The concepts of gender, space, and place have significant social and political implications for the kind of world that people inhabit and the kinds of lives we can lead. That there has been a transformation in thinking about these concepts is indicated in references today to pluralized (and polymorphic) spaces, to the waxing, and waning of distinctions between space and place, and to the idea that gender, space, and place are something produced rather than simply lived in, or ventured into. These subtle shifts hint at a complex history of ideas about what constitutes gender, space, and/or place and how we might understand the connections and disjunctures between and among them. The theoretical roots of space act as the starting point for discussion, since these have a longer historical record than work which also explicitly includes gender. Western conceptions of space have drawn primarily from early Greek philosophers and mathematicians, and these conceptions indicate an early distinction between a philosophy of space and a pre-scientific notion of space. From here, the development of feminist methods has become essential for revealing how spatial thinking informs ideas about gender. These methods include deconstructing canons, asking the profoundly spatial question of “Where are the women?” and “ungendering” space. These methodological strategies reveal the extent to which the central concerns of feminism today have spatial and place-based dimensions.
Genders, Spaces, Places
Spatiality and World Politics
Space has always animated world politics, but three spatial orientations are striking. First, the Westphalian orientation deems space a sovereign power container. Second, the scalar takes recourse to the local, regional, national, and global spaces in which world politics is played out. Third, the relational deems space a (re)produced, sociohistorically contingent phenomenon that changes according to the humans occupying it and the thought, power, and resources flowing through it. Under this latter orientation, space is lived, lived in and lived through. Whilst relationality, to a degree, calls into question the received wisdoms of International Relations (IR), the fixity of sovereignty and territory remain. The orientations coexist concomitantly, reflecting the “many worlds” humankind occupies.
The Role of Geographic Education in International Studies
Geography has been a formal academic discipline in the United States since the early twentieth century. During the first six or so decades of this period, geographic education was dominated by the legacies of environmental determinism and orientalism. These concepts were representative of a Eurocentric worldview that showed contempt for non-Western cultures and economies, treating “natives” of non-Western cultures as backward, ignorant, and lazy. Presentation of material about non-Western areas of the world in geography textbooks and publications has been characterized by assumptions of Western cultural superiority. The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw geographic education undergo considerable transition, as geographers pay more and more attention to perspectives like dependency theory and world system theory. Renewed interest in geographic education coincided with the revival of geography as an intellectual pursuit and recognition of the importance of place in the world economy and in international relations, along with the explosive growth of information made possible by television, the internet, and other technologies. More importantly, the orientalist biases that have historically characterized geographic education in the United States and other Western countries have gradually disappeared. It has been argued that improved geographic education will help overcome geographic illiteracy and promote public awareness of international relations, but such awareness must be intertwined with the changing role of educational institutions in managing information, and to recognition of the changing relationships between education and information.