- Past and Present in CLAG Publications, 1971–2018
content analysis has revealed that since 1980 the articles in various geography journals have shifted toward an overwhelming emphasis on the present and the recent past. General geography journals such as the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Transactions of the British Institute of Geographers, and Progress in Human Geography exhibit this trend (Jones, 2004). Specialized journals such as Urban Geography and even those that inherently focus on the past, such as the Journal of Historical Geography and Environmental History, also exhibit this trend (Jones & Phillips, 2005; Sluyter, 2005a; Smith, 2009). The same trend has affected other journals, such as the Geographical Review, over a centennial scale (1916–2008), with a leveling off or even a slight decline in the trendline since the 1970s (Sluyter, 2010).
Some critical of that trend have termed that bias toward high modernity, with most articles focused on the early 1800s through the present, "temporal parochialism" or "recentism" (Sluyter, 2005a; Smith, 2009). Those critics argue that, quite ironically, an overwhelming emphasis on high modernity and the present hinders understanding of those same periods because some of their most salient characteristics have emerged out of the immense disjuncture between premodern and early modern times. Not all research topics should necessarily involve analysis predating 1800, of course, and thus while no individual article ever deserves the label recentist, the general decline of a longterm perspective in the journals of geography and allied disciplines does merit use of the term recentism, as well as concern over its intellectual costs and the reasons for its emergence.
After half a century of existence, the Conference of Latin American Geography (CLAG) should become more aware of how its corpus of publications relates to recentism. A content analysis of CLAG publications reveals how they compare to the more general trend toward recentism in geography, why, and with what intellectual consequences. An illustrative case study of CLAG publications on La Mosquitia follows.
perusing the core corpus
Table 1 includes all publications in the core CLAG publication corpus, organized by year of publication from volume 1 of the Proceedings series, published in 1971, through volume 17 of the Journal of Latin American Geography, [End Page 25]
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published in 2018.1 Between 1971 and 2002, CLAG published an annual series of volumes that changed title from the Proceedings (1971–1983, volumes 8–9) to the Yearbook (1984–2002, volumes 10–27). The Proceedings focused on publishing conference papers and sometimes abstracts. The Yearbook published peer-reviewed articles, some of which originated as conference papers. Included in the Proceedings and Yearbook, four decadal volumes set out the state of the field through reviews of its subfields and central research [End Page 26] problems, each of them published a year or two after the nominal year of its title: Benchmark 1970, Benchmark 1980, Benchmark 1990, and Latin America in the 21st Century. As an all-volunteer organization, sometimes a year went by with no annual volume, while other years had two volumes or, in one case, a double volume. Adding to the confusion of the changing series name, missing years, and double years, a Special Publications series yielded three volumes of collected articles on various themes. In total, then, over the thirty-two years between 1971 and 2002, CLAG published thirty-one volumes, an average of nearly one per year.
The Journal of Latin America Geography (JLAG) replaced the nominally annual volumes, starting with a single issue in 2002 and reaching two issues per year in 2005 and three in 2012. In addition, a special issue on geographic information systems (GIS) in 2010 added a third number to that year's [End Page 27]
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volume. The seventeen years from 2002 through 2018 therefore comprise thirty-nine issues in seventeen annual volumes.
Analysis involved perusal of all research, methodological, and pedagogical articles and conference papers, as well as brief research notes in the core corpus of publications. We categorized each item according...