Don't dilute discipline

July 28, 2006

I read with amusement and concern the article "Geography breaks out of its borders" (July 21), which consisted of a sycophantic celebration of the recruitment strategy of the geography department at Durham University. If its purpose was to do more than advertise for free a single department and instead to talk about the future of geography, then it might have been better to have spoken to other departments, to have performed some analysis of recruitment strategies elsewhere and to have contacted others in cognate disciplines to gauge what they think about geography's "interdisciplinary turn".

Interdisciplinary research demands strong, respected disciplines working on common themes. Geographers need to convince other disciplines that what they have to say is worth listening to. It means that the discipline must have borders or it risks losing its intellectual currency. If those without a geographical training can become members of a geography department what does that say about the discipline? The notion of an interdisciplinary discipline erodes any sense of disciplinary core. If geography does not acknowledge this, it runs the risk of a less rosy future than the article suggests.

Kevin Ward
Manchester University

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