Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The monster arrives ...

For the past five years I’ve been working as co-editor-in-chief with Nigel Thrift on the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. It was officially published yesterday, though I don’t yet have a copy (all I have is this photo!). It has been a mammoth task involving a team of 20 editors, 844 contributors from more than 40 countries, producing 914 entries that together total approximately 5 million words published over 7762 pages in 12 volumes! It covers the broad remit of human geography including cartography and GIS, development geography, economic geography, health and medical geography, historical geography, metaconcepts, methods, nature and environment, key disciplinary figures, philosophy and geography, political geography, population geography, regional development, rural geography, social and cultural geography, transport geography, urban geography. If you're interested in buying a copy or subscription it's the bargain price of USD 3,400, GBP 1,840, EUR 2,320!

It has been an interesting journey to publication, from initial planning meetings, to working with authors and editors, responding to thousands of emails, editing manuscripts, proof reading, and countless other tasks, with the added spice of a small but vociferous campaign against its production mid-task due to a subsidiary company of the publisher’s parent company organising a defence exhibition (which the company disinvested from under pressure, not least from us as editors). The official launch is Manchester at the end of August at the Royal Geographical Society annual conference. It’ll be good to push it off into the world and hopefully not have to think about too much for a while!

The foreword written by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. For those interested, here’s what she said.

We should reflect more on the increasingly interconnected and interdependent world we live in. Places that a century ago would have taken months to reach by boat can be reached in hours on a plane and at a price affordable to many more people. Changes in financial markets on one side of the globe instantly ricochet around the planet. Decisions taken in one country or at a supra-national scale affect jobs and well-being in another. This is the world we have inherited sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reminds us of the work still needed to implement those shared values.

For while the Earth seems to be getting smaller in space and time, the relative differences between places are often growing apace. The situation in many developing countries is currently regressing with falling life expectancy, rising national debts, and weakening economies. In the developed North there continue to be large differences in the standards of living between rich and poor, core and periphery, rural and urban areas. Consequently, the mobility of people is increasing around the globe with millions of labour migrants and refugees on the move, seeking better lives elsewhere. In addition, humanity is beginning to recognise and address the significant global challenge of climate change which is in part created by the processes of development and globalisation, but will require to be addressed with principles of climate justice.

The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography documents and explains all of these issues, and many more besides. Focused through the spatial lens of a modern geography sensitive to how social, economic, political, cultural or environmental processes work within and between places, the entries cover the full spectrum of issues facing humanity today across the planet. Together the essays provide a fascinating overview of the diverse, complex and sometimes paradoxical relationships between people, places and environments, written in a style accessible to students and interested parties. As well, the vast array of methodologies and theories employed by geographers and others is documented, to make sense of the developments now occurring. Indeed, in the very fact that it contains 914 essays, written by 844 contributors from over 40 countries, it is itself a product of the way in which the geography of communication and cooperation has rapidly evolved in recent years!

The challenges facing all of us, whether they concern the present global economic downturn, survival in a country at war, managing environmental change, and a host of other pressing issues, require a broad and deep knowledge of the fundamental processes shaping our future. The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography provides a comprehensive overview of that knowledge and points to the tools needed to build planetary citizenship and to think through a more ethical version of globalisation. I hope that it will be used extensively by present and future generations so that, as the planet seemingly shrinks in size, so the problems we face and the differences between us shrink too.

The other editors – who all did a fantastic job – were:

Senior editors
Noel Castree, University of Manchester, UK
Mike Crang, University of Durham, UK
Mona Domosh, Dartmouth University, USA

Section editors
Kay Anderson, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Paul Cloke, University of Exeter, UK
Jeremy Crampton, Georgia State University, USA
Brian Graham, University of Ulster, N. Ireland
Costis Hadjimichalis, Harokopio University, Greece
Phil Hubbard, Loughborough University, UK
Robin Kearns, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Mei-Po Kwan, Ohio State University, USA
Sara McLafferty, University of Illinois Urbana, USA
Loretta Lees, King’s College London, UK
Anssi Passi, University of Oulu, Finland
Chris Philo, University of Glasgow, UK
James Sidaway, University of Plymouth, UK
Katie Willis; Royal Holloway, UK
Henry Yeung, National University of Singapore

I'd like to thank everyone involved in the project - editors, authors, and the folks at Elsevier - for all their hard work in bringing the encyclopedia to fruition. I'd especially like to thank my fellow editors who all made enormous contributions well beyond the call of duty to work with authors to ensure we produced a quality product; the NIRSA PhD students and postdocs who helped me with the huge job of proofing; and also Richard Berryman at Elsevier who for the past while has been the pointman at Elsevier and, who with his colleagues, helped us drag it over the line. I believe we will now all be paid for our efforts!

Please can we leave a grace period of at least a year before anyone utters the words 'second edition'.


Uriah Robinson said...

Congrats Rob I hope our local library can afford it. :o)

Dorte H said...

What an amazing project! Congratulations.

It must be very special for you to see the actual books.

Rob Kitchin said...

Thanks, Uriah and Dorte. Relieved is the word I'd use! It was a long old process. I just hope that it now gets used, especially by students. Main access will be online via institutional subscription.