Pendulums and Pigeonholes

One of the things that I love about running my courses is that I’m guaranteed to learn something too, but because of the diverse backgrounds of those that attend I can never guess what area it will be in. Over the past few courses I have learnt something about drumlins, Foucault’s pendulum, moles and sewage smells. This is a subject that is wonderfully difficult to pigeonhole, which reminds me…

The Geographical magazine asked me today whether I considered myself a geographer.

I gave the following, slightly long-winded answer:

‘Am I a geographer? Good question, but no short answer I’m afraid. My niche has a lot of geography in it, but is probably not part of what the academic geographical world would consider its domain. Natural navigation sits astride many fields including geography, meteorology, natural science and astronomy, to name a few.

However, my recent trip to Libya had a stronger geographical bias than some of my work, focusing as it did on one part of the Sahara. There was some physical geography, mainly sand dune shape relative to wind, but some anecdotal human geography also, from informal interviews with the Tuareg. As part of my preparation for the trip I bought and studied a very old back issue of the Geographical Journal (Vol 35, No. 4 Vol 10 from 1910).’

Changing tack again…

I have had a conversation with Rita Gardner, Director of the RGS, in the past about what geography itself actually is. Her answer, if I recall correctly, centered around understanding change, but she had some sympathy for those that struggled to pin it down.

Perhaps interesting subjects evade pigeonholing, or maybe there are just people (polymaths/rebels/misfits?) that find such subjects alluring. Those annoying people that cannot keep their blog entries on one subject for example.

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