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Feminist geography 30 years on : they came, they saw but did they conquer?
journal contributionposted on 2012-11-01, 00:00 authored by Louise JohnsonLouise Johnson
Feminist geography emerged in Australia in the 1980s, spurred on by the local Women’s Liberation Movement and inspired by the academic activism emanating from England, Canada and the United States. Producing critical evaluations of male-dominated geography departments, curriculum and journals, feminist geographers proceeded to stake claims in each of these spheres while also substantially revising the content of geographical research. There were significant interventions into urban, social, cultural and economic geography, in environmental discourses as well as into the gendered research process. Having arrived, identified and addressed these issues, the discipline was critiqued and transformed over the 1980s and 1990s. Crucial to the strength of this critique were key individuals, the Gender and Geography Group within the Institute of Australian Geographers and the role played by journals such as Geographical Research and the Australian Geographer in providing spaces for feminist work. However, as the new century dawned, the agenda changed and the anger and urgency dissipated as the broader and university contexts altered. It was a period of consolidation, as feminist insights and approaches were focused on key subject areas – such as the home, identity and sexuality – and became more mainstream. But is this work and the presence of women in the academy an indication of success or of co-option? This paper will trace these various shifts – from the arrival to the mainstreaming of feminist geography - and analyse what might be read as a retreat from feminist politics and practice within the discipline in Australia. I will conclude by re-stating the case to advance a new feminist agenda in the face of continuing gender inequality within the academy, in Australia and across the globe.