In The Geographer at Work, one of the few books designed to introduce geography to the wider public domain, the author Peter Gould suggests that ‘most people have little idea what modern geography is all about.’
His book begins with a description of a cocktail party at which the following conversation took place (Gould, 1985: 4): ‘And what do you do?’ she said. ‘Oh,’ I said, grateful for the usual filler, ‘I am a geographer.’ And even as I said it, I felt the safe ground turning into the familiar quagmire. She did not have to ask the next question, but she did anyway.
‘Er … yes, a geographer,’ said with that quietly enthusiastic confidence that trips so easily from the tongues of doctors, engineers, airline pilots, truckers, sailors and tramps …
‘Oh really, a geographer… and what do geographers do?’ He continues: ‘It has happened many times, and it seldom gets better. That awful feeling of desperate foolishness when you, a professional geographer, find yourself incapable of explaining simply and shortly to others what you really do’ (Gould, 1985: 4).
This account is typical of the experiences of many professional geographers, and well illustrates that the public understanding of what it is that geographers do is extremely limited. Such a situation cannot be blamed on the public in general; geographers themselves have frequently been extremely poor at explaining and justifying their role in society.
Indeed, many people teaching and undertaking research in geography departments when faced with the cocktail party question noted above, quickly cover their tracks, with statements such as ‘Well, I am really a soil scientist’ or, ‘Actually, I am a consultant on development issues.’ But why is this space so shaky? Why can’t a geographer be proud enough to simply tell that “I am a geographer”?
Unfortunately, the image of geography held by most people is usually derived from their school education. Largely, our geography school textbooks portray only the physical features of the planet rather than human nature interaction with temporal and spatial dynamics at various levels.
We must keep in mind that Geography draws upon many concepts from both pure science and arts subjects. We will discuss about the connection of geography with other discipline in next few weeks.
Gould, P. (2016). The Geographer at Work. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/The-Geographer-at-Work/Gould/p/book/9781138960350
EVERY DAY IS A TEACHER’S DAY
I walk on the hilly terrains,
The lofty hills and mountains tell me,
The story of their origin,
They tell me how they got reshaped,
By different natural agents.
I gaze at the sky,
The clouds float and send me a message,
They tell me how far they are from me,
How they form and reformed
By little droplets of water.
I roam around in the countryside,
The crops from the agriculture field tell me,
How much they have grown and
How much to grow further,
What soils do they like for their nurturing,
How much sun and water do they need for their growth.
Every now and then
I feel the interaction of the earth
With the human beings,
Be it visible or invisible,
Noticed or unnoticed,
Because I am a geographer,
Geography is everywhere,
We can’t deny it for a moment of our life.
For me, every day is teacher’s day,
My teacher forever is our Mother Earth,
Full of stories – explored and unexplored.
HAPPY TEACHER’S DAY!
With sincere gratitude to all teachers from any geography,
Geography Lab, Azim Premji University