Impure and worldly geography: The Africanist discourse of the Royal Geographical Society, 1831-73

Barnett, Clive (1998). Impure and worldly geography: The Africanist discourse of the Royal Geographical Society, 1831-73. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 23(2) pp. 239–251.



This paper argues for a theoretically informed critique of the formation of modern geographical knowledge which focuses upon the written networks through which knowledge is produced and circulated. Drawing on deconstruction and colonial discourse theory, the paper presents a reading of the Royal Geographical Society’s published record of nineteenth-century African exploration. This discourse posits a racially unmarked subject-position as the condition of scientific discussion. The Royal Geographical Society’s geographical knowledge is shown to have been formed through the effacement of alternative subject-positions and the appropriation of other ways of knowing. It is suggested that closer attention to the discursive structures of written networks of knowledge might inform a more nuanced understanding of the reproduction of disciplined knowledge.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 24192
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1475-5661
  • Project Funding Details
  • Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
    Not SetNot SetESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
  • Keywords
  • Africa; colonial discourse; deconstruction; discipline; Royal Geographical Society; writing
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
  • Research Group
  • OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 1998 Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers)
  • Depositing User
  • Clive Barnett