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FERRETTI Federico, “Teaching anarchist geographies : Elisée Reclus in Brussels and ‘the art of not being governed’”, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 2017

mardi 18 juillet 2017, par F.F.

This paper addresses the issue of how to teach anarchist geographies, as discussed by the current literature in this field. To this end, I analyse an exceptional archival source, i.e., the notes taken by a student of anarchist geographer Elisée Reclus during the classes that Reclus gave at the New University in Brussels. These notes are the only surviving document able to shed light on the short teaching experience Reclus had at the end of his career (1894-1905). Drawing upon Benedict Anderson’s notions of “anti-colonial imagination” and of different “frameworks of comparison”, I show how Reclus tried to perform an anarchist geographical teaching by simultaneously embracing empathy toward cultural differences and universal feelings of justice and international solidarity. Therefore, he taught a non-statist geography by showing his students what James Scott calls “the art of not being governed”, addressing the examples of the egalitarian traditions of some non-European peoples, together with their anti-authoritarian and anti-colonial struggles. Finally, I explain how this case can help to elucidate the present-day debates on performing radical teaching approaches inside and outside the academy.

Keywords : anarchist geographies ; geography teaching ; empathy ; anti-colonialism ; Armenian genocide

“Liberty, though primitive, is a higher stage than servile civilisation.”
E. Reclus, Comparative Geography, Academic Year 1896-97, Lecture 14