Geographers and ethics

Luke Dickens, Iain Hay

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review


Alongside the incorporation of moral and ethical philosophy into geographical thought (see our linked Oxford Bibliographies article Geography and Ethics), there runs a parallel and equally important set of debates focused on how geographers might enact and inhabit ethical practices through their work. These concerns have had a major influence on the development of geographical research methodologies, while opening up significant new terrain for ethical reflection about the conditions under which geographical knowledges and subjectivities are produced, and the intellectual and material spaces through which they circulate. Foundational in this regard has been the considerable influence that Feminist Ethics have had on showing that ways of knowing the world are necessarily produced through differently situated and embodied positions in the world. Resonating across subsequent developments, including significant steps toward a long-overdue reckoning with colonial and imperial power structures, these strands of Ethics in Emerging Geographies have advanced understanding of the intersecting forms of social difference that shape our ethics, politics, and pursuit of justice, as well as the motivations, perspectives, and experiences that inform notions about what it might mean to be a critical geographer in the contemporary academy. Recent developments also include challenging established distinctions between “researcher” and “researched” through calls for participatory ethics, and contemplating how research both with and by children, Indigenous societies, or marginalized groups might recast ethical approaches and procedures. Geographers, particularly those working with notions of embodiment, emotions, and affect, have experimented with new understandings of ethics beyond traditional forms of moral philosophy and the normative. These various waves of ethical praxis have increasingly challenged, recast, and fragmented established modes of doing geography, often by asserting non-Western intellectual visions of the world and engaging with posthuman philosophies in ways that recenter perspectives from the Global South and in the context of the Anthropocene. At the same time, a whole raft of critical questioning and discussion has sought to unsettle the everyday Ethics of Geographical Practice: concerning, for example, geographical writing, publishing, and citational cultures; the conduct of teaching, learning, and education; and notions of collegiality, care, and collective endeavor. Much of this work has called into question the motivations for scholarship and the very purpose of the academy itself. Nonetheless, such important provocations seem to have resulted in a stronger sense of what really matters and what is ultimately at stake in our everyday geographical practice. We would like to thank the generous response from an anonymous reviewer, whose constructive and encouraging feedback helped finalize this bibliography.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Bibliographies
EditorsBarney Warf
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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