Terreform co-director, Deen Sharp, traces how the field of regional geography/area studies (focusing on Middle East studies) drifted away from the discipline of geography. He asserts that area studies’ milieus can ‘diffract’ geographical categories and create new possibilities for geographical knowledge production.
After decades of geography and area studies drifting apart, I argue there has been an area studies turn in geography. The long divergence between the two, however, has resulted in a certain misunderstanding by geographers of what area studies scholarship is and what this field can contribute to the discipline. Area studies should not be considered as an approach that merely concentrates on the representation of difference but rather as a milieu in which difference is practiced and geographical concepts can be ‘diffracted’. Area studies can offer geography new ways to think about its place in, and entanglement with, the world.
Keywords: area studies, Cold War, Middle East geography, new materialism, post-colonial theory, representation, War on Terror