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Conclusion: Designing a Working Agenda for the 21st Century

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Introspectory exercises are healthy for the growth of a discipline and they also indicate the vibrancy level in the concerned field of knowledge. In the main essays spread across four sections, contributing authors have tried to find out the lacking(s) in respective field, identify the respective need(s), and have in turn also suggested the ways of accomplishment. It is however not the first instance where such an exercise has been undertaken by the “Indianist” or “dweller” Indian geographers. Of course, the history of such endeavours is relatively new. The purpose of this last Chapter of the book is to intertwine the emerging thoughts from the included essays here. Accordingly, the remaining portion of this Chapter takes up four main issues: forgotten agendas, what to do, why to do, and how to do.

As mentioned in Chapter two, Spate (1956) stressed “demand-mapping” rather than overworked “problem-mapping”. It is still a valid call to which we have not attended sufficiently and continue overworking the already “overworked” problem-identification exercise. The “highly desirable and indeed essential” fields of research identified by him; of course, need to be seen in the present context and the ensuing challenges to the Indian economy, culture and society. Sopher (1973/2009) was perhaps the first to make a clarion call, to “dweller” Indian geographers especially, to bring “Indian-ness” in their studies and to seek what is already there in the landscape and folk tradition. His emphasis was also on the use of indigenous concepts and terms, neglected in the works of Indian geographers, which can explain the local reality in the best manner possible. Similarly, Schwartzberg (1983/2009) too indicated to a few weaknesses crippling healthy growth of Indian Geography and ultimately affecting the (international) status. In the same vein Misra (1983, 1–10) pounced over a variety of problems and recommended four issues needing attention of Indian geographers especially: quality of textbooks, reinforcing physical geography, areas of concentration, and ways of implementation. Since then, one did not hear any voice of that sort until 1991 when Mukerji (1992/2009), one of the senior most geographers, honestly affirmed “ailments” the Indian Geography was suffering from. The sectional titles reflected issues like senior geographers’ regressive dominance, methodological problems, physical geography's position, research stereotyping, funding issues, over-application of choroplething method, weakening tradition of fieldwork, intellectual import from overseas, stress on relevance, etc. These points ably demonstrated his deep concerns and considered view on the health of Indian Geography. Some of these issues like deprivation of physical geography have been raised by others, like Gosal (1980) and Dayal in Kapur (2002, 318), too. In this book, Dey (Chapter 8) also talks about the same which is an indication of how unfortunately nothing has perceptibly changed and we tend to forget our fallacies as if they were no fallacy at all. It is pertinent to remember that many among us doubt and question our expertise in efficiently handling the problems of physical environment (Lahiri-Dutt 2005/2009). Such an observation should instead of being simply rubbished need to be considered in view of the contemporary scenario. The intension, of citing both types of views here, is to clarify the nature of difference in the perspective. It is high time that we do away with dualistic vision which mars the image of the discipline as much as it has multiple detrimental effects on the future course of development. I believe 21st century is an opportunity to return to our disciplinary roots where geography was not seen partitioned or divided and it had a “unified” character which not only defined it but also placed it uniquely among systematic disciplines. Under the influencing wave of dominant paradigm of systematic branching off the body of knowledge, we were trapped and the physical drifted away from human. Matthews and Herbert (2004) argue for the “unity in geography” and the other essays in their volume too remind us of our disciplinary heritage and impress with fresh arguments for this cause.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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