Thursday, March 09, 2006

AAG: Thursday Morning Update

I here at the Association of American Geographers 102nd Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Wednesday's Thoughts

I did not attend any sessions Wednesday because my group flew in at noon and crashed on the hotel beds all day.

The Geography Bowl competition was awesome. I was not going to play this year because I've been moving around this past year and had no region I could call "home." However, the AAG called for the creation of a spoiler team to balance out the round-robin system. So a Kansas State grad student, several Rutgers undergraduates, a George Mason undergraduate, and I formed the "Equators" and set out to upset the world. We finished 2-5 but had the best time of all the teams. In a weird turn around I somehow became the third most valuable player of all the competitors. No prize however expect for being stunned.

Going into Thursday:

I plan on making up for lost time by seeing presentations all day. Today I plan on seeing a session on religious geography and two on military geography. The military geography people have not disappointed me so far.

Radicalism and racism is alive and well here in the AAG. Mohameden Ould-Mey will present a paper entitled "New Conservatives or Old Zionists? The Conspiracy against Iraq to Secure Israel." Ould-Mey is a Ph.D and professor at Indiana State University- looks like bigots can go far in academia. Last year he gave a fierce defense of terrorists targeting of children. Groups like Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group are sponsoring many presentations that openly embrace Marxist thought. It’s something that even though Communism has killed more people than Nazism (another branch of socialism) people still brace the thought that Communism equals world peace and the solution to world problems.

If any geographers are at the convention currently leave a comment!


ryan the lion said...

Hello! I'm the spokesperson for the Communications Collective of the Socialist/Critical Geography SG (a mouthful, I know!). I stumbled across your blog and was surprised to see your short diatribe against our group. First off, thanks for linking to our site because by doing so you boosted our Google PageRank! :)

But I was hoping I could-respectfully- ask a couple questions that I was left with after reading this.

My first question, one that's really burning me, is who are you? I found "Patrick Abbott" from Kansas State; are you faculty there?

Second, have you looked into our group at all? Because yes, we promote Marxist analyses, but that's certainly not our limit - hence the second part of our name, "Critical Geography". So if you look at our 2010 sponsored sessions list, we have post-colonial theory, activism, geography and art, and emotional geographies sessions. Do you find the same discomfort with, say, Harawayian theories of the cyborg as "liberated from its Cartesian-Christian heritage"? Because that's also a session we would sponsor.

Third, and this is an honest question, have you read any Marxist geography literature? I suspect you'd be surprised at the amount of diversity there. Sure, some people still hold on to vestiges of some sort of a "revolution", but that's not the focus for the majority of this literature (at least in my experience). It's more about exploring the spatial division of labor and social inequality, exploring the spatial effects of capitalism's (and otherwise) increasing dependence on oil, housing, etc. Writing this just now reminded me of Harvey's confrontation with the Chicago School of Urban Sociology and his acknowledgment that while the word "Marxist" strikes fear into the hearts of many people, it's (often) simply about theorizing the relationship between place/space and capitalism. Not to be disrespectful, but your post was immediately reminding that irrational McCarthyism is unfortunately still alive and well.

Fourth, and this might be more backtracking than moving "forward", but when you imply that our group endorses bigotry seemingly without understanding the nuances of what we do and certainly without knowing us as people, is this not laden with as much bigotry as the people you are accusing of being bigots?

Fifth, and this is where I will push back gently instead of asking a question, but you should probably be a little bit more specific or refined in your argument when you make either erroneous(saying "Nazism (another branch of socialism)") or wildly deceptive (saying "people still brace [sic] the thought that Communism equals world peace and the solution to world problems") blanket statements about the field of Marxist geography. Because first, any definition of Nazism would be dramatically different than socialism (look them up, please, and communism too); and second, as I've already pointed out, "Communism = world peace" is quite the caricature of Marxist geography since not very many people actually hold that assumption. And even if they do, it's best to actually engage their ideas to explicate their shortcomings, rather than caricaturize them and rely on an ad hominem/appeal to emotion fallacy.

I certainly don't mean to come across as combative, but honestly, you kinda set yourself up for it in that paragraph! :) We may have differing political commitments, but that should not mean that we can't discuss some things on the same playing field. I'm glad I found your blog and I'm intrigued by some of the categories that I'm sure will be great to read (e.g., new media, geography humor, and maps). Keep up all the hard work; Geography needs more public voices such as yours! Feel free to view my own site as well.

ryan the lion said...

My personal web site, I mean. Cheers.