Professionalisation, activism, and the university: whither `critical geography'?

17 Jan 2018, 11:37 a.m.
Noel Castree Department of Geography, Liverpool University

Abstract. In this paper I seek to describe, explain, and evaluate three decades of Left geographical change. Now that `critical geography'örather than `radical geography'öhas become the privileged descriptor for Left geographical inquiry, it is argued that this temporal switch of labels is of more than merely semantic significance. Specifically, it is suggested that the supercession of the `radical geography' label is symptomatic of a substantive shift in the nature and purposes of Left geographical inquiry. This shift has entailed the `professionalisation' and `academicisation' of Left geography. Both developments have occurred in the context of a thirty-year transition from a `modern' to an `after-modern' higher education system. Taking the Anglo-American case, it is argued that the current vitality
of the geographical (read `critical') Left in the academy correlates with its detachment from `real world' political constituencies and also a blindness to the academic changes underpinning this inverse correlation. Rather than worrying over their apparent failure to connect with constituencies `out there', it is argued that geographical Leftists need to recapture something of the radical geography spirit of
action and engagement in order to contest changes occurring `in here': that is, changes in the political and moral economy of the higher system that enables and constrains our academic labours. A brief manifesto for a `domesticated critical geography' is offered by way of a conclusion.

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