Research and Objective Thinking
Gill Valentine: Social Geographies: Space and Society
In this book, Gill Valentine’s emphasis on space as it relates to all aspects and levels of human social interaction provides the readers in DMIN/lgp6 with yet another way to view, scrutinize and interpret the world we live in. In Sarah Pink’s, Doing Visual Ethnography, we learned to become more knowledgeable about our environment (space and society) by engaging in visual images to the point of finding meaning and understanding in our visual experiences.
Valentine has also offered us a refresher course in doing research that specifically supplements Kate Turabian’s, A Manual for Writers Of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, and Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s, Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, which provides tips on analyzing and assessing research, and how to avoid egocentric and sociocentric thinking.
Valentine presents a geographer’s perspective of diverse human social relations and interactions as they are played out in various social geographies. The book covers a wide range of human relations, perceptions, and tensions in eight different categories of human activity and notes their significance in spatial structures and society. The author’s arguments are based on her own research and the work of other researchers and scholars on relevant subjects.
The section on institutions is of special interest to me because tentatively, my cross-cultural field research project will deal with institutionalized children in orphanages in a sub-Saharan African nation. Valentine admits that relatively speaking, geographers have not given much attention to institutions as social geographies and orphanages are not mentioned in the book. However, there are many correlations with institutions in the arenas that were discussed. The book articulates in concrete terms the nature of institutions that I have personally observed to be true regarding Christian based orphanages.
It is Valentine’s opinion that in lieu of the family home, institutions can provide minor children with the adult supervision, care, and protection they need. Institutions are regarded as spatial structures of power where the persons who have jurisdiction over these children also have the authority to set boundaries, control and determine spaces within which these children can interact. Thus, “Children are differentiated from adults in a deferential and hierarchical way.” 1
The general school experience that Valentine depicts for children would also apply to Christian orphanage school experiences. Valentine calls them, “spaces where children are acculturated into adult norms and expectations about what it means to be a good citizen. Children are expected to be compliant and obey authority.” 2 They are expected to exhibit good manners and etiquette, and respect cultural traditions. For this reason Valentine relates, “Educational institutions are a hotbed of moral geographies—of moral codes about how and where children ought to learn and behave.” 3
I hope to gain even more insights on the social geographies of institutions through research. It is my intention to explore possibilities for ministry in which I can participate in and perpetuate the discipleship and betterment of children in these social geographies. That is, to be instrumental in the development of these children into productive members of society who will exemplify the ways of Christ.
The section of the book on “The Body,” had the least interest for me. Especially, the topic of future bodies and all that it entails. I could not relate to that subject.
1. Gill Valentine, Social Geographies: Space and Society (London: Routledge 2013), 143.
2. Ibid. 144.
3. Ibid. 144.
Valentine, Gill. Social Geographies: Space and Society. London: Routledge, 2013.