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The Geographical State: The Development of Canadian Geography

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The purposes of this paper are to discuss the historical emergence of academic geography in Canada, and how it has been tied closely to the nation-state. Canadian geography is not simply a slice from a pre-existing disciplinary block but has been actively formed and moulded by a set of evolving national imperatives determined and coordinated by the state. Justification for this larger argument derives from science studies which aver that context, in this case the national one of Canada, enters into the very lineaments of knowledge. The paper is divided into three main sections. The first is a conceptual discussion drawn from science studies of the relation between national context and disciplinary knowledge. The second sets out the historical development of Canadian geography from the seventeenth century until the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Association of Geographers in 1951. The final section reviews the subsequent 50 years of Canadian geography by focusing on four important moments within the discipline's history, each of which reflects in various forms the nation-state: the quantitative revolution, humanistic geography, the development of GIS, and immigration and the Metropolis project.

Keywords: Canadian geography; nation-state; science studies

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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