Saturday, October 26, 2013

Focus on Geography

Comin' at you from Toledo, Ohio today, where I've accompanied my husband as he presents at a Geography Conference.

I'm actually sitting in the back of Ted's session. That's right. I'm totally crashing their party. Now, if you've never thought about geography as a discipline, let me give you the quick run-down (this is what I've learned over years of being married to a geographer).

Like sociology or anthropology, geography is a very broad discipline. In fact, many geographers are almost indistinguishable from anthropologists and sociologists. For example, the woman presenting right now is writing her dissertation on the governance of (a homemade craft-selling site, if you're unfamiliar - check it out!). Also on the docket for today: Place Branding and Locational Determinants of the Craft Brewing Industry in the United States.

Geographers study all aspects of place, including the land, the people, the borders, the governments, the environment... everything! Ted, for example, studies the Buddhist revival in Russia. At first glance, you'd think he was a religion major, but it all relates to geography somehow... I think it has something to do with the use of public spaces for religious markers such as datsans and pagodas.

While Ted was a student in Boulder, we had geographer-friends who studied everything from the Pine Beetle epidemic to the ice core in Antarctica. The nice thing about hanging out with geographers is that there is a lot of variety in their knowledge and interests! The bad thing is that I often have no clue what they're talking about....

Anyway, if you would like to appear highly educated the next time you find yourself in conversation with a geographer, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Geographers are not cartographers. They don't make maps. At least that's not their focus.
  • Geographers do not study rocks (that's geologists - don't beat yourself up, lots of people make that mistake).
  • Ask them about their methods. If you're at a social gathering, make sure you have a full plate of hors d'oeuvres and a drink, as this could take awhile.
  • Last, remember that geographers are people, too. They just think about the world differently.

Whoa! Ted's up, and he's throwing us a curveball. Apparently he's presenting on offshore oil and gas production in Dagestan... I thought we were here to talk about Buddhism. 

Huh. Guess I should start listening, as I have not heard about this project yet... I'll be back later with pictures. Hope you learned something about the discipline of geography!

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