The “non-geography” geography of India’s Rape Problem (update 1)

Yesterday, I discussed how following the changes in a place’s name is a geographic study with reference to the Hindutva movement and the sexual assault of women in India. In that post, I noted RSS head Mohanao Bhagwat’s assertion that “Rapes occur in India, not Bharat.” I neglected to mention, but if one reads wikipedia‘s typically good articles of countries, Bharat is thought to be derived from a “legendary” (mythical?) emperor of ancient India. I’m reminded of Tangun, who is the “legendary” person who literally founded the Korean race/ethnicity/group of people. Tangun, by the way, has his own interesting geography (more on this eventually). Back to Bharat. I missed in my feed over vacation that the Times of India already published a rebuttal article making some of the same points in response to Bhagwat’s vitriol. I also missed that the other leading organization of the Hindutva movement, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Council), also parroted the RSS. VHP “accolades” include forced conversions of Christians and the Ayodhya pogrom in 2002.

The ToI’s rebuttal article highlights a doctoral dissertation (written by a now-professor of law in India) at the Yale Law School that researched rape cases in India between 1983 and 2009, in which at least one court convicted the accused. The professor found that “80% of these rape cases in high courts and close to 75% of rape cases in the Supreme Court came from rural areas.” A timely, and really useful, study…

Source: The Times of India, 5 Jan. 2013

From the Yale Law School. This is the main problem with this discipline: most useful geographic studies are conducted outside the discipline (hence the “non-geography” geography). Looking back at the first post, I mentioned that the Ivy League schools don’t even have a geography department (Yale definitely doesn’t), and yet, staring me in the face is a doctoral dissertation using a geographic perspective to a human related phenomenon. Geography isn’t going to be taken seriously, by politicians, the public, or non-geographers in general, until it produces something actionable.

Back up, I should limit this previous sentiment to human/cultural Geographers. Mercifully, physical geographers have climate change and more science-y phenomena and problems to deal with. Try asking a physical geographer if she ever considered whether her white, Anglo-Saxon, Muslim heritage has had an influence on how she studies aeolian erosion in the Caucasus. Go ahead, I dare you. This isn’t to say that being cognizant of one’s own biases aren’t important, admittedly (and obviously) I’m a human/cultural geographer and will probably never, ever post anything about erosion or rocks (sorry geologist friends!). But ignoring potential research problems because of its potential use by the ultimate boogeyman, “the state”, is preposterous.

So let me restate my earlier points: HUMAN/CULTURAL Geography isn’t going to be taken seriously…until it produces something actionable. Until then, “human geography” studies are going to be credited to everyone else and human/cultural Geography will remain inaccessible and misunderstood to the rest of us.

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