AAG President Highlights Civil Rights at Ohio University Colloquium
On November 3, 2017 AAG President Derek Alderman addressed the Ohio University Geography Department through its Colloquium program. His talk, entitled “Civil Rights as Geospatial Work: Role of Counter Mapping and Radical Place-making in the African American Freedom Struggle”, engaged the audience in a critical look at how geographers can play a role in discussing and practicing civil rights. He emphasized that geographers now have an opportunity to be active in a second wave of Civil Rights movements, making specific note that there is a chance to feature not only civil rights struggles, but the ways in which we talk about them. Coinciding with the Geography Awareness Week theme of the geography of civil rights movements, Alderman highlighted how geographers can interact with new grassroots movements and ways of knowing about race and place.
A key moment of Alderman’s talk called attention to the next generation of geographers. “Students will be our planners and mappers for the future–but you won’t be doing that alone, you’ll do that as part of a larger history of [geospatial and civil rights] work,” Alderman remarked. The statement captures an idea at the heart of his presentation– civil rights and geography are fundamentally linked and have a deep history which can and should be explored further. Examples of the geospatial work Alderman discussed included The Green Book, a tool which helped black travelers during the height of segregation in America, and the importance of data during sit-ins and bus boycotts. One way of looking at these important topics is to view them as part of a longer, broader civil rights movement beyond the common narratives many of us are familiar with today.
The Ohio University Geography Colloquium is a four-part, semester-long series. Chosen by the OU faculty and a graduate student representative, the colloquium speakers connect students with a variety of areas of geographic research. Many Geography departments regularly host similar events with guest speakers sharing information on topics, study areas, or research initiatives they are passionate about and ways they filter into popular culture. For students, these events can help them explore new areas of geographic thought and inspire new research ideas. For faculty in attendance, it presents an opportunity to branch out into other geographic subfields and become energized for their own research.
One way that the AAG supports colloquium programs and the sharing of geographic ideas is through the Visiting Geographical Scientist Program (VGSP). Funded by the Gamma Theta Upsilon Geography Honor Society, the program is geared towards small departments with limited resources to bring in notable geographers as guest speakers. The VGSP helps to identify potential visitors and assists with costs for travel.
Additionally, the AAG has kicked off a brand new resource to highlight geographers interested in and available to give presentations on various aspects of geographic thought and research. The Geography Speakers Bureau is designed to facilitate connections between speakers and those hosting events such as department colloquia, or media contacts seeking a geographer perspective on a topic. The Speakers Bureau, still in development with more speakers to be added, highlights distinguished geographers and their research interests and encourages a culture of public speaking within the field. Not only does the Speakers Bureau aim to connect geographers to each other, but it also seeks to increase public engagement to help communicate all that geography has to offer the world.
For more information on the VGSP program contact Mark Revell at mrevell [at] aag [dot] org. For more information on the Geography Speakers Bureau contact David Coronado at dcoronado [at] aag [dot] org.