The Arab World Geographer
Forum on 11 September 2001 Events

Ending in order to begin…

Colin Flint
Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, U.S.A.

So what should we do now? Perhaps the first response should be to redefine who we are. Smith’s commentary on the term Arab nationals forces us to reflect that we are all victims of constructed identities to some degree. We face the limitations of being, to varying degrees, academic nationals, constrained by both national settings and disciplinary boundaries. The time is certainly ripe to invigorate dialogue across national and disciplinary lines. Of course, this has been said many times before, it is easy to say, and its validity is patently obvious. But how should we accomplish it? An unintended consequence of the attacks of 11 September may be a renegotiation of academic questions. The bad scenario may be is an entrenchment of nationalistic defence/aggression informed by national academies. This very morning (8 October 2001) I received a memorandum from the Penn State administration exhorting my colleagues and I to aid the military response at home and abroad through our research efforts. The better scenario is for funding agencies, university administrators, and academics to rethink questions and how we answer them. The key word is dialogue, not just across disciplinary boundaries but, perhaps especially, among nations. We hope this collection of essays is a small step in that direction. It requires a longer hike, though. Conferences, exchanges, syllabi, classes taught over the Internet, and special issues of journals are all possible routes. Just as the attacks of 11 September both utilized and were a reaction to globalization, academic responses can take a critical stance towards the 21st Century as (re)defined on 11 September but also make use of some of its features—especially the increasing exchange of information—to our advantage. It is a contemporary axiom that “geography is socially constructed.” It is our job to ensure that suicide hijackers and the American military machine are not the only, or even the prime, architects of the political geography of the 21st century.

(Submitted 11 October 2001)
© The Arab World Geographer

Flint (Intro) / Smith / Agnew / Abu-Nimer / McColl / Nijman / Marston & RouhaniFlint (conclusion)

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