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Theme 6 – Geography in its writing

This research is based on an epistemological and historical investigation of textual and iconographic practices within which geographical knowledge, considered in a broad way, have constructed their objects, their concepts and their discourse.

The word ‘writing’ is used here in the broad sense of the term. Our aim is to study different types of texts (narrative, descriptive, explanatory, etc) and images (cartography, painting, photography, cinema, etc) where geographical objects are represented, conceived and made visible, as well as the links between texts and images in the representation of geographical objects.

Our working hypothesis is that geographical objects are elaborated mainly in terms of material and graphic practices, which we call “writing practices”.

The studies implemented on these writing practices and the various forms they take will stress on two main orientations.

On one hand, we explore the diversity and complexity of geographical textuality. This means for us to develop the investigation of more learned geographical writings by bringing them into contact and comparing them to other forms of texts which also take spatialities into account: fiction writing in its various forms, but also descriptive texts, travel stories, essays, etc.

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Extrait de l’Atlas nouveau 1696, Jaillot A.-H., Mortier P.

On the other hand, we insist on the graphic, iconographic and cartographic dimensions engaged in the construction of spatial objects. These studies extend and amplify a hypothesis already supported during the past four years: images are places where the knowledge of space is partly elaborated, they play an essential role in the existence of knowledge objects, insofar as they give visibility to these objects and make their manipulation possible. These images can be fixed (cartography, painting, photography) or animated (cinema). They can have various formats, linked to their place of presentation (from a book to a public space). Yet, whatever their format, their appearance or size, we make the hypothesis here that they play a constructive role within the production of geographical knowledge and the knowledge of space more generally. Our studies shed light on the various graphic practices (textual and iconographic) implemented in the knowledge of space, by trying to update the grammar that organizes them in a more or less explicit way, and by trying to analyze the cognitive impacts of these practices in the shaping of geographical concepts.

All in all, the general issue that structures this field of research consists in claiming, or at least in hypothesising, that the concepts and categories in geography are not independent from graphic practices, from the material support of these practices nor from the pragmatic situations where they are implemented and deployed. This is precisely where concepts and categories find their expression and their articulation.

Persons in charge: Jean-Marc Besse, Olivier Orain

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