From today’s perspective, early 20th century ‘Area Studies’ texts represent a relic form of geographical research and writing. These compendiums of place-based knowledge present what we now consider to be a layperson’s understanding of ‘geography’ – details of landforms, climate, land use, economic activities, urban patterns and so on. This empirical content is described in language littered with the judgemental adjectives associated with hierarchical knowledge systems
such as environmental determinism, economic stage theory and theories of modern state formation. In this essay I interrogate one subset of these texts, namely those that were written about Tropical or Monsoon Asia, as it was often referred to. I situate the publication of these geographies with respect to major shifts in human and earth systems and outline some preliminary ideas for how we could re-read these texts to recover place-based knowledge that might inform current research on economic resilience in Southeast Asia.
Gibson-Graham, J.K. 2016 “’After’ Area Studies?: Place-based Knowledge for Our Time” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34(5): 799-806.