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Where natural and social science meet? Reflections on an experiment in geographical practice

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Michael Bravo.

Like archaeology and anthropology, the range of research and pedagogy undertaken in the name of geography spans subject matter and approaches to it found across the spectrum of the humanities, social and natural sciences. Suspended between the magnetic poles of ‘human’ and ‘physical’ geography, the diversity of the geographical project is a source of both strength and weakness. At its best, it equips scholars to tack between radically different knowledge practices, fostering an inventive inter-disciplinarity rather than a prescribed path to some transcendent integration. However, geography’s identity as an inter-discipline that works across the division of social and natural sciences can be argued to be realised more effectively today in the co-habitation of ‘physical’ and ‘human’ geographers in shared buildings and curricula, than in research practice. As the contents of disciplinary journals and the publication habits of those working in the two wings of the discipline attest, both are commonly more conversant with work in cognate disciplines through common fields of interest (such as urban studies or glaciology) than with each other’s. In this, as historians of geography have argued, geographical practice has always been exercised through different sites, techniques and materials which have kept it a heterogeneous and contested enterprise. Yet these features – heterogeneity and contestation – are surely characteristic of all disciplines, and would be unremarkable were it not for the weight attached in the geographical tradition to integrating natural and social worlds.

This talk is part of the Department of Geography - main Departmental seminar series series.

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