Call for participation: Seeing and Describing the Earth: Geographical Knowledge in Context

Call for participation:

Seeing and Describing the Earth: Geographical Knowledge in Context

Workshop organised by the History of Science Working Group

Date: Wednesday 22nd February 2017, 15:00-18:00

Geographical knowledge is hard to define and delimit. As a concept itself, it has evolved over different historical periods and in relationship to different contexts and issues experienced by various actors. J. B. Harley stressed the importance of taking into consideration the layers of mediation standing between the map-reader and the territory. This deconstructivist approach towards maps has become a general tendency among historians of geographical knowledge.

Yet this perspective has to be extended to other approaches in order to situate the history of cartography within a broader framework, namely the history of the relationships between human beings and the world they inhabit. Jean-Marc Besse book’s Voir la Terre (2000) addresses the same question: does the human existence need both a spatial and a temporal framework? How can these two parameters interact? This is the central issue this workshop wants to address, by reflecting on the links between history and geography, and trying to break through artificial disciplinary borders in order to give a more complex understanding of both history and geography.

This workshop intends to  explore the following themes:

1)Understanding, Constructing and Disseminating Knowledge about the Natural World

How can we conceptualize geographical knowledge and understandings of the world in the light of recent anthropological studies challengeing Euro-centric views of the world? New decentered views among researchers encourage us to reconsider different ways of understanding the Earth, mainly through the study of other systems but also history of intellectual practices, stressing the constructed and situated aspect of geographical knowledge. Sensory engagements with the natural world, as well as physical and human interaction with it, will help us to understand the construction of geographical knowledge.

2)Structuring Space

What role do institutions (learned societies, academies, universities, private associations, publishers etc.) play in inscribing the geographical world with meanings and in establishing norms of seeing, ordering and classifying the geographical world? How can we understand the relationship between exercising interpretative power and territorial claims of geographical spaces? The workshop aims to provide a forum for researchers working on different periods and areas of the globe to discuss the production and circulation of geographical knowledge in different contexts.

3)Materiality of Geographical Knowledge

In the literature in recent years, there has been a shift from focusing on geographical discourses, to a return to thinking about the materiality of our interactions with the natural world. Different medium and genres for constructing and representing geographical knowledge – such as museum displays, books, maps, globes, artwork, travelogues etc. – arise out of different historical actors’ sensual and emotional engagement with their surroundings. How does the use of a particular medium to communicate knowledge affect and shape cognitive understandings of the geographical world?

We invite short 10 minute presentations engaging with how geographical knowledge is collected, constructed, represented and communicated, as well as theoretical or methodological reflections on the relationship between history and geography. We would like to emphasise that this workshop is intended as a space to air ideas and get feedback on your work-in-progress.

Please send the title of your presentation and a short abstract to Catherine Gibson and Martin Vailly by Friday 3rd February.

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