The spaces of postmodernity: readings in human geography

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The spaces of postmodernity: readings in human geography
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  104  Book reviews / Political Geography 23 (2004) 97   –  112 Perla Zusman Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Departament de Geografia, Edifici B - Bellaterra, Barcelona 08193, Spain E-mail address : perlazusman@yahoo.es doi:10.1016/S0962-6298(02)00094-X The spaces of postmodernity: readings in human geography Michael J. Dear and Steven Flusty; Blackwell Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0631217819To summarize my impressions:  “ Reality is a plural word ”  (p. 254) and any collec-tion of readings is a mixed bag; but this time I was fortunate. Dear and Flusty haveput together a good number of great readings and information which are dif  fi cult to fi nd without using a fairly large number of sources. Also, I was glad to see that theauthorship is international.This Reader contains a selection of 39 readings divided into two main parts whichconvey their content somewhat clearly: Excavating the Postmodern (23 readings)and Geographies from the Inside-Out (16 readings). The  fi rst part explains the  “ ori-gins, arrival and spectacular consequences of the advent of postmodernism in humangeography ”  (p. xii). The second part tries to  “ outline a cartography of a future post-modern human geography ”  (p. xii), which looks quite colorful.The editors ’  introduction to the Reader is well developed and unambiguous. Infact, a bonus is that their writing is clear and precise, a phenomenon altogether rarein postmodern literature. Anyone with an urge to understand the effect of postmodernthinking on human geography will do well to examine both the  Introduction  and Part One  of this book as an exemplar of an edited text on a wide-ranging discipline.This part is divided into three sections: Pre-Postmodern Geographies (1965 – 83),Postmodern Geographies (1984 – 9), and The Altered Spaces of Postmodernity (1990 – 2000). It contains such an excellent selection of readings that should stimulate dis-cussion in and outside the classroom. The many renowned scholars (e.g. Harvey,Gregory, Lefebvre, Storper, and Dear himself) included give this part a singularlyauthoritative  fl avor.One of the interesting, informative and enjoyable parts of the Reader are the com-mentaries provided for each section. I also enjoyed the editorial comments that intro-duce each reading. The editors ’  objective is to  “ avoid telling you (me) what youshould think about the piece... ”  (p. xiii). However they fail in this point. Invariably,their opinion is permeated in each editorial comment and they have their own  “ waysof reconstructing the deconstruction in these pages ”  (p. xii).A few criticisms: There is a set of literary pieces,  “ literary land-mines... ”  (p. xii),that have the purpose of   “ dislodg[ing] you from comfortable and comforting presup-positions and expectations ”  (p. xii). It is not easy to take this claim seriously. It isdif  fi cult to understand why an editor would want to seed confusion or use  “ metaphorsof mystery... ”  (p. xiii). Invariably, these literary pieces offer little insight except for  105  Book reviews / Political Geography 23 (2004) 97   –  112 Forte ´ -Escamilla ’ s piece. Also, the non-academic excerpts are too brief to conveyanything more than the style of the authors.The second part is divided into four sections: The Representation of Space,Emplaced Bodies and Embodied selves, From the Politics of Urban Place to a Politicsof Global Displacement, and The Spaces of Representation. I have mixed feelingsabout this part. I believe some of the readings must have been chosen on literaryrather than instructive value. Nevertheless, most are thought-provoking and easy toread. They introduce many facets of space such as music, feminism, politics, shop-ping centers, and even a letter from subcomandante Marcos to the Mexican public.This variety provides a richness that cannot be obtained from typical texts. Unfortu-nately, it is not clear how to translate these thought-provoking pieces into something(research, action, or research action). The most interesting effect of reading throughthe second part is a change in one ’ s preconception about editing: more leads to less.The editors are enthusiastic about their ideas and they show this in the conclusion,which they title  Inconclusion . It consists of a dialogue in which the reader will haveto turn pages back and forth, looking for an explanation of what is going on. It isindeed an interesting editorial move that offers a conversational and open-ended feelto the book. But I still cannot tell when the editors are either writing  fi ction orspeaking directly.However one may criticize the execution of the editing work, the basic messagein it is undeniable and crucial to progress in our  fi eld. As postmodernism becomesmore institutionalized it seems to me that positivist geographers run a great risk of existing in the margin, conversing among themselves and speaking in smallerclassrooms every day. Seeing our  fi eld today, perhaps it is time to retreat from thepursuit of the grand theoretical framework. On the other hand, I must say that twoof the reasons why I  fi nd some postmodern literature objectionable is that sometimes(1) it promotes vague and anti-intellectual generalizations and/or (2) it looks like itwas written for a Sherlock Holmes type of audience. Often it tortures the readerwith hints about what is going on without ever giving away the meaning. At least indetective stories all is told and resolved in the  fi nal pages. I think I do not exaggerate.In spite of the previous comments, I plan to use this Reader in my class as wellas order a couple of copies for the main library. Dear and Flusty ’ s work is valuablefor bringing together a good selection of readings. This book is optimistic in tone,progressive in content, appropriate for college teaching, and the editors ’  enthusiasmis actually contagious. The probability that the main library in any college campuswill own a copy is quite high. Just wait and see the exponential fallout rate of requests for check-out due to the length of the waiting line.C.J. Vilalta y Perdomo School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City, Mexico E-mail address : carlos.vilalta@itesm.mx doi:10.1016/S0962-6298(03)00020-9
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