Gazing into the crystal ball for insights into tomorrow's world is always a dangerous game, and I do not want to make any predictions about the future of geography. There is no reason why all of the above future scenarios (re-integration, co-existence, splitting up) cannot occur at different times in different places. I doubt very much that there is one, unitary future of geography, just as there has been no single history of geography. Conflicts and debates between physical and human geography are only one part of the overall picture of what geography is like today. The issues and tensions they reveal are, however, of great importance to all of us. What is happening in geography needs to be set within the context of real debates over science in an age of global uncertainty, informed by an understanding of the differences between the spectrum of academic tribes and territories as outlined by Becher and Trowler (2001). As responsible scholars and scientists we should always ask ourselves is our research worth doing, do we have the skills to do it, and can we attract the funding to pay for it and ensure its continuation in the future. We need to keep open dialogues between all geographers and other scientists - natural and social - with whom we have common interests. Understanding the dynamics that have influenced our discipline in the past and continue to do so can help us to shape the future of our academic tribes in the face of a changing world, crammed full of geographical problems which need addressing. Whether we are from Venus or Mars matters less than whether we understand ourselves, where we are coming from and what we are trying to do.
1 Does the viability of Geography as a discipline depend upon the closer integration of physical and human geography? As well as reading Clifford (2002), Gober (2000), Johnston (2003), Stoddart (1987), Thrift (2002) and Urban and Rhoads (2003), you should reflect on those parts of the course that you have personally done to date. Consider the question from the perspectives of both research and teaching. You could use examples from the special issue on African Environments in the December 2003 issue of Area.
2 In what ways do the practices and theories of Physical and Human Geography differ? Becher and Trowler (2001) distinguish between 'urban' and 'rural' modes of research, which might be a good place to start. But even if you cannot get hold of this book, you will find answers in Ferguson (2003), Johnston (2003), Worsley (1979), and more indication of common ground in Massey (1999) and Openshaw (1991). Read two of the case studies in the references closely to try to work out how the authors go about things differently. Consider also the possibility that differences within the two subdisciplines are as great as those between them.
1 Question in an undergraduate Geography final examination paper, University of Oxford (1999).
Becher, T. and Trowler, P.R. (2001) Academic Tribes and Territories, 2nd edn. Society for Research into Higher Education and the Open University Press, Buckingham.
Clifford, N.J. (2002) The future of Geography: when the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Geoforum 33, 431-436.
Dougill, A.J., Thomas, D.S.G. and Heathwaite, A.L. (1999) Environmental change in the Kalahari: integrated land degradation studies for nonequilibrium dryland environments. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89,420-442.
Endfield, G.H. and O'Hara, S.L. (1999) Degradation, drought and dissent: an environmental history of colonial Michoacan, west Central Mexico. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89, 402-419.
Ferguson, R.I. (2003) Publication practices in physical and human geography: a comment on Nigel Thrift's 'The future of geography'. Geoforum 34, 9-11.
Gober, P. (2000) Presidential address: in search of synthesis. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90, 1-11.
Gray, J. (1992) Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. HarperCollins, New York.
Gregory, K.J., Gurnell, A.M. and Petts, G.E. (2002) Restructuring physical geography. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 27, 136-154.
Hooke, J.M. (2003) River meander behaviour and instability: a framework for analysis. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 28, 238-253.
Johnston, R.J. (2003) Geography: a different sort of discipline? Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 28, 133-141.
Liverman, D.M. (1999) Geography and the global environment. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89, 107-120.
Mackinder, H. (1887) On the scope and method of geography. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 9,141-160.
Massey, D. (1999) Space-time, 'science' and the relationship between physical geography and human geography. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 24, 261-276.
Openshaw, S. (1991) A view on the GIS crisis in geography, or, using GIS to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Environment and Planning A 23, 621-628.
Rhoads, B.L. (1999) Beyond pragmatism: the value of philosophical discourse for physical geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89, 760-771.
Richards, K. (2003) Ethical grounds for an integrated geography. In Trudgill, S.T. and Roy, A. (eds) Contemporary Meanings in Physical Geography. Arnold, London, pp. 233-258.
Sardar, Z. and Van Loon, B. (2002) Introducing Science. Icon, Cambridge.
Somerville, M. (1848) Physical Geography. John Murray, London.
Stoddart, D.R. (1987) To claim the high ground: geography for the end of the century. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 12, 327-326.
Swyngedouw, E. (1999) Modernity and hybridity: nature, Regeneracionismo, and the production of the Spanish waterscape, 1890-1930. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 89, 443-465.
Thrift, N. (2002) The future of geography. Geoforum 33, 291-298.
Turner, B.L. (2002) Response to Thrift's 'The future of geography'. Geoforum 33, 427-429.
Urban, M. and Rhoads, B. (2003) Conceptions of nature: implications for an integrated geography. In Trudgill, S.T. and Roy, A. (eds) Contemporary Meanings in Physical Geography. Arnold, London, pp. 211-232.
Valins, O. (2003) Stubborn identities and the construction of socio-spatial boundaries: ultra-orthodox Jews living in contemporary Britain. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 28, 158-175.
Worsley, P. (1979) Whither geomorphology? Area 11, 97-101.
Ziman, J. (2000) Real Science: What It Is, and What It Means. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Was this article helpful?