Sunday, 6 September 2015

How have conceptions of earth, environment and otherness changed over the years in relation to conceptions of politics, science and truth—and how might these conceptions and connections be thought through differently?

A truism of PhD study: you've got to have a question! I've known this for some time—and already lost count of the times that I've been prompted for it—but struggled to come up with a question for my own project. Not so much because I couldn't boil my interests down to a simple sentence but rather because I hated what that residue looked like and couldn't quite bring myself to repeat it!

Having spent the last few days at the 2015 RGS-IBG conference, listening to ever so many interesting presentations of ideas by researchers of all ages and stages struggling with many of the same issues as I am, it now seems clear (in fact I somehow woke up this morning with these words rumbling around my head):
How have conceptions of earth, environment and otherness changed over the years in relation to conceptions of politics, science and truth—and how might these conceptions and connections be thought through differently?
Okay, so that's two questions, strictly speaking, but they're really two sides of the same coin. Also, it is still extremely ambitious and far-reaching. However, I think that, from now on, every time that someone remarks, with a half-masked air of incredulity, that this is an 'ambitious' project, I will simply reply, with as sweet a smile as I can muster: yes, and?…

That is not something that I feel the need to justify. I claim it by right—for myself and for anyone else who wants it! Perhaps such grand plans will fail, perhaps they will not. In any case, I will not allow them to fail due to the doubtfulness or lack of imagination of others. It will take more than a slightly flippant smile to navigate the rocky waters of academic conservatism but I think that, suitably bedecked, it is possible.

If anybody is allowed to ask Big Questions, everybody must be allowed to ask Big Questions. The gerontocratic settlement that has Youngers do the plodding leg-work so that Elders can do the far-seeing speculation is not only unjust—it just doesn't work…

All of which is not to suggest that the last few days have been discouraging—quite the opposite. I've been extremely encouraged by the generosity and good-heartedness of those I've been able to meet and to see again. Particularly, Lauren Rickards, Simon Dalby and Rory Rowan but I could easily list a dozen others.

This week has also brought home to me just how much work there is to be done—not only on my own project(s) but also in taking on the many assorted inadequacies concerning how various forms of knowledge are supposed to be made conversant. Geography is a strange discipline in this respect: it is so very good at providing space within which questions that cut across traditional dividing lines can be asked but so very bad at recognising its own informal fissures and striations that carve up the epistemic field in manners no less arbitrary or effective.

As a concluding aside, this blog has been a little quiet over the summer. It has been an extraordinarily hectic one for various reasons, not least of which is that I will be uprooting my life and moving to Aberystwyth in a couple of weeks. Five days of work left in which to tie up five years of loose ends (from my current job). Then packing!

There will be more blogging on the other side… (Particularly at EISA, which I am very much looking forward to!)

No comments:

Post a Comment