On being 'in-between': Social and cultural geography in Denmark

Kirsten Simonsen
2003 Social & Cultural Geography  
It is with a touch of ambivalence that I start writing this 'country report' on social and cultural geography in Denmark. In the light of recent discussions on Anglo-American and English-language hegemony in 'international' geographic writing spaces (see, e.g., Berg and Kearns 1998; Gregson, Simonsen and Vaiou, forthcoming; Minca 2000) , I welcome the initiative by Social & Cultural Geography as a strategy seeking to address and work against this hegemony. On the other hand, however, this
more » ... gy carries the danger of casting the writer as an unproblematized translator whoby way of a dual and ambiguous position between discourses-mediates the otherwise unknown and inaccessible 'other' to the powerful inhabitants of the 'centre' (Gregson, Simonsen and Vaiou, forthcoming). Like any other 'map' of an intellectual landscape, a 'country report' is a social construction, a narrative construed by a writer who is ambiguously positioned in the very field she is trying to describe. This should not be seen as a confession, nor as a way to disclaim the responsibility for the story to come, but rather as a problematization of the very notion of 'country reports' suggesting that, like all other practices of representation, they are necessarily situated, embodied and partial. While the global circulation of information and ideas-in spite of all its inequalities and deformations-renders problematic any essentializing claims and underlines the hybridity of all (national) knowledge production, cultural/ academic traditions and institutional settings still also situates it in time and space and facilitate some perspectives and ways of knowing at the expense of others. The 'map' of social and cultural geography in Denmark which I will try to draw in the following starts from a series of 'in-betweens'. The first of these moves between the social and the cultural. The 'cultural turn' within Danish geography has not taken the form of an opposition between social theory and cultural studies (as the Anglo-American one is represented for instance in Gregory 1994) or between politics of redistribution and politics of recognition. Cultural issues such as difference and identity have been theorized and explored through the lens of (critical) social theory and the social and the cultural have never really departed. Related to that, my second 'inbetween' moves between social constructionism and critical realism. It would be fair to say that the epistemological move taken by many of the involved writers can be characterized as an attempt to make their way between social constructionism and critique of essentialism, on the one hand, and some kind of ontological realism
doi:10.1080/14649360309064 fatcat:4n4obcdvqzbq3ojulib53g326q