Engaging geography

v. communicating public geographies

with one comment


This seminar is entitled ‘Communicating public geographies’. This begs the questions: “which public?”and “which geography?”

We start from the assumption that “geography” is product. Geographers in a variety of institutions produce different versions of the subject. They literally represent aspects of the world, whether it is through the scientific language (with accompanying maps and tables) of the policy report, the pedagogical device of the school textbook, or the creative forms of poetry or performance. In all of these geographical productions, there is an assumed “public”. These publics are not simply “out there”, waiting around to be communicated with, but are actively constructed by geographers.

Accordingly, this seminar will, borrowing from David Harvey’s 1974 paper, ask: what kinds of geography for what kind of public?

Furthermore, the phrase ‘geography is what geographers do’ only takes us so far. The seminar is interested in forms of geography, and what makes it geography.

Reports and downloads

David Lambert and John Morgan have written a report on this meeting which can be read here.


Date: 13th October 2010
Room 836, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1 H 0AL.
Convenors: David Lambert (Geographical Association / Institute of Education) and John Morgan (Institute of Education)


10.30: tea/coffee

11.00: Introduction to the day.

  • Introductions
  • David Lambert: Do we have to say what geography is? To whom?

11.20: Session one. ‘Setting the scene and whetting the appetite.’

12.15: Lunch & informal discussion

1.00: Session two. ‘Particular settings and perspectives’.

Key elements and participants were as follows. Contributors were encouraged to provide specific instances, examples or case studies to illustrate or exemplify the points they wished to make.

2.30 pm Discussion: Michael Young: what is a Powerful Knowledge?

Michael Young is a distinguished Professor of Education at the Institute of Education. The disciplinary basis for his research is the sociology of knowledge, represented by two career spanning and important books:

Young, M. (1971) Knowledge and Control. London: Collier Macmillan.

Young, M. (2007) Bringing Knowledge Back In: From social constructivism to social realism in the sociology of education. London: Routledge.

Michael will provide a 20 minute input, possibly picking up on matters arising from the above, plus further time for questions [download paper]

3.15: Tea break

3.30: Session 3. ‘In what ways is geography a powerful knowledge to communicate, and to whom?’

1. Pairs or threes [40 mins]

Write down (in a form that can be left with the seminar organisers):

  • specific ways in which geography is a ‘powerful knowledge’
  • particular ‘publics’ who need access to geography as a powerful knowledge (and why)

2. Feedback-discussion, based on a ‘one-minute headlines’ from each group [30 mins]

4.40: Brief round-up and short break

5.00: Session 4. School Textbook Archive (with wine and nibbles)

Launch of the Geography School Textbook archive: a fully catalogued collection at the Institute of Education, assembled by donation and financial assistance from the Frederick Soddy Trust.

Opening up opportunities to study the ‘knowledge of the powerful’ and ‘powerful school curriculum knowledge’ in the context of school geography. With Ashley Kent, Emeritus Professor of geography Education and leader of the archive project.

6.00: Depart


Written by Ian Cook et al

September 2, 2008 at 9:39 pm

One Response

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  1. One of the most under-utilized “public geography” tools at our disposal is the (we)blog. I have found that keeping, for example only, a sabbatical research blog (see website link) is a fantastic way to be transparent to both institutions and individuals that we work with on a daily basis. It is also a self-accountability tool, as well, so that we can keep IRB records, ethical statements all “public” for those wanting to track and read about what geographers DO, and not just what we say. – Eric Perramond

    Eric Perramond

    January 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm

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