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Researching the outdoors: exploring the unsettled frontier between science and adventure

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Outdoor practitioners and academic geographers arguably share a common origin in the explorers of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. The two interests diverged during the twentieth century, as academic geography became less dependent on travel, and the pursuit of knowledge no longer provided the sole justification for exploration and adventure, but some synergies remain, at least in experiencing and making sense of the natural environment. This paper reflects on some pilot fieldwork for an on‐going research project that combines fluvial geomorphology and outdoor education practice, in order to explore the parallels and differences between physical geography and outdoor education. A key area of divergence is identified in the degree of attention paid to the ‘self’, and particularly the body, in our interactions with the environment. We highlight the role of embodied experience both in our approach to the field site and in the subsequent framing and re‐framing of the research project, joining calls for greater attention to be paid to the corporeal practice of fieldwork. We conclude by arguing that Driver's notion of an ‘unsettled frontier’ (2001, Geography militant: cultures of exploration and empire Blackwell, Oxford) between science and adventure is as relevant for contemporary discourse as he suggests it is for historical geography.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College Plymouth St Mark & St John, Plymouth PL6 8BH,

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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