||A set of practices by which meanings are constituted and communicated. Such representational practices produce and circulate meanings among members of social groups and these meanings can be defined as culture. Such shared meanings are based on representations of the world. Representations not only reflect reality, but they help to constitute reality. People make sense of their worlds and are positioned within social worlds through representations. Some representations are imposed on them from the outside but these are also contested by representations generated from within the culture. Thus imagined geographies are contested by \'rival\' geographies (Smith and Godlewska, 1994).
Spivak (1988) makes a useful distinction between two interrelated definitions of the term representation: speaking of and speaking for. Representation (re-presentation) is a description or depiction of some aspect of reality. If that reality is a cultural reality or understanding that in some sense belongs to a cultural group other than that of the representer, then epistemological and ethical issues of rights and responsibilities to speak on behalf of others may be raised. Geography and other fields, particularly anthropology, have experienced what is referred to as a \'crisis of representation\' brought about by post-colonial and feminist critiques which challenge the ethnocentrism and masculinism of grand narratives of western theorists (Barnett, 1997; see also feminist geographies; post-colonialism; subaltern studies).
Issues of representation have come into prominence in geography mainly through cultural geography (Schein, 1993; Pred, 1997), post-structural cartography (Harley, 1992), critical geopolitics (O\'Tuathail, 1994), and post-positivist feminism (Gibson-Graham, 1997). The principal influences in these subfields have been social constructionism, post-colonialism and post-structuralism. Although there are profound differences among such theoretical traditions (principally on issues of realism versus anti-foundationalism), all reject simple reflective or \'mimetic\' theories of representation. All support the idea that language and other forms of cultural representation are to some degree constitutive of the reality they represent.
The realist or Marxian version of social constructionism suggests that representations can often affect or even help to constitute the realities which they refer to. reifications are representations that have become alienated or naturalized in the sense that their social origins are forgotten (Ollman, 1971; see Marxist geography). On the other hand the most extreme anti-foundationalist positions deny the very possibility of representing an external reality. From such a point of view, representations are necessarily flawed attempts to represent the \'unpresentable\' (Derrida, 1981).
If one accepts that representation is an active, constitutive practice, then it follows that knowledge cannot be neutral or innocent of power relations. For example, Orientalism is implicated in the history of western imperialism (Said, 1977, 1993): the tropes and metaphors used in orientalist discourse can be deconstructed to reveal and destabilize the binary oppositions that structure representations of Asia and Asians into a hierarchical world-view. Western geographers have tended to marginalize or effectively silence cultural Others through universalizing theories and models of human behaviour. They have presumed an authority to speak on the behalf of cultural others (Duncan and Sharp, 1993; Barnett, 1997). When cultural differences are represented, homogenizing and excluding dichotomies are often employed to essentialize and exoticize difference (see essentialism). The use of binary oppositions to define the western self in contrast to non-western Others leads inevitably to the devaluation of the Other. The goal of many contemporary geographers is to replace unitary representations with plural and complexly intersecting understandings.
Post-colonial theorists have sought to refine the starkness of Said\'s self-other analysis with ideas of hybridity, third or interstitial spaces, sites of resistance, complicity, transculturation, scattered hegemonies and internally differentiated politics of colonial knowledge.
The politics and poetics of geographical representation have come under intense scrutiny in recent work by geographers who have initiated a more self-critical approach to the tropes and rhetorical strategies of academic geography itself (Barnes and Gregory, 1997; Pratt, 1992; Duncan, 1996). Travel literature as geographical knowledge has also been the focus of much recent discussion (see travel writing, geography and). The pleasures of the masculine gaze underlying geographical representations of landscape have come under attack (Rose, 1993; Sparke, 1996).
Representations are not only texts, words, and pictures, but may include material culture such as landscapes as well. Although not referential in the simple one-to-one sense of expressing a prior reality, landscapes communicate multiple and heterogeneous messages and stimulate highly active although not necessarily conscious readings (King, 1996; Barnes and Duncan, 1992). People select, appropriate, recompose and particularize the meanings of such material, cultural phenomena as landscapes.
Lefebvre makes a distinction between sensuous lived \'representational spaces\' and the more dispassionately articulated \'representations of space\' (Lefebvre, 1991) (see production of space). Landscapes re-present and often reify cultural values; but landscapes as representations can be dereified as well. Often people react in their everyday spatial practices to the culturally specific meanings of their lived environments in ways they may not be able to articulate. They may uncritically accept cultural ideas and social relations embedded in landscapes because landscapes are taken for granted as material facts of life, as non-ideological. Alternatively people may intentionally resist and subvert the dominant readings of their landscapes, thereby creating new representations of space (Cresswell, 1996).Â (JSD)
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Suggested Reading Barnes and Duncan (1992).Â Barnett (1997).