Critiques and Controversies Surrounding Nonfiction in Geography


Nonfiction has long been considered a cornerstone of the field of geography, with its emphasis on the study of the earth’s physical and human landscapes. However, like any genre of literature, nonfiction in geography is not without its critiques and controversies. From concerns about objectivity and bias to debates over representation and authorship, the study of nonfiction in geography continues to spark lively discussions among scholars and readers alike.

One of the most common critiques of nonfiction in geography is the question of objectivity. Unlike fiction, which is expected to be a subjective interpretation of reality, nonfiction is often held to a higher standard of accuracy and impartiality. Yet, in a field as diverse and complex as geography, it can be challenging to separate personal biases from the objective presentation of data and information. Some scholars argue that all writing is inherently subjective and that it is impossible for any author to completely eliminate their own biases. Others suggest that the key to objectivity in nonfiction is transparency, with authors openly acknowledging their perspectives and experiences.

Another key controversy surrounding nonfiction in geography is the issue of representation. Whose stories are being told and whose voices are being heard in nonfiction works? Historically, nonfiction in geography has been dominated by white male authors, leaving little room for diverse perspectives and experiences. This lack of representation has led to calls for a more inclusive and diverse approach to nonfiction writing, with authors from different cultural backgrounds bringing a wider range of perspectives to the table. Additionally, there have been debates over the power dynamics at play in nonfiction writing, particularly in cases where authors may be writing about marginalized communities without their input or consent.

The relationship between authorship and authority is also a subject of contentious debate in the world of nonfiction geography. The traditional narrative of the all-knowing, objective author has been challenged by postcolonial and feminist perspectives, which highlight the unequal power dynamics that exist between writers and the subjects of their writings. In response to this, some scholars argue that nonfiction should be written collaboratively, with authors working alongside the individuals and communities they are writing about to ensure a more accurate and respectful representation of their voices and experiences.

One of the most significant recent controversies in nonfiction geography is the rise of “alternative facts” and the blurring of lines between truth and falsehood. In an age of misinformation and disinformation, nonfiction writing is often subjected to intense scrutiny, with readers questioning the credibility and accuracy of information presented. This has prompted calls for nonfiction writers to be more transparent in their methods and sources, providing readers with the necessary context and evidence to support their claims.

Despite these critiques and controversies, nonfiction in geography remains an essential and valued part of the discipline. It allows us to better understand the world around us and the diverse cultures and communities that inhabit it. However, it is crucial for us to continue to engage in critical discussions and reflections on the genre, addressing issues of objectivity, representation, and authorship to ensure that nonfiction in geography remains relevant and impactful in the modern world.