Monday, November 21, 2011

A "Tribute" to Critical Geographers

 Now another Catholicgauze rant.  Normal geography blogging to continue on Tuesday.

A geographer friend of mine is currently suffering due to his reading papers by critical geographers for class.  These "critical" "geographers" are Marxists, feminists, and alike who tend to study issues through their own political lenses.  Most do work that most people would not recognize as geography.  These geographers are almost always academics who hate the state that pays them to work in ivy towers.  What irks personally me the most is that they completely reject the concept of truth.


Example

Currently my friend is reading the book "Rethinking the Power of Maps" by Denis Wood.  Wood's now famous argument (in academia) is that maps are not depictions of places but instead propaganda trying to argue a particular viewpoint.  Some maps certainly are arguments but Wood's claims every map is an argument... even highway road maps and city chamber of commerce maps.

Wood spends a full chapter in the book blasting the North Carolina's official road map for highlighting North Carolina at the cost of other states.  Yes, you read that right.  Wood repeatedly savages North Carolina for cartographic "sins" including the use of a legend which, in Wood's mind, highlights what only North Carolina thinks important and "rapes" the landscape of other features.  My friend stated Wood goes straight into a rant that only an "educated, highly paid conspiracy theorist could write."

So is my friend right or is Wood's an academic genius?  Is there any way to find out?  Maybe.  Knowing that Wood's was a state of North Carolina employee until he lost his job for repeatedly raping a child in his care and then threatening the kid does help one reach a judgment.

Conclusion

Are all critical geographers rapists, no of course not.  However, they tend to spout out ideas that either have little relevance to geography or fail to advance the science in any meaningful way (check out what the the Socialist & Critical Geography specialty group's presentations or Antipode for examples).  So much academic time and resources have been spent on trying to figure out if maps are really depictions or arguments rather than focusing geography on exploration of other planets, cultural studies for military and foreign policy, or even figuring out how to improve geographic literacy without just throwing money at the problem.  Give me a good National Geographic, book, or a blog post on the Catholicgauze Reads list anyday for real geography.

Post-Script

My friend created "The World According to Critical Geographers" as a rebuttal to critical geographers...

The World According to Critical Geographers.  Click to enlarge

1 comment:

pfly said...

Heh...I can agree with the notion that all maps have some kind of "bias", showing some things and not others, and that no map is "objective" in an absolute sense. But that North Carolina example sounds way extreme. Using the word "rape", or other equally button-pushing words, when describing a regular should invoke a cartographic version of Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies--"okay this is ridiculous now, moving along!"