On canonical geographies

Innes M. Keighren, Christian Abrahamsson, Veronica Della Dora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Histories of geography are, by their very nature, selective enterprises. The apparent tendency of geographers to disparage particular periods of the discipline’s history, at the same time as exalting others, is characteristic of the way in which progress has been measured, relevance defined, and novelty identified. Yet, whilst other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences actively engage with their textual canons and founding figures, geographers have notoriously avoided doing so. In this article, we consider why this has been the case and how different conceptions of canonicity have mattered to the ways in which the history of geography and its intellectual foundations have been narrated. In thinking through the significance of geography’s texts to the ways we imagine the discipline—its past, present, and future—we consider how processes of remembering and forgetting have been employed to serve certain intellectual and ideological agendas. We conclude by advocating a more serious engagement with geography’s textual legacy: one which might benefit not only disciplinary historiography, but also disciplinary consciousness, and thus the future of geography itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296–312
JournalDialogues in Human Geography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Anglo-American geography
  • canon
  • canonicity
  • classics
  • historiography
  • history of geography

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