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Geography as a vocation? Becoming a geographer under neoliberalism

Lookup NU author(s): Olivia Mason, Professor Nick MegoranORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Whereas geographers have outlined the effect of neoliberalism on the discipline, we ask how neoliberalism has particularly altered what it means to be a geographer. We do this by exploring geography as a vocation. After a summary of debates about academia and vocation, we present an overview of autobiographical and biographical writing on becoming a geographer. These accounts are then contrasted with visual timeline interviews we undertook with geographers in UK secondary and higher education. We found a strong sense that geography is not simply a job, but a calling or vocation. However, this experience of vocation is being undermined by neoliberalism marked in particular by metricisation and casualisation. We argue, however, that both individually and collectively geographers are finding ways to resist the deforming effects of neoliberalism and to reclaim a sense of vocation. Although we recognize that vocation is a problematic and historically-situated notion, we conclude that it is a productive new way to approach contemporary debates on what it means to be a geographer under neoliberalism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mason O, Megoran N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geografiska Annaler. Series B. Human Geography

Year: 2023

Volume: 105

Issue: 1

Pages: 17-37

Online publication date: 22/03/2022

Acceptance date: 04/03/2022

Date deposited: 03/03/2022

ISSN (print): 0435-3684

ISSN (electronic): 1468-0467

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/04353684.2022.2050778


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Funder referenceFunder name
William Leech Research Fund