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(2019) Political geology, Dordrecht, Springer.

Genealogies of geomorphological techniques

Rachael Tily

pp. 37-69

The chapter is focused around an ethnographic study examining the development of experimental field and laboratory techniques employed by members of Oxford University's Rock Breakdown Laboratory (OxRBL). Parallels are drawn with Latour's end of millennium observation of a team of field scientists including a geomorphologist. While the strengths of Latour's study are acknowledged, two missing elements in his analysis are identified: firstly, a lack of curiosity concerning the genealogies of techniques and, secondly, a sense of overdetermination that omits attention to the latency and excess in scientific practice. To address these pitfalls, this study employs semi-structured interviews and the analysis of historical and contemporary geomorphological texts to augment descriptions and trace links across several decades. This combined methodology enables a fine-grained and textured account. Not only does this do justice to the richness of qualitative data gathered during interviews and participant observation; it also enables an awareness of the presence of the past, and the sparks that connect forwards to the future, that are at work in a given experimental configuration.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-98189-5_2

Full citation:

Tily, R. (2019)., Genealogies of geomorphological techniques, in A. Bobbette & A. Donovan (eds.), Political geology, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 37-69.

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