Professor of Geography, Indiana University
Vice-President of the American Association of Geographers
Jan 27, 2023, 3:35 PM
The widening gap between critical human and physical geography raises concerns about the long-term viability of our field and spurs regular calls for reintegration. Even a brief review of these calls makes two points glaringly clear: this discussion has been going on for a long, long time and, given its regular reoccurrence, it would seem we have little to show for it. I argue here that there is already a strong and growing body of work that draws together critical human and physical geography: critical physical geography (CPG). Individually or in teams, critical physical geographers are bridging the gap, combining insights from climatology, geomorphology, biogeography and remote sensing with approaches from political economy, feminist geography, STS, and environmental justice. The key characteristics that unify this work are 1) its emphasis on treating biophysical processes and unequal social power relations with equal seriousness, 2) its acknowledgement of the politics of knowledge production, and 3) its normative agenda of promoting eco-social transformation. Using examples from CPG research, I argue that combining critical human and physical geography lenses allows us to see eco-social issues differently and more deeply than current environmental narratives.
Rebecca Lave is a Professor of Geography at Indiana University and Vice-President of the American Association of Geographers. Her research takes a critical physical geography approach, combining political economy, STS, and fluvial geomorphology to analyze stream restoration, the politics of environmental expertise, and community-based responses to flooding. She has published in journals ranging from Science to Social Studies of Science and is the author of two monographs: Fields and Streams: Stream Restoration, Neoliberalism, and the Future of Environmental Science (2012, University of Georgia Press) and Streams of Revenues: The Restoration Economy and the Ecosystems it Creates (2021 MIT Press; co-written with Martin Doyle).