Unsettling geographical horizons: Exploring premodern and non-european imperialism

Richard Phillips, Rhys Jones

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32 Citations (SciVal)


A critical genealogy of the emerging subfield of postcolonial geography illustrates how human geography has become historically shortsighted. Postcolonial geography interrogates the significance of imperialism and colonialism for disciplinary and material geographies, though its reference points, like those of most other geographical subfields, have been almost exclusively modern (c.1500-present). The marginalization of premodern imperialism rests upon the argument, or more often the assumption, that the imperialisms of the modern period have been fundamentally different from those of the premodern. We criticize this position by focusing on colonialism—as a specific aspect of imperialism—with reference to social, cultural, and political geographical theory and to wide-ranging empirical material. Regarding the social relations and the politics and scales of colonialism in the premodern and modern periods, there are no a priori grounds for distinguishing between modern and premodern forms of imperialism. We advocate a more historically and geographically inclusive postcolonial geography that will best equip geographers and others to understand and, potentially, to intervene against contemporary forms of imperialism, including those that have survived from the past and also those that have emerged in the context of present-day forces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-161
Number of pages21
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


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