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Reviewed by:
  • Cultural Geography in Practice
  • Patricia L. Price
Cultural Geography in Practice Alison Blunt, Pyrs Gruffudd, Jon May, Miles Ogborn, and David Pinder (editors). Edward Arnold, London, 2003. 330 pp., photographs. $24.95 paper (ISBN 0-340-80770-9)

Cultural Geography in Practice opens, literally and figuratively, with the cover shot of henna-tattooed hands machine stitching a pair of denim blue jeans to an embellished orange silk garment. Rather than constituting the usual (albeit in this case visually quite appealing) decorative element, the cover shot is the subject of the opening paragraphs in the introduction to this edited collection. Inviting the reader to "take another look at the cover of this book," the introduction notes the varied ways that the reader might interpret this image, titled West Meets East, as a mediation of spaces of tension understood both literally and figuratively. In its connective and mediative spirit, Cultural Geography in Practice is appropriately signaled by this cover and the opening discussion of its significance.

This edited volume is intended for use as an undergraduate-level cultural geography textbook. Following the well-written general introduction, the book is organized around four main categories: writing cultural geography, living cultural geography, visualizing cultural geography, and performing cultural geography. Chapters are clustered around these four main themes. The brief chapter-length discussions are written by some of the United Kingdom's most engaging scholars in the field of cultural geography (and, in lesser numbers, scholars associated with former British colonies, three US academics, and a Brazilian-based scholar). The contributors patiently unpack their research for a student audience, explaining how they came by the topic in the first place, why they chose the methods they did, what the process of research was really like as it was being conducted, how they went about analyzing the data to turn it into a written, published product, and importantly, how the author's ideas often changed over the course of the project. Interspersed with the chapter-length discussions are 14 concept boxes that define in detail key, yet at times difficult to grasp, terms such as "discourse," "reflexivity," and "deconstruction." Finally, a number of so-titled "tales of research" are sprinkled throughout the text. These are brief accounts written by current or recent graduate students in cultural [End Page 285] geography, and give more immediate accounts of what the research process looks like from the perspective of students actually conducting it.

The intent of the volume is to introduce undergraduate students to the craft of cultural geography, with an emphasis on the variety of methodologies one might utilize to research a topic in cultural geography. Also important to the book's pedagogical purpose is a demystification of the research process and the scholars who conduct it. Cultural Geography in Practice encourages undergraduate students to view themselves as scholars in the making who might have interesting ideas and who have the ability pursue them through a variety of research strategies. The editors of the volume recognize that standard undergraduate textbooks often take a top-down approach to the presentation of their materials, whereby authors become supreme Oz-like authorities whose passions, methods, and (yes!) doubts, mistakes, and weaknesses are never revealed. By contrast, Cultural Geography in Practice is edited and authored by scholars who understand and practice in the dynamic interface between what we do as active scholars who research and publish in our sub-fields, and the undergraduate teaching that at the end of the day absorbs a great deal of our quotidian energies. The editors and contributors to this volume are clearly exemplary teachers, striking that fine balance between effective undergraduate pedagogy and the transmission of at times very complex ideas.

Existing attempts to fashion such edited chapter-based volumes for use as textbooks tend to err on the side of being far too advanced for undergraduate audiences. Cultural Geography in Practice sticks to brief chapters that are, for the most part, written in a highly accessible language that does not pander or condescend to the student. The vast majority of the contributions to this volume are accessible to an undergraduate audience, though those that are more demanding of a pre-digested textbook format...


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pp. 285-286
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