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What, Exactly, Is Feminist Geography?

Posted: July 16, 2017 at 11:44 am   /   by
Originally published on this site

(John Hinderaker)

The bizarre corners of academia are usually Steve’s beat, but a reader sent me a link to an article about a paper published in Gender, Place & Culture, a Journal of Feminist Geography. The paper, by Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne, is titled “Citation matters: mobilizing the politics of citation toward a practice of ‘conscientious engagement.’” It urges academics working in the field of geography not to cite works by white, heterosexual men:

An increasing amount of scholarship in critical, feminist, and anti-racist geographies has recently focused self-reflexively on the topics of exclusion and discrimination within the discipline itself. In this article we contribute to this literature by considering citation as a problematic technology that contributes to the reproduction of the white heteromasculinity of geographical thought and scholarship, despite advances toward more inclusivity in the discipline in recent decades. … We argue for a conscientious engagement with the politics of citation as a geographical practice that is mindful of how citational practices can be a tool for either the reification of, or resistance to, unethical hierarchies of knowledge production. We offer practical and conceptual reasons for carefully thinking through the role of citation as a performative embodiment of the reproduction of geographical thought.

The Washington Times quotes from the paper:

The authors point out that whether an academic’s research is cited by his peers has significant implications for promotion, tenure and influence. Therefore, to cite only white men “does a disservice to researchers and writers who are othered by white heteromasculinism.”

The authors define “white heteromasculinism” as “an intersectional system of oppression describing on-going processes that bolster the status of those who are white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.”

What any of this has to do with geography, God only knows.

As often happens with academic journals, one wonders whether the whole thing is an elaborate joke. On balance, I think Gender, Place & Culture is intended seriously. Still, papers like this one cause me to wonder: “Fucking geographers! Or the epistemological consequences of neglecting the lusty researcher’s body.”

This article investigates the dichotomy within research on sexuality between the desiring body of the informant on the one hand and the non-desiring body of the researcher on the other. Despite earlier calls to acknowledge and include the eroticisms of the researcher, accounts where the desiring researcher’s body is a central focus remain exceptions to the rule. The main goal of this intervention is to investigate why the absence of the lusty researcher’s body seems to endure. I will first explore some of the reasons researchers might feel inhibited to self-disclose their desires, to continue with uncovering some of the techniques used to sustain the cover of the asexual, disembodied researcher. Afterwards, I will discuss my own experiences as a (junior) researcher in the field, mainly my own discomfort and embarrassment to be perceived as a desiring woman-researcher, and trace how this has informed my own research trajectory. I conclude by suggesting that writing down our negotiations between the validity of our research versus how much we are willing to self-disclose might be a first step towards an improved inclusion of lust and desire in sex research.

I can’t tell whether she is talking about geography or sex research, or both. Which is probably not a good sign.

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What, Exactly, Is Feminist Geography?