Cultivating critical practices in physical geography


  • The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).


Fundamental changes in the meaning and practice of environmental science are affecting – and are affected by – the theoretical, technological, pedagogical and institutional projects of physical geography. These changes have given rise to a range of ‘integrative’ (or integration-directed) disciplinary narratives which articulate a role for physical geographers within an engaged project of societal relevance and transformation. In this context, we welcome the rise of a notional ‘Critical Physical Geography’ and here we seek to expand the conversation to support thinking about what it might mean to be critical within physical geography. Moving beyond definitions of interdisciplinary collaboration, we propose that being critical from within physical geography begins with cultivating a critical disposition towards the situated partiality of our scientific practices. This prompts consideration of the ways in which our environmental objects could be assembled differently, reflecting different personal histories and values, and from different epistemic locations and management framings and through different investment narratives. A critical disposition prompts reflection upon the situated constraints and opportunities presented by our institutional locations. Recognition and articulation of critical perspectives may provoke endeavours to more consciously reassemble our scientific and institutional projects into more effective interventions to secure a more powerful and meaningful role for physical geographers across their diverse engagements.