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'Insiders', 'Outsiders', and the Geography of Regional Life
Buttimer, Anne
Two distinct connotations of term ‘region’ have generated two distinct and often separate fields of endeavour within geography. Traditional regional geography has focused on the description of areally-circumscribed territories, while regional science (in the Anglo-American world) has tended to be more analytical and more specifically concerned with nodally-organized functional regions. Two contrasting definitions of space and time are implicit here – the former derives from a Newtonian notion of space and time as containers of objects while the latter derives from a relational notion of space-time as topological surface. For a number of sociological and ideological reasons, however, both share a perspective on knowledge and experience which could be regarded as an ‘outsider’ one. The ‘insider’s’ perspective has not received much explicit attention, largely because of difficulties in generalization and a fear of ‘subjectivism’. Arguments are raised to support the view that the geographer’s task is the articulation of neither inside nor outsider views exclusively but rather to confront the challenge of the dialectic between the two within concrete life situations. From a philosophical viewpoint it could be argued that objectivity demands a critical sensitivity to the logic and appropriateness of models used in research. To take any descriptive model which has appeared for particular settings and then apply it indiscriminately to other settings is one example of cultural ‘subjectivism’ e.g. the kind of regional geography which became a mouthpiece for national/ colonial/ class interests. On a logical plane, also, regional-science models appropriate for particular realms, yet there have been many gaucheries of spatial blueprinting in realms as different as industrial, educational and health planning. It is at the practical level of everyday life, however, that the juxtaposition of these two types of regionalization often creates most confusion. On philosophical, logical, and practical grounds, it could be argued that no long-term solution can be reached without involving the ‘insider’, viz. those whose lives are affected by changes in regional organization and administration. Until better communication between managerial and resident interest can be attained, geography cannot claim either relevance or truth. The most urgent task for the regional geographer thus becomes one of education in the literal sense: to evoke an awareness of the values implicit in his own a priori presuppositions and then to facilitate an awareness of environment and responsibility among the audience of his work. This paper shares some insights derived from various attempts to apply this perspective in both teaching and research and also points to avenues for joint exploration by scholars attained to either ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ stances on regional life. It concludes with a challenge, old and new, of seeking a common language which might contribute toward a harmonization of the currently diverse and fragmented strands of thought and practice within regional geography.
Keyword(s): Time and space; Cultural subjectivism; Regional geography; Regional geographer
Publication Date:
Type: Book chapter
Peer-Reviewed: Unknown
Language(s): English
Institution: University College Dublin
Publisher(s): Finnpublishers
First Indexed: 2019-06-01 06:16:19 Last Updated: 2019-06-01 06:16:19