Sunday, 27 September 2015

To read or not to read? The politics of overlooking gender in the geographical canon

Volume 49, July 2015, Pages 31–38

To read or not to read? The politics of overlooking gender in the geographical canon


Draws on analysis of gendered canonical debates in literature.
Highlights mechanisms of canonical exclusion.
Poses a number of questions about the politics of gendered (dis)engagement.
Makes a case for a dialogic ‘soft’ canon of high quality geographical work.
Calls for reflection on canonical processes within contemporary sub-disciplines within geography.


Wherever there is an established ‘canon’ within an established scholarly arena, this is near universally dominated by texts written by men. Whilst historical contextual reasons may account for the gendering of such knowledge production in relation to publications dating from the nineteenth and preceding centuries, one has to ask why this has persisted in an era of equal access to education and academia in the twentieth century. Why is women's work, highly influential in its day, overlooked in subsequent histories of the discipline and therefore marginalised in discussions of key works? These questions are particularly pertinent to any notion of a geographical canon, given the subject's relatively late arrival as a degree award in the UK from 1917 onwards. This paper draws on an analysis of the significance of lineage, reviewing, reputation and genre in the contextualised production and reception of selected work to explore the merits and demerits of a geographical canon – and the implications for gendered geographical knowledge. It goes on to suggest i) a more inclusive and dialogic relational approach to understanding past and present geographical work based on Kilcup's notion of the ‘soft canon’; ii) a broadening of the cast and range of outputs considered ‘influential’; and iii) encourages greater critical reflection on contemporary practices of canonization within sub-disciplines.


  • Gender;
  • Reception;
  • Engagement;
  • Legacy;
  • Dialogue
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