Tag Archives: knowledge

Geographers’ Mobility in Academia

By Benjamin Sacks

Travel amongst Chinese geographers has dramatically increased in the last decade. © 2013 Wikimedia Commons.

Travel amongst Chinese geographers has dramatically increased in the last decade. © 2013 Wikimedia Commons.

In a series of mid-1980s studies, Pierre Bourdieu explicated his ethnocentric conceptions of capital accumulation, conversion, and authority. Knowledge and power, he asserted, were deeply related, and used across cultural divides to establish and maintain elites. In France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere, academic institutions (e.g., private grammar schools, elite universities, and think tank centres) formed a vital component of state power or, as Bourdieu (1996) described, ‘underlining the central role of the…elite higher education system in perpetuating social domination by the elites’ (Leung p. 314). Academics’ experiences both in and outside the classroom provided them with an ever-expanding “toolkit” to enhance their own perceived value, prestige, and usefulness to state and private requirements. This, as Karl Marx originally, albeit very broadly outlined, and Bourdieu refined, constituted an important form of ‘capital accumulation’ (Leung p. 313).

In her April 2013 article ‘”Read ten thousand books, walk ten thousand miles”: geographical mobility and capital accumulation among Chinese scholars‘, Maggie W H Leung (Utrecht University) complicated and contextualized Bourdieu’s terminology. Relying on a decade of studies by S Robertson and P Blumenthal, amongst other scholars, Leung specified geographical mobility – that is, the role movement across location and space has in cultivating academics’ knowledge – as a valuable form of capital accumulation. Generally speaking, academics gain knowledge and authority through the comprehensiveness of their research, which is (often) intrinsically linked with their ability to travel, conduct field or archival research of primary resources, and to network at national and international conferences. Concerning international migration, academics are ‘[c]onsidered as the best and brightest’, carrying with them highly important ‘social, economic and technical’ data and concepts (p. 312).

Leung focused her examination on the increasingly vital China-Germany route. Academics across discipline travel to German universities, think tanks, and conferences to engage with “Western” technologies, ideas, and publications, before returning to China to teach and implement these approaches for domestic (public and private) audiences. This did indeed comprise a form of Bourdieu’s academic accumulation. However, unlike Bourdieu, Leung stressed the importance of individual experiences and academic maturation, interviewing sixty-five post-doctoral fellows and professors. Zhong Hong, for instance, recalled of her experience:

I was supposed to take a look at how they teach in Germany, how the curriculum is organised and what kind of facilities they have…because our university aims to upgrade itself to a world-class institution…And our university also expected me to elevate my ability in research (p. 319).

By identifying and extrapolating individual experiences, cataloguing them according to approach, motivation, and resulting consequences, Leung provided a more nuanced, carefully considered version of Bourdieu’s previous, rather rigid capital accumulation model. Such theoretical reconstructions can prove enormously useful for geographers studying institutions, power relations, and even exploration. In a 1999 critique, geographer Michael T Bravo (University of Cambridge) re-articulated Bruno Latour’s earlier social science framework, as outlined in Science in Action (1987). Bravo agreed with Latour’s conception of ‘immutable mobiles’, knowledge data transported back to ‘centres of accumulation’ (such as universities or the Royal Geographical Society), but added that scientists’ individual experiences and changes or maturation over time must be considered as well.

60-world2 Leung, M W H, 2013, ‘Read ten thousand books, walk ten thousand miles’: geographical mobility and capital accumulation among Chinese scholars, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series, 38, 311-24.

Also see:

books_icon Bourdieu, P, 1988, The forms of capital, in Richardson J ed, Handbook for theory and research for the sociology of education, Greenwood Press, New York, 241-58.

books_icon Bourdieu, P, 1996, The state nobility: elite schools in the field of power Polity Press, Cambridge.

books_icon Bravo, M T, 1999, Ethnographic navigation and the geographical gift, in Livingstone D and Withers C W J, Geography and enlightenment, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

books_icon Latour, B, 1987, Science in action: how to follow scientists and engineers through society, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Bricks, Mortar and Bricolage: an Economic Geographer’s Take on the Stumbling Blocks of Knowledge Transfer in the Built Environment Industry

by Briony Turner

Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tree of Knowledge

If you can get past the academic jargon, there’s an interesting article on knowledge transfer of green building design by James Faulconbridge in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  Perhaps the reason it’s interesting in a practitioner sense, is that it is based on actual professional practice –it draws not only upon other academic reflections, but also on those of 25 current British/Australian industry professionals.

The paper says it aims to suggest a framework for geographical analysis of attempts at mobilising green design knowledge.  However, it misses a trick, in that it raises some salient and relevant points for industry with regard to the stumbling blocks of transferring innovative design and best practice into action.  For those in the built environment industry it will come as no surprise that application of this framework, i.e.. the paper’s conclusion, reveals that knowledge is situated and place-specific and that solutions need to incorporate bricolage within knowledge assembly and transfer.

The author makes reference to blockage of attempts to reduce environmental impact being in part due to the lack of recognition of the “benefits of collective learning and the sharing of green design knowledges” -whilst this paper is not country specific, for the UK this is not necessarily the case.  The stumbling block quite often, as pointed out later in the paper, is the institutional context, particularly time, importance and resource allocated to the processes of knowledge mobility.  Much new knowledge, often termed within industry ‘best practice’ (even when its more-often-than-not actually innovative practice), is freely available, but hearing about it, knowing where to find it and having time to digest it and work out how to adapt current practice to incorporate it, are part of the daily struggle of most bought-in, already interested practitioners.  For those that aren’t (the greater challenge when it comes to step-change within professional practice) other/additional knowledge mobility tactics may well be required.

Many professionals use conferences as a means of staying up to date, the odd lucky few get to go on study tours as mentioned in the paper.  However, in these austere times, ability, both in terms of time away from the desk and cost, for the majority, is hampered.  Cracking how to enable effective knowledge transfer within current regime constraints is certainly a challenge worthy of uptake here in the UK.

The paper also suggests that economic geographers can contribute to debates about transitions to sustainability and building design via institutional analyses of knowledge mobility.  Hopefully they will, but perhaps in more accessible language, to ensure their own knowledge contributions aren’t rendered ‘situated’ within academia.  It would be wonderful to see the recommendations within this paper in plain English, in trade press such as the RIBA Journal, Inside Housing, Building, Eco Building, Green Building etc.

Now, a brief, but I hope the reader will agree, salient semantic foray into a few of the terms being used.  Focus of academic and industry efforts must not get tied to purely a focus on ‘green design’ as commonly perceived and, in fact, as reflected in this paper’s definition, as “negative environmental impact mitigating” design, but instead should ensure that focus includes the social aspect, i.e. not simply the wider community/society, but the people, the inhabitant(s), aspect of homes.  Homes should be fit for habitation now and in the future, i.e. resilient/enable their inhabitants to be resilient to current and future climatic projections.

Along these same lines, industry needs to assign more importance on the incorporation of domestic function as well as to form and fabric into thinking on green/sustainable design.  Whilst at present there is increasing focus on energy efficiency behaviour of inhabitants (pause here for a wry smile on reading the title of the National Housing Federation’s recent launch event of their “Count us in” report on this, aptly named Don’t forget the people”), the internal environment of homes and health of inhabitants receive less attention, yet are, as, if not more, important – certainly important for those landlords aware of the housing health and safety rating system

Furthermore, sustainable design/green design that tackles both mitigation of carbon emissions from residential stock and adaptation of stock to projected changes in climate is not confined to new build.  These are design issues as relevant to new build as to existing housing stock.  For more information on this, take a look at the useful, clearly set out, easy to read “Design for Future Climate” report produced by the Technology Strategy Board, and for those wanting facts and figures on overheating in particular, take a look at the Department for Communities and Local Government’s recent gap analysis and literature review, which formed part of their investigation into the overheating of homes – their recommendations are also worth a read.

If you’re struggling to connect why excessively cold and overheating homes are design problems, take a look at the Heatwave Plan and the Cold Weather Plan for England 2012, short documents both published by the NHS whose recommendations include factors relating to the built environment.  The NHS picks up the pieces of this current neglect of thinking about the internal environment and domestic life within homes.  Its staff know all too well the contribution of poor housing stock to the medical and death toll during periods of climatic extremes, projected to become increasingly more frequent over the coming years.  Speaking of the NHS, there is an intriguing piece of research underway called SHOCK (not) HORROR which is capturing the highly refined and evolved efficient knowledge transfer processes within A&E wards for help in improving infrastructure resilience. Watch this space…

books_iconJames Faulconbridge, 2012, Mobile ‘green’ design knowledge: institutions, bricolage and the relational production of embedded sustainable building designs, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00523.x

globe42Count us in”, National Housing Federation

globe42Cold Weather Plan for England 2012, National Health Service

globe42Design for Future Climate, Technology Strategy Board

globe42Heatwave Plan for England 2012, National Health Service

globe42Investigation into overheating in homes: analysis of gaps and recommendations, Department for  Communities and Local Government

globe42Investigation into overheating in homes: literature review, Department for Communities and Local Government

Content Alert: New Articles (11th May 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Migration, urban growth and commuting distance in Toronto’s commuter shed
Jeffrey J Axisa, K Bruce Newbold and Darren M Scott
Article first published online: 8 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01097.x

Original Articles

Mobile ‘green’ design knowledge: institutions, bricolage and the relational production of embedded sustainable building designs
James Faulconbridge
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00523.x

Creating and destroying diaspora strategies: New Zealand’s emigration policies re-examined
Alan Gamlen
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00522.x

The demographic impacts of the Irish famine: towards a greater geographical understanding
A Stewart Fotheringham, Mary H Kelly and Martin Charlton
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00517.x

Transnational religious networks: sexuality and the changing power geometries of the Anglican Communion
Gill Valentine, Robert M Vanderbeck, Joanna Sadgrove, Johan Andersson and Kevin Ward
Article first published online: 25 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00507.x

Geographies of transition and the separation of lower and higher attaining pupils in the move from primary to secondary school in London
Richard Harris
Article first published online: 23 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.519.x

Rethinking governance and value in commodity chains through global recycling networks
Mike Crang, Alex Hughes, Nicky Gregson, Lucy Norris and Farid Ahamed
Article first published online: 23 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00515.x

The ‘missing middle’: class and urban governance in Delhi’s unauthorised colonies
Charlotte Lemanski and Stéphanie Tawa Lama-Rewal
Article first published online: 20 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00514.x

Science, scientific instruments and questions of method in nineteenth-century British geography
Charles W J Withers
Article first published online: 20 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00513.x

Genome geographies: mapping national ancestry and diversity in human population genetics
Catherine Nash
Article first published online: 18 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00512.x

Militant tropicality: war, revolution and the reconfiguration of ‘the tropics’c.1940–c.1975
Daniel Clayton
Article first published online: 18 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00510.x

Beginners and equals: political subjectivity in Arendt and Rancière
Mustafa Dikeç
Article first published online: 13 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00508.x

Scaling up by law? Canadian labour law, the nation-state and the case of the British Columbia Health Employees Union
Tod D Rutherford
Article first published online: 13 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00506.x

Area Content Alert: Volume 44, Issue 1 (March 2012)

The latest issue of Area is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents.

Continue reading

Content Alert: New Articles (18th November 2011)

These Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Review Forum

Engaging global political ecologies

Response from the books’ editors
Richard Peet, Paul Robbins and Michael Watts
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01041.x

The political ecology of water scarcity and molecular biopolitics
Jairus Rossi
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01040.x

Going global in Global political ecology
Patrick Bigger
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01039.x

Capital’s margins and the political ecology of security
Jon Otto
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01038.x

Food, health and the body: the political ecology of sustainability
Michele Flippo Bolduc
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01037.x

Global natures: from utter failures to the possible
Brian Grabbatin and Patrick Bigger
Article first published online: 18 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01036.x

Original Articles

Integrating knowledge and actions in disaster risk reduction: the contribution of participatory mapping
Jake Rom D Cadag and JC Gaillard
Article first published online: 15 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01065.x

Transnational masculinities in situ: Singaporean husbands and their international marriage experiences
Yi’En Cheng
Article first published online: 11 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01045.x

Review Essay

Geographical societies, academics and publics: reading Civic Discipline. Geography in America, 1860–1890
Ron Johnston
Article first published online: 16 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2011.00452.x

Boundary Crossings

Security of geography/geography of security
Chris Philo
Article first published online: 15 NOV 2011 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00488.x

Learning for food

I-Hsien Porter

Global climate change is likely to cause significant changes, or at least greater uncertainty, in human lifestyles. One vulnerable area of our relationship with the environment is food production.

The BBC recently reported that over the past 25 years, rice yields in Asia have fallen 10 – 20% in response to rising temperatures. This trend is expected to continue. Meanwhile, a summer heatwave (a relatively short-term climatic event) has caused the Russian government to ban the export of wheat, with far-reaching impacts for food prices. In this light, some might be concerned for future food security.

However, many small-scale farmers in the Global South have been dealing with adverse climatic conditions and resource scarcity for decades. In a recent paper in Geographical Journal, Lindsay Stringer and others look to these groups to inform countries in the Global North, which are now facing similar challenges.

Many of the strategies employed by farmers in developing countries were specific to particular places, so had limited transferability to other contexts. As a result, Stringer et al. looked at the process-related aspects of farmer’s experiences, rather than those rooted in place.

Farmers who were faced with adversity were found to have much greater political awareness (e.g. of trade agreements). Those responsible for food production in the developed world could learn from the way that other actors have influenced food and farming policies.

Redefining the traditional North-to-South flow of knowledge into a two-way exchange generates a much larger pool of ideas to mitigate and cope with pressures on food production.

“Rice yields to “fall” under global warming”, BBC News, 9th August 2010

Stringer et al. (2008) “Learning from the South: common challenges and solutions for small-scale farming” Geographical Journal 174(3): 235-250