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Enlightenment, geography and

  An understanding of the Enlightenment not solely as a distinctive historical and philosophical enterprise defined by the lives of great thinkers as an eighteenth-century European phenomenon, but as a set of situated ideas and practices, including geography. In this sense, it is possible to conceive and write not of the Enlightenment as an essentialist and largely European category, but as ideas that were produced, sited and debated in local as well as national settings. It is further possible to talk of geographies of Enlightenment as embracing the sites and the practices, including geography as a form of knowledge, in which enlightenment as a means of rational enquiry took place. There are, therefore, several important differences from the geography of Enlightenment as a matter of national context (cf. Enlightenment, geography of): recognition of diversity; attention to process; and a sense of intrinsic spatiality in all enlightenment discourse (see discourse). These differences are the result of recent work by scholars on the nature of (the) Enlightenment and by historians of geography and of science (Livingstone and Withers, 1999).

In more detail, and recognizing the important contributions made by historians of Enlightenment and the extensive historiographical literature attaching to both terms, it is helpful to distinguish three main strands connecting geography and Enlightenment. First, we may talk of a more strictly disciplinary history of geography, however contemporaries understood it, in \'the Age of Enlightenment\' (see also geography, history of). Secondly, we can identify work on geographical knowledges in the Enlightenment; of geography not as a defined subject but as a set of situated discursive practices — of mapping, classifying, visualizing and naming (see also cartography, history of). Finally, and in a related sense, there is now widespread interest in the geographies of Enlightenment knowledge: the sites in which ideas were produced and contested, the circulation of those ideas, and the variant nature of their reception.

The idea of the Enlightenment as an eighteenth-century European intellectual movement characterized by an emphasis upon reason, bound by the lives of great thinkers and apparent only at the scale of the nation, has been challenged by a range of recent work (Hulme and Jordanova, 1990; Outram, 1995; Schmidt, 1996; Yolton, 1991). Broadly, Enlightenment historians now consider it more helpful to look at the Enlightenment \'as a series of debates, which necessarily took different shapes and forms in particular national and cultural contexts\' (Outram, 1995, p. 3). Work in this regard has considered, for example, science, political culture and the Enlightenment in provincial and national context, including the forms it took in America and on the periphery of Europe, the sexual underworlds of the Enlightenment, medical knowledge and Enlightenment, exoticism, and the anthropological and literary histories of the Enlightenment (for a fuller review, see Livingstone and Withers, 1999). Work on the diversity of Enlightenment knowledge in these terms has also recognized dialectical contradictions at the heart of the Enlightenment: matters of rationality and the emancipatory power of reason are also matters of restraint and the power of some people over others (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1972; Schmidt, 1996). If, then, scholars would agree with Foucault in his view of the Enlightenment as \'unfinished\' and in his claim that \'the Enlightenment is an event, or a set of events and complex historical processes, that it is located at a certain point in the development of European societies\' (Foucault, 1984, p. 43), there is also a strong case for seeing (the) Enlightenment as a set of complex geographical processes. For Hulme and Jordanova, \'The Enlightenment\'s self-consciousness was to some extent a geographical consciousness based on the distinctiveness of the part of the world that came to be called Europe\' (Hulme and Jordanova, 1990, p. 7). Others have shown how Enlightenment ideas resulted not just from the impact on the European mind of the \'enlargement of geographical and celestial space\' (Yolton, 1991, p. 3), but from a precise encounter with particular places, such as, for example, Tahiti specifically and the Pacific peoples in general (Outram, 1995) (see also exploration).

Until the last few years, geographers have been relatively slow to consider the Enlightenment as a subject of geographical enquiry despite considerable interest from other disciplines in the \'Enlightenment Project\'. Harvey has reviewed the Enlightenment origins of \'modern\' knowledge (Harvey, 1989), and Gregory has noted how \'modern social theory still bears the marks of its Enlightenment origins\' (Gregory, 1994, p. 12). Livingstone has discussed geography\'s place in the Enlightenment in relation to the history of eighteenth-century (and earlier) ideas about the nature of the terraqueous globe, and considered, too, something of geography\'s engagement with the precepts of natural theology and with Kantianism (Livingstone, 1992, pp. 102-38). More recently, attention has been paid to the character of geographical knowledge during the Enlightenment and to the spatialities of enlightenment knowledge (Livingstone and Withers, 1999). The European geographical \'discovery\' of the \'New World\' was at once a material and a metaphorical enterprise evoking \'images of marching into new territories, taming what one found there, and giving a coherent account of fresh terrain\' (Hulme and Jordanova, 1990, p. 5). That characteristic Enlightenment philosophy of history, the idea (and ideal) of \'progress\', was rooted in a fundamentally geographical comparison between the institutions of Europe and those living in \'a state of Nature\'.

Enlightenment geographies which encountered civilizations \'beyond Europe\' underpinned Enlightenment theorizations about stadial theory (stage-by-stage social development: see rostow model) and the nature of human history which positioned the same peoples as \'before Europe\'. In these terms, that fundamental Enlightenment concern with a \'Science of Man\' was profoundly a matter of geography, and geographical knowledge contributed greatly to the enlightenment fascination with conjectural history. (CWJW)

References Foucault, M. 1984: What is enlightenment? In P. Rabinow, ed., The Foucault reader. London: Penguin, 45-56. Gregory, D. 1994: Geographical imaginations. Oxford: Blackwell. Harvey, D. 1989: The condition of postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell. Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T. 1972: Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Herder and Herder. Hulme, P. and Jordanova, L., eds, 1990: The Enlightenment and its shadows. London: Routledge. Livingstone, D. 1992: The geographical tradition: episodes in the history of a contested enterprise. Oxford: Blackwell. Livingstone, D. and Withers, C.W.J., eds, 1999: Geography and Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Outram, D. 1995: The Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schmidt, J., ed., 1996: What is Enlightenment?: eighteenth-century answers and twentieth-century questions. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Yolton, J., ed., 1991: The Blackwell companion to the Enlightenment. Oxford: Blackwell.

Suggested Reading Livingstone, D. and Withers, C.W.J. (1999). Outram, D. (1995).



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