Lecture des AK Politische Geographie

Freitag (22. September 2023), 12:45–13:30
HZ 3
Veit Bachmann (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
Annika Mattissek (Universität Freiburg)

Der AK Politische Geographie ist die zentrale Plattform für Austausch und Vernetzung deutschsprachiger Forschung und Wissenschaftler*innen im Bereich der Politischen Geographie.

Beating the bounds: Visual political geographies for difficult times

“Beating the bounds” refers to a Medieval custom, observed in parts of England, Wales and (maybe?) Germany, that involves touring local landmarks and swatting them with branches or sticks to maintain a shared mental map of parish boundaries. During such an event, a group of citizens from a community, parish or political community, would have walked along the geographic boundaries of their locality in order to share, construct and maintain a mental memory and map of the precise location of these boundaries. In some places, such rituals are still held, imbued with new meanings. While contemporary surveying and cartographic methods have changed, and such customs are no longer required to preserve political divisions, this experience of walking that builds a shared sense of community remains fruitful as an ethnographic research method in political geography.

In this talk, inspired by this age-old practice, I discuss my ongoing months-long auto/ethnographic experience of walking around the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland, and its visual transcription and storytelling within a comic. This walk carried out alone or in shifting small family groups started during the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 when international political borders were almost completely sealed off from neighbouring France. While the politics of Schengen borders have shifted since I first started beating the bounds, this experience continues as an attempt to foster a playful yet meaningful experience of the intriguingly absurd nature of (in)visible political border lines. The geographical knowledge that underpins the walk no longer relies only on the direct co-presence of other people’s bodies but rather on a series of material artefacts including maps, GPS-enabled phones, map apps, guidebooks, archival material and old maps, as well as border stones, fences and field observations. Yet the experience of a slow building up of an individual and shared mental map remains. By drawing upon feminist and critical approaches to space and politics, I suggest that visual field research methods grounded in embodied and situated experiences of space can provide ways of making sense of and sharing geographical insights in politically difficult times.

Juliet Fall is Professor of Geography at the University of Geneva. She studies the history of ideas and critical spaces of knowledge production, focussing on the biographies of geographers and their situated practices. In particular, she is interested in the political geography of the environment, and the essential drivers of how and why nature and space are instrumentalised within politics.