Boston Review: Geographer Milton Santos sought to redeem the field from its methodological fragmentation and colonial legacies

For the first time in English, a key work of critical geography

Nowhere are the dilemmas posed by the new old geography more provocatively explored than in several of the works, now available to an English-reading audience, of the late Afro-Brazilian geographer Milton Santos. For a New Geography (1990) gives a full sense of the history of the discipline that led up to Santos’s discontent with past approaches, whereas The Nature of Space (1996) argues more directly that geography must encompass the whole of one’s environmental experience. It is these themes that lie at the heart of Santos’s life work.

During his exile he was prolific, publishing some forty books and winning geography’s highest award, the Vautrin Lud Prize. He is still the only scholar from the southern hemisphere to do so. For all his positive statements about geography’s contributions, however, much of Santos’s writing centered on his disagreement with the practices of the discipline. Three themes stand out in his critique: that quantification contributed to the blinkered professionalism of the discipline, that past efforts to render geography more holistic and interdisciplinary had failed, and that geography’s outmoded concepts constitute a form of oppression that harms developing countries. For Santos, each of these themes had a practical, no less than intellectual, implication.

Read the full article at Boston Review. 

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