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Geographers at Work: theory and research on scale and capitalism

Here are examples of geographic work on this week's themes: scale and capitalism.

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  • On scale: Shannon O'Lear and Paul Diehl, "Not Drawn to Scale: Research on Resource and Environmental Conflict," Geopolitics, 12:166-182, 2007, and Harold Bauder, "Agency, Place, Scale: Representations of Inner-City Youth Identities," Journal of Economic & Social Geography - 2001, Vol. 92, No. 3, pp. 279-290.
  • If you are interested in the argument against scale as a central concept for geography, this article is an important text: Sallie A. Marston, John Paul Jones III & Keith Woodward, "Human geography without scale," Transactions of the British Institute of Geographers, Dec. 2005, Vol. 30 Issue 4, pp. 416-432.
  • On capitalism, this chapter from Spaces of Geographic Thought (2005) by Trevor Barnes is an in-depth analysis of capitalism  as both "economy" and also "culture."
  • Linda McDowell's Capital Culture: Gender at Work in the City (1997) is an important case study in how capitalism affects culture, particularly in terms of gender roles and identity. "The City" is the name for the financial district in London. You can access the book online from the Library. You can browse the book from the online access link. The introduction is short (8 pages) and provides a clear sense of McDowell's research interest.


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Peggy  Smith

I found it very interesting that the youth in the representations of the inner city and how they identify with their self defined borders. Through the interveiwers analysis and their self imposed boundaries. How the families function and the youth perceptions of place. Even within their cultural perceptions they have differing ideals and sometimes feel fear of their place. Some of the interviewees seemed destined to menial positions as their future place. Some left the borders of their space to gain more freedom through the gentrification of their cultures. Journal of Economic & Social Geography - 2001, Vol. 92, No. 3, pp. 279-290.

Mack Little

I think that borders are not only observed by young kids, but are also taught to at a very young age. Even simply from their mom telling them that they cant go past a certain landmark at the park, so that they can still see them. Though the borders we are talking about are much more complex than that, the idea of cultural, social, and "imaginary" borders are brought to our attention as young children.

Kamalei P.

In the “Agency, Place, Scale: Representations of Inner-City Youth Identities” article, there was a section that talked about identity and place amongst the youth. I thought it was cool, that in class today we talked about mobility and how we go from place to place, whether that be by foot or by vehicle and in this article, they also talked about mobility. So everything was relatable. It said that, “The mobility of many youths is confined by not having access to cars and their social networks often do not extend beyond neighborhood boundaries.” (P. 283). In class people also talked about how they don’t have access to cars or would rather walk then drive to places. But obviously if you’re walking, then you have limitations and you are technically limited to the neighborhood or city of Monmouth. Within these limitations, we have our own identity here. For example, I could be identified as a college student here in Monmouth and in the article it says that our cultural identity is what attaches us to our neighborhoods. So it was pretty cool, reading this article and relating it back to what we talked about in class today.

Jeanette Betancourt

I agree with Kamalei, it was interesting to connect the article about mobility to our class discussion today because it was relatable. From moving from one place to another but it also depends on the resources we might have because not everyone has the same limitations to others, for example if someone does not live on campus it would be necessary to have a ride to school everyday but then someone who lives near campus can drive or walk. Especially in the small town Monmouth is that everything is walking distance.

Matt Herbert

Kamalei, I too found the same article to be interesting. The quote you added, "The mobility of many youths is confined by not having access to cars and their social networks often do not extend beyond neighborhood boundaries” reminds me of how my boundaries as a kid were tied to my neighborhood. The culdesac in my neighborhood growing up was the prime meeting spot for all of us neighborhood kids. This was where I spent a majority of my time and made many memories while growing up. However, I think its important to note that parents (and their vehicles) also influence the mobility of youth. My parents owned a cabin at Detroit Lake, and I I grew up going there almost every weekend with my family. Because of my parents mobility, I was able to have experiences and develop a sort of identity in a different location than my neighborhood.

John Stone

To a lot of kids that live in the same area for most of their childhood, it really does seem like that's half of the world. If a child wants to travel somewhere on their own, they either have to walk or ride something like a bike. Most kids only get to go wherever their parents either want them to go, or decide to let them go to. They're taught not to go too far from home if they're playing outside, and to tell their parents where they plan to go if they're going elsewhere. In most cases, limiting the mobility of children isn't a bad idea at all, since it can help keep them safe, but at the same time it limits the scale at which they see the world.


Reading the chapter by Trevor Barnes I thought it was really interesting to introduce the idea of economy and culture working together with Christmas. Although this is an amazing example of the blurred lines between culture and economics it isn’t one I had thought of before. I liked that he started with this as such a clear exmple, allowing the reader to more easily understand the topic from the beginning. I also thought that the idea that the world is not divided neatly rings true through all subjects. It also made me think about our discussions on the representational and non-representational. Just as a place is made up of both pieces, things like Christmas are made from both economy and culture.

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