Geography Militant: Cultures of Exploration and Empire by Felix Driver (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews signs of cultural degeneration. Occupying interesting middle ground here are Virginia and Leonard Woolf — her financial success as a writer whose market niche turned out to considerably exceed the dimensions of her celebrated Room, their commercial success as hard-working but not debilitatingly soft-nosed intellectual niche publishers. A recurring theme in this book is the widespread misunderstanding or misuse among cultural critics of the term commodification. Contrary to those like Frederic Jameson who claim that "only art that is not commodified is good,"(186) Delany observes that because it is not a material necessity art has almost always commodified according to Marx's definition, its value "based on exchange rather than any objective estimate of the labour embodied in it"(121) In his coda, "The Way We Write Now," he celebrates what is perhaps the most remarkable "peculiarity of the English" — the fact that their mastery of the tertiary market, the service market, that has enabled them to escape the prescriptions of Marx and to confound the prophets of decline, has enabled them to create a world language and to command the global cultural market place to a degree that is still not fully appreciated because of critics of globalism's fixation on the United States — though J.K. Rowling is doing her bit to change this. Christopher Kent University of Saskatchewa Felix Driver. Geography Militant: Cultures of Exploration andEmpire. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), viii + 258 pp. The title of Felix Driver's engaging book, Geography Militant, comes from a 1923 essay byJoseph Conrad ("The Romance of Travel"), that was reprinted in National Geographic in March 1924 under the title "Geography and Some Explorers." In the essay, "Conrad charted three epochs in the history of geographical knowledge" (3). The first of these, Geography Fabulous was best exemplified by the fantastical marginalia that fill the spaces of medieval cartography. The second phase, Geography Militant, was crystallized for Conrad in the figure of Captain Cook and "exemplified a more worldly quest for empirical knowledge about the geography of 100volume 29 number 2 Reviews the earth, marked by voyages of exploration and land." The final epoch, Geography Triumphant, described Conrad's own moment when, as he describes famously in Heart of Darkness, the blank spaces of the earth had all been filled. This last stage, relates Driver, was characterized by a high degree of "nostalgic lament for the spirit of heroic exploration represented by Geography Militant, a spirit which had apparendy been extinguished in modernity's wake" (4). The two titles of Conrad's essay highlight a conflict within the field of Geography, an arena that for Driver describes an array of practices that encompass the pleasurable entertainments of romantic travel and the instrumentally serious business of scientific exploration, description, and systemization. With the exception of a final chapter on "Geography Militant and Its After-Life," which quickly, but perhaps necessarily , bridges the gap between 1900 and our own moment, the subjects of his chapters are Victorian sites, heroes, and institutions: the Royal Geographical Society, David Livingstone; the novelist Winwood Reade; Henry Morton Stanley; the Stanley and African Exhibition (1 890) in Regent Street; a court case surrounding the display of two African "slave boys" at that exhibition; and, finally, the two great explorers of Darkest England, General William Booth of the Salvation Army and Charles Booth, who exhaustively documented the landscape of London poverty. In selecting his title from an essay by a British novelist that appeared in the magazine of an institution (the National Geographic Society) which attempted to bridge elite and popular cultures or, rather, the very different missions of serious science and the popularisation of scientific knowledge, Driver wonderfully encapsulates his book's central concerns. His argument is also underscored by the book's subtide, "Cultures of Exploration and Empire." Driver repeatedly makes the point that his object of study is not some narrow academic discipline but "a set of cultural practices which involve the mobilization of people and resources, especially equipment, publicity and authority" (8). Indeed, at times, the book's primary aim seems to become a polemic against thinking about Geography, or even specific geographical institutions (in particular the Royal Geographical Society), in terms of Latour...


pdf