Differential geographies: place, indigenous rights and 'local' resources



Publication Details

Castree, N. (2004). Differential geographies: place, indigenous rights and 'local' resources. Political Geography, 23 (2), 133-167.


Over the last decade a number of human geographers have advocated relational perspectives on place. These perspectives are currently influential within and beyond geography. In this essay they are subjected to a constructive critique. Three shibboleths of place are identified and scrutinised. Taking the writings of Michael Watts, Doreen Massey and David Harvey as a focus, it is argued that these shibboleths possess important but nonetheless limited value as explanatory and normative tools. Working within the broad parameters of a relational worldview, the essay proposes a more nuanced approach to place than that offered by Watts, Massey and Harvey. The second half of the essay explores this approach in relation to debates about the global indigenous peoples movement. For some indigenous groups, the right to 'differential geographies' is synonymous with the right to erect new border controls around places. This is controversial, not least because non-indigenous groups-locally and translocally-can lay equal claim to occupancy of, or at least a stake in, those places. Rather than criticising such arguments for the geographical apartheid that seemingly underpins them, I argue for a more subtle reading of 'strong' indigenous claims to territory, cultural artefacts and informational resources. The result is a plea for left-leaning critics to deploy more supple understandings of place that can accommodate the complexities of variegated real world place-projects.

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