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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Questions/Comments for Matt Wilson

Please read and respond to the following links to prepare for our class with Matt Wilson. Publish it before noon on March 2nd. 

Source 1


Source 2

20 comments:

  1. In his response to Lewis’s criticism, Bunge states that “we should not read books before entering the field for exploration, because it presets our minds.” Is there ever an instance where a preset mind is a good thing?
    In Lewis’s critique of Bunge’s writing, he states: “Bunge’s anger is not the mature wrath that provokes great writing; it is the hysterical rage of a man who has lost his temper and never got it back again.” Is it fair for him to completely discount “hysterical rage” as being able to produce great writing?

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  2. In David Ley's review of "Fitzgerald" he refers to a time when "the racial composition of the neighborhood shifted from 100 percent white to predominantly black". I am assuming he refers to the phenomena of "white flight". Has this sort of shift occurred in Lexington?

    In "Fitzgerald From a Distance" the author writes about how geographers should not be trapped indoors in computer labs and map libraries but rather be outside in the world, observing. How could this travel out into the world be made more feasible?

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  3. In the reading “FITZGERALD FROM A DISTANCE”, Fitzgerald analyses the racial context and “integration in terms of attitude.” What is the significance of the map and how does this add to the analysis?

    What affect does Bunge’s book have on Northwestern Detroit and towards Fitzgerald’s main claim?

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    1. Questions/Comments:

      Basic question: I am assuming you have read Bunge's original piece so what do you think about it?

      Reading between critique on Bunge and Bunge's response, I can see a little of both sides. On one hand, you have academia which is usually exclusive(don't know if geography has been on the open access kick), dry, and holds tightly on their laurels.

      On the other hand, having too much of a personal narrative in what you are researching (for this case, Bunge and locals surveying a square mile of Detroit during turbulent times) that what the paper was originally meant for (historical geography) turns into something more (political commentary). This, in return, alters the intention of the paper and might lead to biases in the research.

      I would be curious to see if Bunge marketed his work to someone else besides his colleagues and see how other groups, such as the public, would have reacted to it.

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    3. Oh yes, it is a lot easier to distance yourself when you are working with other species than to be dealing with humans! Natural science and social science are rather distinct in writing styles.

      Going back to marketing:
      (I need to find another activist example someday) Thomas Merton has said similar comments that Lewis critiqued Bunge about but, instead of critiquing, people lauded Merton's words.

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    4. I deleted my comment because I was planning on redrafting it but I just ended up making you look silly.

      A quick summary of what I had written:
      I appreciate personalization in academic writing. Even when problematic because at least baises are more clear than if it wasn't.

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  5. In "Fitzgerald From a Distance", the author notes "We have become so situational that we have lost sight of the site unless we can cite it in a senseless census" (488). Isn't this true outside of the context of geography as well? Why are we so slow to take into account the experiences of people around us until we see their stats published in a newspaper or a study?

    In Lewis' critic he contrasts rage and emotions to truth and science. When did examination mean being apart from feelings?

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  6. I was struck by the following assertion in Lewis’s review of Fitzgerald: “The evidence for or against the existence of racism consists of carefully balanced documentation, but balance and documentation are not Bunge’s strong suits.” On the one hand, I am amazed that a social scientist would need documentation of the existence of racism in the U.S. On the other hand, many of our white contemporaries still need evidence so as to be convinced that racism is well and alive. My question, then: How often do racist (sexist, etc.) biases surface in contemporary writings on geography? I guess I am asking whether geographers are exempt from racist beliefs because of your field.



    Bunge writes: “Geographers have a sad nostalgia in response to the question, “What led you to becoming a geographer?” My question has less to do with Binge’s own (hypothetical) response and a lot more to do with my curiosity about your (Matt Wilson’s) choice of field study: What led you to become a geographer?

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  7. I am with Devin regarding seeing things from multiple perspectives. I can understand how Lewis' review responds to the book as essentially a broken train, where idea after idea gets thrown into the "pot," but at the same time, I believe he goes to an extreme in talking about the racism discussion.
    A few comments seemed to play across all of the reviews- including the contradictory statements made by the author as well as manifesting personal stories overtop of the point attempting to be made. This can be extremely distraction, and the reviewers were very passionate regarding these points.
    One of the comments that I was intrigued by regarded the racism discussion and criticism of Lewis on Fitzgerald and the one titled "commentary" on Lewis. Lewis was extreme in his talking about "white racism" with the assumption of "black racism." While intentions were probably much better than what was written, I must agree in the fact that racism occurs on all sides. This was much better illustrated on the commentary piece, which mentioned this exactness of racism being racism. There are no real subtypes. But, I do believe this author was extreme is attacking Ley, calling him a racist just for the use of these words (this is just me being nit-picky... but I see all sides in play here).
    The disjointness was the other agreed upon review, where thoughts were not complete or contradicted . The commentary mentions how within a page or two of the writing, there is already contradiction. Overall, facts are presented one after another without references, which is completely again any form of writing and scientific processes, which is mentioned in the papers. But, the commentary also notes that simple research could bring these "geographical maps" to light, and that it is easy. I must agree with the other reviewers though that a written piece should have its information backed up directly rather than implied. This ones from my own scientific background as well as the "unspoken rule" of citing!
    The questions that I have deal more with the content. Why would Bunge make contradictions to his own arguments? Were these on purpose? Why would there be a mentioning of a ranting on this idea of "white racism" in one of the views? How have these changed for today compared to historical settings? Are we continuing on a path of recovery? or are we remaining constant or depleting?

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  8. In his review of Fitzgerald, Lewis pronounces that the book’s troubles “derive from the fact that Bunge is an angry man.” Even before reading on and finding out that Bunge is African American, I could tell that the evidence marshaled against the book rests on an accusation that is still used to discredit people on the social margins: they are too angry, not rational enough, not scientific enough to engage in credible discourse. My question: does this kind of reasoning still show up in (official) geography reviews?


    In his response to Lewis, Bunge asks a rhetorically brilliant question: “Whom did Columbus cite for sighting America?” He then goes on to make a distinction between “urban explorers” who “record the raw facts in the field” and “armchair academics” who need to look at their computer to find out what the weather outside is. How does this distinction play out in geography studies today?

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  9. In many social sciences, or at least in contemporary ethnographies at the beginning you tell the audience who you are and your background, you tell them how you are qualified. But, more than anything you show that you are aware of your agency, which you'll never be able to remove from your writing, that you can’t remove your own subjectivity to get to the objective truth when dealing with issues of culture, racism etc. In contemporary geography, or cultural geography, or the type of geography where you interpret maps then combine that with field work and gather data to get to objective truths or ideas, do you try to remove your subjectivity completely to be objective or culturally relative? Or, are you always supposed to be aware of your subjectivity when dealing with social issues because you can't ever remove that? William Bunge at points may not be objective or culturally relative at certain points in his work, does he make that known towards the beginning that he's aware that he's bringing a lot of opinion, without seemingly enough qualitative or quantitative data into this academic writing? That's what the critiques seem to be hinting at, but I haven't read his piece so I'm yet to actually formulate any type of opinion on Bunge’s work. Secondly, does Bunge represent a crossroads for geography away from armchair academia? Were there a lot of geographers gathering data and getting to conclusions in a similar way to Bunge at this time?

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  10. In the Bunge’s piece he says, “There is no such thing as white racism in America. There is only racism and only a racist would know it.” He goes on to discuss how whites voted racially and black were able to see past the color. How do you feel this is still prevalent today?

    In Lewis’ review he states, “Community spirit is certainly a critical variable in determining community health.” This statement stood out to me and made me think about the Lexington community. Do you think the spirit of the Lexington community has improved over the Last few years?

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  11. "Fitzgerald is the work of a man with a cause. He has had his say and deserves to be read." When an author comes from a place of personal experience, must his findings be cited and proved? There is plenty of work glorifying all kinds of ways of life and plenty that disdains others, and it isn't always cited correctly. Is the issue in Bunges's work an issue of advertising? Like Franklin said, is Bunge neglecting to state his subjectivity clearly enough?

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  12. A lot of people in society do this but why do they think reiterating the same point repeatedly in a harsh tone is an efficient way of preaching their own 'gospel'? We all have different opinions and I feel that there is a better approach in regards to spreading one's message.

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  14. Reviews-
    It is always very frustrating for me to see this conundrum pointed out in the two reviews... It seems to me that the more unattached, but well-documented communication of injustices is often overlooked, but passionate, questionably-supported communication about those issues is much more paid attention to for a few different reasons. It's like, no one will actually pay attention or be roused to action unless you're very emotional about an issue, but then when you try to logically support and explain the situation it seems...less genuine? I know it's definitely not a good idea to continually condescend on the audience you're essentially trying to reform, because that just makes them refuse to listen even more. But I also feel that a certain amount of non-sugar-coated-calling-out is necessary for some people to realize how harmful they actually are being. To snap them out of "well, it's not ME they're talking about..." So I'm not sure I know the middle ground for this problem.

    Bunge-
    Bunge brings up a very significant point in that...there is a large difference between those "armchair academics" who cling to their second-hand information rather than experiencing a more direct reality. It's apparent that much scholarly discourse occurs in this way, thinking they "know" one thing to be true because they have the data to look at, when they haven't actually interacted with any actual thing to get a deeper understanding. It's hard to say that all of these scholars are just wrong on all points, and even more difficult to say that it's fine for them to just implant themselves in any situation they want to in order to "properly observe" occurrences and behavior...this is another conundrum I have issues addressing. How far is too far into another group's boundaries? What extent of intrusion is acceptable when trying to improve the lives of others? Certainly, working with and asking what someone needs instead of pushing your own ideas on them is vital. I think this is one of the worst habits of these armchair academics.

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  15. Bunge's article- Is the reason so many white are oblivious to racism due to the fact that they are not truly living, observing and learning from the world themselves?

    Lewis is not super happy with Bunge's article and stance. Is Bunge's call to action ineffective because of his aggression and honesty? Are people's instinctive nature to act defensive a problem when reading Bunge's article?

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  16. As I was reading the two reviews of Fitzgerald, I couldn't help but think "what the hell am I reading this for?" A couple of bitchy, long winded book reviews from 40 years ago hardly seemed relevant, but after reading Bunge's response I understood the purpose of having us read them. The reviews seem to represent the passivity traditionally accompanied by academia, or the "arm chair" academics, whereas Bunge represents the action. After years of in depth field work, and actually trying to understand the significance of Fitzgerald as a part of America, Bunge was shut down and criticized by people who had probably never even set foot in a place like Fitzgerald. While it is important to be critical, it is absolutely unnecessary to try and discredit someone's work entirely, especially when they are trying to do something as important as spreading awareness of societal issues. This is still a trend that happens in academia today- worrying so much about insignificant little details that we fail to recognize the big picture.

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