the Librarian of Congress and in 1953 an informant to the House Un-American Activities Committee, attacked the exhibit as a perverse, historically inaccurate, destructive exhibit. A quick symbol in the witchhunt over political correctness, the exhibit became cause clbre for the right, and its scheduled appearances in Denver and St. Louis were cancelled. The Powell expedition of 1871 figured significantly in the exhibit. Much as geography played a pivotal role in the scientific revolutions that initiated modernism, assumed conceptions of nature - social and nonsocial - play a definitive part in the political construction of modernism. Nature is simultaneously held separate from society yet operates also as a template for social subjects, social change and social structure. Critiques of modem science therefore involve radically restructured treatments of nature, most explicitly a recognition of the social production of nature (Smith, 1990), or the reinvention of nature as Haraway suggests (1991; see also 1989) or, as in Torgovnick (1990: 193), a critique of primitivism. Whether the reinvention of nature leads to an essentially postmodern idea of wilderness suitable for the age of ecology (Oelschlaeger, 1991), or to a recontextualization that takes more seriously the trenchant social materialism of modem science, as Haraway does, remains to be seen.


Gender wars?

Less than a decade ago emergent feminist writing focused on attempts to develop theory, concerned that feminist theory might be a misnomer (Hartsock, 1983). Today by contrast, feminist theory is increasingly pivotal across a swath of social discourse and debates; in cultural studies and literary criticism, arguably, it now defines more of the innovative frontier research than competing approaches. This is not to say that various crusty orthodoxies have given up; quite the opposite, especially given the reactionary indictment of a political correctness supposedly dominating academia (Robbins, 1991). Nor has intellectual eminence been greeted with institutional permanence, and geography is no different from other sciences in this regard (Kass-Simon and Fames, 1990). Whereas in 1970, 6.3% of AAG members in academic positions were female, that figure rose to only 8.4% in 1988. Nor has the pyramidal structure of womens involvement been altered significantly: the percentage of women tapers down as one climbs the ranks. Whereas 27% of PhD graduates in the USA were women in 1988, only 3.1 % of full professors - a metre 18 - were women. Sociology, by contrast, is 20% female, but although 9% of full professors are women, women are even more heavily clumped in the untenured positions than in geography (Lee, 1990). In different national contexts, the figures are in all likelihood even more skewed. Even more alarming is the apparent lack of influence of (or credit accorded to) those women who have secured an academic position. In his discussion of master weavers of influence, Bodman ( 1991 ) finds only three women among the 117 centurion geographers who were cited more than a hundred times between 1984 and 1988. The gendered language would seem apt. Whatever the inevitable limitations of this kind of study (see Thomthwaite, 1961 for a brawling satire), the documentation of extreme gender inequalities alone was worth the work, even if Bodman mentions it only in

passing. The history of women


geography is hardly

bustling pursuit (but



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the pace has picked up with the publication of a series of books focusing on travellers and explorers in the nineteenth century (Birkett, 1989; Tinling, 1989; Middleton, 1982). This has led Mona Domosh (1991) to propose a feminist historiography of geography that connects these historical accounts and experiences to contempor;ary feminism and social theory. Closely related are explorations of gender and postcolonialism (Lazreg, 1988; Mohanty, 1989; Rao, 1991) and introspections concerning race and gender (Sanders, 1990; Cohen, 1990; Mitchell and Smith, 1990). Similar questions have been raised from a somewhat different point of view as Mary Louise Pratt (1986) investigates more traditional geographic and exploration texts to expose the class, race and gender assumptions involved in constructing colonial geographies. Meanwhile Janice Monk (1989) has initiated a long-term archival investigation of the history of women. in American geography. New ideas and approaches usually have to struggle their way into the academic mainstream, all the more so when they embody explicitly oppositional politics express:ing larger social movements. In geography the recognition of feminist work over the last decade has been inordinately slow and partial, leading to intensified frustration. This has been expressed in particularly visceral fashion not so much against the liberal and conservative mainstream, from whom perhaps feminists expect little, but against Marxism especially among responses to Harveys The condition of postmodernity and, to a lesser extent, Sojas Postmodern geographies, both widely read and discussed outside as well as inside geography. These authors have been justly criticized for not taking feminist work seriously (Deutsche, 1991; Massey, 1991; Rose, 1991) and, in Harveys case, for systematically misconstruing the work of feminist artists. Beyond sexism, however, these responses also allege a more thorough-going recidivism: foundationalism, universalis:m, materialism, idealism, determinism, economism, totalism, stucturalism, > heterosexism, modernism, objectivism, realism, essentialism, and voyeurism all comingle and intertwine with sexism, especially in Harveys text, we are told. The drift of Masseys argument is toward a feminized, more integrative sociospatial discourse, a project already taken on board by numerous feminists: Bondi (1990a; 199Cb), Katz ( 1991 ), McDowell ( 1991 ), Marston (1990), Pratt and Hanson (1988), Rose (1990), to suggest only a few. For Deutsche ( 1991 ), on the other hand, something else is at Intertwined with the feminist critique, but distinguishable from it, is a considerable departure from the social materialist assumptions that have guided most of the rapproc.hement between spatial and social discourses in the last two decades. [T]he real question, Deutsche insists, is this: what is being protected by resistance to feminist inquiry? The implied answer is given visually and verbally: using a Barbara Kruger graphic, she suggest that You molest from afar (Deutsche, 1991: 9), and she writes that violence is enacted by authors who speak and pretend that reality speaks for itself (p. 12). For Deutsche and other critics it is a question of the politics of representation (p. 21) which, she argues, requires a focus on discursive practices and the requirement that authors and art:ists reflect critically and openly on their own activities in meaning production (p. 22). While neither innocent nor excusable, neither is the avoidance of feminism necessa:rily the malevolent psychosocial contrivance that Deutsche implies. To argue such would be to risk replacing one supposed foundationalism with another, and indeed there are sugg;estions of this in Deutsches argument. Harvey, she says, repeatedly represents difference as sameness, ignoring feminisms difference from other social analyses, its internal differences, and its theories of difference (Deutsche, 1991: 7). But how then is significant difference to be identified and who is to do it? (Pratt, 1991). In fact, throughout her critique, Deutsche herself claims a self-unexamined authorial authority rooted in feminism

1990), but


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arbitrate the distinctions between difference and sameness. But these distinctions are socially contested on a wider terrain. More generally, Deutches rejection of Harvey is itself so total, the critique such a seamless whole, that it brooks no ambiguity in Harveys own work. Harveys text - decisive in places but quite vague in others - she conveys as a universally brittle logic. Like the texts it critiques, Deutsches argument is also not innocent. The importance of the politics of representation is now widely accepted, but Deutsches own representation of this politics deliberately effects a pragmatic disciplinary move that centres art histoiy and literary criticism in the discussion of society. Social science has hitherto been granted automatic privileges ... in the study of society, Deutsche asserts (1991: 21), and she seeks to transfer this supposed privilege to aesthetic discourse and textual deconstruction. Secondly, and related, Deutsche displays a deep ambivalence about any connectedness to material reality. Reality and representation mutually imply each other, she concedes, but only after a significant ontological redefinition: what is called reality - social meaning, relations, values, identities - is constituted in a complex of representations (p. 21). Access to reality outside representations is effectively cut off and with it the ability to discuss social experience except as representation. Reality is swallowed whole by representation: postmodernism is entertained as a kind of social change itself (p. 13), while the built environment is now recognized, as other cultural objects have been, as representations

(p. 18). All knowledge is representation, postmodernism has taught us, but Deutsche takes us significantly beyond this claim that there is no reality without representation toward the idealist position that all we can study are representations as representations - no reality, only representation. The connection between representation and the represented is erased, representation is increasingly unhinged from social experience. Hence the deliverate confusion in Deutsche of the violence perpetrated by theoretical omission in an academic text and the physical cum psychic violence of warfare, international or familial. Deutsche seems aware of where this analysis points, asserting that her position does not imply that no reality exists or that it is unknowable, and she asserts defensively at several points that hers is a materialist analysis. Nor, she insists, does it involve a desertion of the field of politics (Deutsche, 1991: 21; 28). But these caveats highlight and contradi.ct her own discursive practice which recentres a startlingly Kantian epistemological dilemma insofar as access to social experience and the means to knowability are never explained. It is significant, then, that Harveys central arguments - the interconnectedness of cultural and political change, and his placement of postmodernism as less an alternative to modernism than the reassertion of a lost modernist assumption - are not directly engaged by Deutsche or, perhaps more disappointingly, by Massey whose previous work has so influenced political economic theories of local and regional change. It remains a collective responsibility to consider these ideas seriously too. One can accept a feminist critique of Harvey without subscribing to the idealist critique. Arguing that much postmodernist feminism retains a firm foot in modernism, Sandra Harding (1990: 100) proposes that [Feminist inquiry can aim to produce less partial and perverse representations without having to assert the absolute, complete, universal or eternal adequacy of these representations. Feminist epistemologies should be practised as justificatory strategies (Harding, 1990: 100) which continually negotiate the need for situated knowledges, continual self-reflection, and the direction of research. Hardings advocacy of principled ambiguity is especially useful, not so much as a means of introducing some kind of political or epistemological relativism, but for interrogating the overlapping and intertwining of identities, different levels of indeterminacy of boundaries,
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enhancing the connectedness of political struggles. In this vein, the most incisive argument, I think, remains Hartsocks. Rather than exclude Marx, Hartsock (1987) argues explicitly that the privilege Marx accorded to the working class, by dint of its social position, was real enough, but that other social groups possess comparable if different privilege. Exploitation and oppression do accord a certain privileged access to social reality. This is not necessarily an essentialist argument; the essentialist move, according to Donna Haraway (1991: 158) comes with the elevation of this privilege and social access to the level of ontology and, one might add, the refusal of negotiation between privileges or the refusal to see privileged positions as intermeshed (Graham, 1990). The coalition of interests between feminism and postmodernism is pushed toward its textual limits by Pred (1990) but is under increasing scrutiny (Hartsock, 1987; 1989; 1991; Harding, 1990; Hekman, 1990). Bondi (1990a) expresses a cautious optimism that postmodemism opens up spatial discourses for specifically feminist analysis, but also issues a salient warning: Postmodernism may recognise the masculine bias of Western intellectual traditions, but it is accompanied by a preoccupation with gender symbolism at the expense of &dquo;flesh and blood&dquo; women and men (see also McDowell, 1991; Pratt, 1991). Bondi argues instead for a more coherent focus on the social construction of gender, a call answered in part by Jacksons (1991) analysis of the construction of masculinity. Grahams (1990) critique of essentialism also tries to incorporate feminist and postmodemist perspectives with Marxism. Insofar as questions of class are erased in much of the discussion around postmodernism and feminism - the white heterosexual western male, undefined by class, is the new universal target - Bondis (1990b) and McDowells ( 1991 ) explicit arguments about reintegrating a class perspective are vital. One of the most thoughtful engagements between feminism, postmodernism and Marxism comes from Iris Young (1990) who combines two rather unfashionable endeavours into something quite novel. She insists on retaining a reworked analysis of domination, oppression and exploitation as the basis of her politics of difference, and grafts into it a more explicitly normative theory of social justice and political action. A broader revival of interest in the professional ethics of research and geographical representation is also afoot (Curry, 1991; Harley, 1990; Kirby, 1991).
and for V


As Bondi (1990a: 162) has argued, what postmodernism appears to do is to elide rather than deconstruct a dichotomy between ideas and materiality. GIS practises a virtual image of this elision insofar as representations substitute for reality (Harley, 1989), facilitating the denial of military violence. From the perspective of a GIS technocrat, who praises GIS technologies for their battlefield successes and for removing a lot of combat anxiety, there were statistically fewer (American) casualties in the war than would be expected among that same age group travelling by automobile on US highways (Schulman, 1991: 25). But it is Jean Baudrillard, the French postmodernist, who best expresses and, whether intentional or otherwise, exposes the complicity of technology and postmodern style in the disappearance of the war. Deconstructing the media representation of the war, Baudrillard (1991) concludes that La guerre du Golfe na pas eu lieu (the Gulf war didnt


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Ac know ledgements
I am grateful to Sandra Luque, Cindi Katz, Don Mitchell and Fritz Nelson who all contributed suggestions and ideas to this essay.

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