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Disrupting the ‘whiteness’ of fieldwork in geography

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This paper argues that whilst fieldwork continues to make an important contribution to the learning and teaching of geography, analysis of the present-day practice of UK universities taking students on long-distance overseas trips remains apolitical and, by and large, concerned with practicalities. If this practice is analysed by locating it within a postcolonial theoretical framework of ‘whiteness’ it is then possible to look at the differing standpoint and positionality of those doing the viewing and those being viewed, and to also see the connections between the imperialist history of geographical exploration and present-day overseas field trips, in particular to developing countries. Using personal experience of taking UK undergraduates to visit historic slave trading sites in The Gambia as an example, the paper argues that the potential of field study to contribute to the critical pedagogy of geographical fieldwork within UK institutions of higher education requires stronger political analysis.
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Keywords: The Gambia; imperial history of geography; overseas fieldwork; positionality; whiteness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2006

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