Kant argued that time (history) and space (geography) were fundamentally different categories. Moreover, he argued that the latter was fundamental to the former in that space always provided a context for events and phenomenon. Geographers have argued at length that this dichotomy does not hold. One need only consider something as (seemingly) basic as “Greenwich Mean Time” – or the measure of longitude for that matter – to see that the two are inextricably intertwined. This week’s readings focus on one particular notion of time: evolution. This concept has been extraordinarily useful to conceiving of the field of biogeography as the study of the temporal and spatial characteristics of the distribution of organisms. But when those same principles are applied to human societies, the results are seem much more political rather than natural. And yet, the quest continues to find ways of making the study of history scientific. Jared Diamond’s attempt is notable both for its use of evolution as the driver of history and for its enormous popularity – it spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Diamond is now arguably one of the most well-known geographers in America. At the same time, his work looks an awful lot like, “environmental determinism in anti-racist drag” as the historical geographer Iain Boal has quipped. James Blaut has also written a scathing critique of Diamond’s work. For this week’s readings, be mindful both of how time and space are interconnected with particular consideration to how that link is made intellectually and what consequences that brings. More broadly, should all geographers be trying to adhere to a single concept of time? Is that any more or less problematic than adhering to a single notion of space?
Historical geographers have struggled with these questions since the 1970s, exploring a range of different approaches through re-engagement with the humanties (e.g. Cosgrove, Duncan), post-structural theory (Driver, Hannah), and environmental history (Cronon). That work has been further extended by human geographers such as Torsten Hagerstrand, Alan Pred, and Nigel Thrift (among others) efforts to study “time-geography.” David Harvey’s theory of “time-space compression” has also become influential, particularly with scholars in the humanities.
Cosgrove, D.E., 1998. Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape.
Cronon, W., 1983. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. Hill and Wang New York,
Duncan, J.S., 1990 (2005). The City As Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom.
Hägerstrand, T., 1985. Time-geography: focus on the corporeality of man, society and environment. The science and praxis of complexity , 193-216.
Hannah, M.G., 2000. Governmentality and the Mastery of Territory in Nineteenth-Century America. Cambridge Univ Pr,
Pred, A., 1977. The choreography of existence: comments on Hägerstrand's time-geography and its usefulness. Economic Geography 53 (2), 207-221.
Thrift, N., 1983. On the determination of social action in space and time. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 1 (1), 23-57.