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Did May '68 change geography?

Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
Mai 68 a-t-il changé la géographie ?

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1The myriad testimonies, commemorations and analyses that are circulating these days serve a useful purpose in inviting us to put the changes that have taken place over the last forty years into perspective.  Doubtless the most tangible aspect of what was perhaps a revolution against the established authorities was the doing away with the old academic interdiction, based on accepted disciplinary opinion, that quashed dissent, and blocked forays off-the-beaten-track and movements in the direction of hybridization, under the implacable weight of ostracising disciplinary judgements (‘it’s not geography!’), a criticism that we hardly hear anymore.

2But wasn’t this ‘liberation’ from curiosities and geographical imaginings merely an intellectual concomitant of social change? Liberalisation encourages individualisation, which stirs up an interest in representations, imaginings, personal histories, and of course examples of agents that are ‘centered on the individual’.  But in addition, geographies of identities, minorities, sexualities, values, talents, and—why not, in a world where, next to leisure activities, culture is becoming an industry?—the ‘geography of the marvellous’, according to the title of a session of the Congress of American Geographers in Boston last April.  But judging from the other sessions of this conference, perhaps a bright future is also ahead for geographies of rhythm, of the media, of brands and labelling, and even geographies of detention and confinement.

3Far be it from us to criticize the benefits of imagination in science!  But this era is also a period of globalisation, of the strengthening of inequalities, of cultural domination via linguistic homogenisation.  May we geographers find a way to build our interpretive theories in geography, or the new social construction will carry on without us!  And in the process, let us not fail to use to the fullest the other advances of the period, the formidable technology that has developed since the Fortran era and the perforated maps that prevailed in 68:  Information Technology and the Internet, SIGs and research engines are the new instruments liberating geographical imagination and creativity.  Will new theoretical and conceptual changes be brought about by technology?  Cybergeo invites you to debate this subject.

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Denise Pumain, « Did May '68 change geography? », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2008, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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Denise Pumain

ProfesseurUniversité Panthé

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