Geography as a vocation? Becoming a geographer under neoliberalism

Olivia Mason, Nick Megoran*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Whereas geographers have outlined the effect of neoliberalism on the discipline, we ask how neoliberalism has particularly altered what it means to be a geographer. We do this by exploring geography as a vocation. After a summary of debates about academia and vocation, we present an overview of autobiographical and biographical writing on becoming a geographer. In these accounts, we note the increased attention that has been paid to issues of race, class, gender and precarity as shaping both what geography is and who can ⁣pursue it. These accounts are then contrasted with visual timeline interviews we undertook with geographers in UK secondary and higher education. We found a strong sense that geography is not simply a job, but a calling or vocation. However, this experience of vocation is being undermined by neoliberalism marked in particular by metricization and casualization. We argue, however, that both individually and collectively geographers are finding ways to resist the deforming effects of neoliberalism and to reclaim a sense of vocation. Although we recognize that vocation is a problematic and historically situated notion, we conclude that it is a productive new way to approach contemporary debates on what it means to be a geographer under neoliberalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages21
JournalGeografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography
Issue number1
Early online date22 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

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