As we continue to prepare for Place of the Year 2012, we’ve invited Joshua Hagen, Professor of Geography at Marshall University and co-author of Borders: A Very Short Introduction, to share his thoughts on the relationship between geography and current events. Here’s what he has to say….
Earlier this month, we launched Oxford University Press’ annual Place of the Year competition. For many, geography is just the next vacation, but understanding geography gives much more than fodder for travel fantasies. Geography provides insight into the forces driving people, events, societies, and technology — both past and present. With help from The Atlas of the World, 19th edition, here’s a look at past winning hotspots driving human history.
Last week, we launched Place of the Year 2012 (POTY), a celebration of the year in geographical terms. As Harm de Blij writes in Why Geography Matters: More than Ever, “In our globalizing, ever more inter-connected, still-overpopulated, increasingly competitive, and dangerous world, knowledge is power. The more we know about our planet and its fragile natural environments, about other peoples and cultures, political systems and economies, borders and boundaries, attitudes and aspirations, the better prepared we will be for the challenging times ahead.”
As the year winds down, it’s time to take a look back. Alongside the publication of the 19th edition of The Atlas of the World, Oxford University Press will be highlighting the places that have inspired, shaped, and challenged history in 2012. We’re also doing things differently for Place of the Year (POTY) in 2012. In addition to our regular panel of geographers and experts, we’re opening up the choice to the public.
By Andrew S. Natsios
My first meeting with a Sudanese national was with Dr. John Garang, then commander of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), founded to fight against the Sudanese state—located in the country’s north, with its capital in Khartoum—and to advance the rights of the southern part of the country. It was June 1989. By this point, Garang and the SPLA had been in open war against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, then led by Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, for six years.
By Andrew S. Natsios
For more than two centuries, Sudan has attracted an unusual level of attention beyond its own borders. This international interest converged in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century as four independent forces met.
First, there is the rebellion in Darfur, which has generated greater international concern than any other recent humanitarian crisis. This long-neglected western region has been intermittently at war since the 1980s and claimed the lives of 300,000 Darfuris in its most recent phase. The rebellion beginning in 2002 led to an ongoing humanitarian emergency, costing Western governments
By Jan Zalasiewicz
Volcanoes can take one by surprise. That was the case with Mount St. Helens, that famously erupted sideways rather than upwards, and it was certainly so, two millennia back, when sleeping Vesuvius awoke to bury Pompeii and many of its citizens. Eyjafjallajokull may not have been quite so dramatic, but its effects, in tearing a large hole in our complex and delicate network of global airline communication, certainly rippled around the world.
To a geologist, the presence of a volcano on Iceland isn’t at all surprising. After all, Iceland is literally, and continuously, splitting apart, as this island sits exactly on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. That mighty planet-sized fracture is continuously oozing magma, as the Americas pull ever farther apart – by a couple of centimeters a year, maintained for over a hundred million years – from Africa and Europe.
By Alia Brahimi
“The air freight bomb plot should be understood as part of al-Qaeda’s pervasive weakness rather than its strength. The intended targets, either a synagogue in Chicago and/or a UPS plane which would explode over a western city, were chosen as part of the attempt to re-focus al-Qaeda’s violence back towards western targets and pull the jihad away from the brink.”
By Harm de Blij
International tensions have a way of thrusting small, faltering states into the global spotlight. When suicide bombers attacked, and very nearly sank, the American warship U.S.S. Cole in 2000 in Yemen’s south-coast port of Adan (Aden), this remote country on the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula drew the world’s attention for the least desirable of reasons. Once seen as a promising if fragile experiment in Muslim-Arab democracy and as a destination for adventure tourism, Yemen suddenly found itself at the center of concern about the threat of Islamic militancy and terrorism.
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“Place of the Year” contest winners announced! See what cool prizes they won.
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