Creating people's geographies
Update: This site has been irregularly maintained for the past couple of years. It may be updated and relaunched shortly — am just juggling a lot of work!
Dr Ann El Khoury
Peoples Geography is a site that contributes to the project of promoting contemporary radical* geography, a rich tradition of dissent and positing alternatives, a political movement to reclaim mind-spaces and virtual spaces, as well as public (physical) space.
*Radical – the root of the matter: [from Late Latin radicalis, having roots]
The phrase ‘people’s geography’ is drawn from and inspired by one of my favourite geographers, David Harvey. In 1984 he called for a people’s geography, writing:
The geography we make must be a people’s geography, not based on pious universalisms, ideals and good intents, but a more mundane enterprise that reflects earthly interests, and claims, that confronts ideologies and prejudice as they really are, that faithfully mirrors the complex weave of competition, struggle, and cooperation within the shifting social and physical landscapes of the twentieth [and twenty-first] century. The world must be depicted, analyzed, and understood [as] the material manifestation of human hopes and fears mediated by powerful and conflicting processes of social reproduction. Such a peoples’ geography must have a popular base, be threaded into the fabric of daily life with deep taproots into the well-springs of popular consciousness. But it must also open channels of communication, undermine parochialist world views, and confront or subvert the power of the dominant classes or the state. It must penetrate the barriers to common understandings by identifying the material base to common interests.
– Harvey, ‘On the History and Present Condition of Geography: A Historical-Materialist Manifesto’ first published in Professional Geographer, 1984; see also his Spaces of Capital, Ch 6, 2001:116–117.
Harvey sounded a clarion call and has inspired many of us (see the excellent New York-based Peoples Geography Project organisational website as a primary example).
This project must surely be propositional and not just oppositional, but before we posit geographies of enablement and not just of resistance we must know what exactly are the disabling and disempowering currents out there eroding democracy and freedom and reducing agency to being good consumer sheeple – corporatism, rabid consumerism, militarism, racism, sexism … all these should be consigned to wasms.This is a project to reclaim our spaces, our geographies … please come along for the ride. This site is a noticeboard, a repository, a safe-space to air thoughts and to emote, a part of cyberspace that shall be forever radical … (read = aims for justice).
Reclaiming peoples geographies intimates a grassroots endeavour that involves reappropriating what is and was always ours – our common weal, our agency, our dignity, and capacity to create and shape our futures.
Amid an era of waning Empire, our dissent also requires of us humour, and a well developed sense of the ridiculous, as the horrors of contemporary Empire and militarism pile up and are slowly brought to light.
Humour and a sense of play all keep our spirits up and keep us going, renewing our agency and prevent us from succumbing to despair. We recognise too, that often deep truth lies in satire, and that the twenty-first century equivalents of the mediaeval court jester, the satirists, political cartoonists and comedians, are needed and appreciated now more than ever.
While this weblog has a decidedly political focus currently quite weighted toward Middle East issues, it also reflects a much broader interest in people, culture, empowerment, and political strategies.
Thanks for coming by, and do drop in any time, feel free to participate, wherever you are on spaceship earth.
In January 2009, I also co-founded P U L S E, a joint political weblog bringing together a number of like-minded activists, academics and web 2.0 collaborators. I still contribute to PULSE but have left it in good editorial hands as I focus on my offline writing.
Email: ann @ peoplesgeography.com