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Postcolonialising Geography: Tactics and Pitfalls

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The moves within postcolonial theory to “provincialise Europe” encourage an acknowledgement of the parochial nature of much of what still passes for universal theory in the western academy. Within geography, postcolonialism has generated a strong interest in colonial histories and contemporary postcolonial politics, but this has not displaced the dominant parochial forms of theorising in the discipline. The paper argues for a more cosmopolitan theoretical project within geography, one whose routes through a range of intellectual traditions and contexts might encourage a broader scope to conversations about space and nature, and produce more lively and creative insights into some of the urgent political issues facing the world today. A geography whose intellectual vision is limited to the concerns and perspectives of the richest countries in the world has little hope of effectively participating in the debates that will matter in the twenty-first century. Within the frame of this long-term intellectual project, this paper will suggest some initial practical steps which researchers, writers, teachers and students in geography might take to start to decentre the predominant Euro-Americanism of the discipline. The specific sources of inspiration for this argument are drawn from comparative urbanism and Southern African geography.
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Keywords: cities; cosmopolitan; geography; postcolonial; theorising space

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

Publication date: 01 November 2003

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