Tag Archives: non-representational theory

Five countries hold 70% of world’s remaining wilderness; but does anyone there agree?

By Phillip and April Vannini, Royal Roads University

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has revealed that five countries hold 70% of the world’s last wilderness. Hundreds of newspapers and TV stations around the world have given the study and the map that it produced extensive coverage, prompting nations around the globe to measure up their performance on wilderness conservation.

A quick glance at the map yielded by the UQ+WCS study reveals that Canada, Russia, Australia, and Brazil are vying for the podium of countries with the most wilderness remaining. The USA is in the midst of the race too, but mostly thanks to Alaska (hardly any patch of wilderness seems to exist in the lower 48). The coast of Greenland and much of Western China seem pretty wild too.

For the last four years, the two of us have been traveling around Canada and a number of places around the world with a somewhat similar intent to that the study’s authors. But rather than catalogue wilderness and rank nations, our research has kept us busy simply making sense of not only what wilderness is, but what the very idea of “wild” means across different cultures and different groups of people living in different circumstances.

The notion of wilderness, as countless commentators across geography and environmental history have argued—yet clearly not loudly enough to be heard by the creators of this new wilderness map—is profoundly dependent on the cultural lenses that one wears. In Japan, for example, every time we asked what “wild” meant through the words of a highly competent translator we were met with confused stares and the sound of background crickets. In Argentina “wild” had to be translated in Spanish using a long litany of synonyms that weren’t quite synonyms, each accompanied by disclaimers and qualifications. More examples could be shared.

In most of Canada—which, according to the UQ+WCS map is chockfull of wilderness—the English language doesn’t need a lot of translation. Yet it is precisely there where the notion of wilderness makes the least sense. Better yet, more than nonsensical the idea is colonial and ignorant. Here is what Mary-Jane Johnson, an Elder from the Yukon’s Kluane First Nation taught us.

What people like Mary-Jane would think of that wilderness map is so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be spelled out by us.

The area of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park is a wilderness as well, according to the UQ+WCS map. In “Re-animating Gros Morne’s storyless space” we tune into a few narratives shared by the residents of the area, all told in this video. Their stories reveal that Gros Morne is home to many people, and it has been so for time immemorial. Does this mean that Gros Morne and places like it are not a wilderness? The answer is not so simple.

If we think of wilderness as uninhabited, untouched, and pristine land then it becomes essentially impossible to find wilderness anywhere. But if we update our understanding of what else a “wild” place could be, and if we do so by listening to those who call those places home, then our mind map of the world’s wildness quickly changes—as we explain in our article and even more so in the rest of our ongoing research. We only wish the creators of the world’s last wilderness map could have found some value in listening to some stories as well.

About the authors: Philip and April Vannini are based at the School of Communication and Culture at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC.

Reference

Cox, L. (2018). Five countries hold 70% of world’s last wildernesses, map reveals. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/31/five-countries-hold-70-of-worlds-last-wildernesses-map-reveals

Vannini P, Vannini A. Re‐animating Gros Morne’s storyless space: From natural heritage to ecological heritage. Area. 2019;00:1–10. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12533

‘Fun gifts for boys’ and the geographies of ‘aww’, ‘umph’, ‘wow’ and ‘cool’

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London

As manufacturers and retailers prepare to sell huge quantities of toys and gadgets in the run up to Christmas, at least one seven-year-old girl has protested this week at the marketing of such products according to gender.

Karen Cole tweeted a photo of her daughter, Maggie, next to a sign for Marvel Comics merchandise in a branch of Tesco that read ‘Fun gifts for boys’.

7-year-old Maggie not impressed with 'fun girts for boys' sign

Maggie, who is a big fan of Spider Man, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Doctor Who, spotted the sign and told her mother that Tesco was “being stupid” as “anybody can like superheroes”. The photo was retweeted more than ten thousand times, forcing an apology and the removal of the signs from all Tesco stores.

These superhero characters and toys are clearly important to lots of children like Maggie; it is this relationship, alongside the role played by popular culture characters and products in children’s lives, that John Horton seeks to examine in a recent edition of Geography Compass. The paper calls for “more direct, careful, sustained research on geographies of children, young people and popular culture.”

Horton outlines ‘classic’ works from cultural and media studies, which, he contends, have been “centrally concerned with meanings of popular culture designed for children and young people”. The likes of Barbie and GI Joe, Horton argues, have often been central to such discussions, with Barbie being widely critiqued as “a ‘condensed’ representation of normative ideals of ‘emphasised femininity’ and female body image”.

While Horton recognises the value and importance of this kind of work, he argues that “if one jumps to write about meanings of popular culture, it is all too easy to overlook how popular cultural texts, objects and phenomena matter in practice within people’s everyday geographies.”

Horton presents an analysis of ‘Toys ‘Я’ Us’ brochures old and new, but reflects that in attempting to write about their meanings and representations “I have suppressed (or at least distanced myself from) what I felt as I browsed the 1975 Toys ‘Я’ Us catalogue and other decades-old toy catalogues: feelings of ‘aww’, ‘umph’, ‘wow’, ‘cool’, ‘I remember that’, that are not easy to put into words.”

Geography, then, has an important role to play in addressing questions of both meaning and Mattering in this context. This involves examining the more-than-representational ways in which popular cultural texts, objects and phenomena are encountered and experienced by children in a diverse range of everyday spaces.

As Horton acknowledges, this raises important questions of how to conduct research attentive to both the political-representational concerns of the sort quite rightly raised by superhero-loving Maggie, and to the complex nonrepresentational materialities that constitute young people’s geographies – the ‘awws’, ‘wows’ and ‘cools’ evoked by the bodily practices of play, the meanings of which may not be sayable or may simply not exist.

 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove ‘stupid’ sign suggesting superheroes are ‘for boys’ The Independent, 25 November 2014

 John horton, 2014, For Geographies of Children, Young People and Popular CultureGeography Compass 726-738

Content Alert: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 4 (October 2012) is Available Online Now

Cover image for Vol. 37 Issue 4

Volume 37, Issue 4 Pages 477– 657, October 2012

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

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Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Content Alert: Volume 37, Issue 1 (January 2012)

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

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

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Creative places

By Rosa Mas Giralt

This week, the All England Lawn Tennis Club announced the appointment of Wimbledon’s first official poet, Matt Harvey. The author will delight tennis fans during the tournament by providing versified chronicles of this year’s events. His creations will be published online on Wimbledon’s official website – www.wimbledon.org – and the Poetry Trust website – www.thepoetrytrust.org– and also as podcasts. Additionally, Harvey will entertain the public via Twitter and by reciting his poems to the queues of patient tennis fans. The iconic space of Wimbledon will provide a dynamic backdrop from which the poet will draw his inspiration, a process which has already started with his first lyrical composition “The Grandest of Slams”.

The relationship between ‘inspiration’ and the places where it takes place is at the centre of a forthcoming article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers by Brace and Johns-Putra (2010, early view). Writing from the collaborative nexus between geography and literary studies, the authors set off to recover the concept of ‘inspiration’ (which they explain, has been subjected to strong criticisms in literary studies, 2010:2) because of the compelling meaning that this concept still holds for those who write for pleasure. By engaging with representational and non-representational theories, the authors investigate the “elements of inspiration” (2010: 13) through discussions with their participant writers in an attempt to represent the ineffable creative process.

 Visit Wimbledon’s website to read about the appointment of Matt Harvey as the Championships’ poet

 Read C. Brace and A. Johns-Putra (2010) “Recovering inspiration in the spaces of creative writing”. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. (Early view).