CAREER: Educator and writer. Queen Mary College, London, London, England, reader in geography. Former chair of History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group, Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers. Member of editorial board of Cultural Geographies and Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers; member of London Women and Planning Forum steering group.
AWARDS, HONORS: Gill Memorial Award, Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers, 2002, for "research in gender geography and in particular women and imperialism"; Philip Leverhulme Prize, 2003.
Travel, Gender, and Imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa, Guilford Press (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor, with Gillian Rose; and contributor) Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies, Guilford Press (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Jane Wills) Dissident Geographies: An Introduction to Radical Ideas and Practice, Prentice-Hall (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor, with Cheryl McEwan; and contributor) Postcolonial Geographies, Continuum (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with others) Cultural Geography in Practice, Arnold (London, England), 2003.
Domicile and Diaspora: Anglo-Indian Women and the Spatial Politics of Home, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2005.
(With Robyn Dowling) Home (nonfiction), Routledge (London, England), 2006.
Contributor to books, including A Feminist Glossary of Human Geography, edited by L. McDowell and J. Sharp, Arnold (London, England), 1994; Writes of Passage: Ambiguity and Contradiction in British Colonial and Post-Colonial Travel Writing, edited by J. Duncan and D. Gregory, Routledge (London, England), 1999; Picturing Place: Photography and Imaginative Geography, edited by J. Ryan and J. Schwartz, I. B. Tauris (London, England), 2003; Key Concepts in Geography, edited by S. Holloway, S. Rice, and G. Valentine, Sage (London, England), 2003; and Critical Geographies, edited by D. Sibley and others, I. B. Tauris, in press. Contributor to journals, including International Journal of Population Geography, History Workshop Journal, Journal of Historical Geography, International Journal of Anglo-Indian Studies, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, and Gender, Place and Culture.
SIDELIGHTS: A reader in geography at Queen Mary College, London, Alison Blunt is interested in feminism, imperialism, domesticity, travel literature, and postcolonialism as they relate to cultures in Britain, India, and elsewhere around the world. She has written, cowritten, or coedited several scholarly studies in those areas that approach geography from unique angles.
A number of Blunt's early works focus on gender and imperialism. In Travel, Gender, and Imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa the author's "main point seems to be that, although second-class citizens at home, Englishwomen ranked above African men in the colonies because they, the women, were members of the colonizing race," commented M. D. Allen in Belles Lettres. Blunt focuses on the figure of Mary Kingsley, a well-known English travel writer, analyzing her writings as a way to explore issues of gender, race, and class structure in colonial Africa and England. Pointing out that Kingsley was able to indulge in activities considered the exclusive domain of British men only because she was in a land far removed from Britannia, Blunt highlights the importance of space and time with regard to gender issues. In a Women's Studies review, Lisa Colletta commented that Blunt "discusses how women's travel writing was influenced—and thus positioned—by notions of appropriate behavior described in conduct books for women travellers. In these books, traditional conceptions of femininity were reinforced and encouraged." Although Colletta went on to say that the author's disregard for "historical and biographical contexts" in her study is a flaw that results in a narrow perspective of her subject, she concluded that "Blunt's examination raises interesting questions about constructions of female identity within the discourse of imperialism."
Blunt tackles a similar subject in Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies, which she edited with Gillian Rose. In this collection of essays, the editors cull research that "examines white women's complicity with and resistance to imperialist mappings of space, power, and difference during the colonial and postcolonial periods," reported Geographical Review contributor Darcy Ann Olsen. Although Olsen noted that the selected chapters only present one side of the story—that of the feminist perspective—she concluded, "Geographers will certainly be interested in reading about the use of geographical theory in feminist discourses." Karen Morin, writing in Growth and Change, felt that the "book as a whole provides a well written and accessible grounding in feminist poststructural theorizing in geography" and enthusiastically concluded, "I unhesitatingly invite colleagues and students across disciplines to read this fresh and imaginative collection of essays."
In addition to her works focusing on feminism, culture, and imperialism as related to geography, Blunt has written and edited works that represent more general studies. Her coedited book Cultural Geography in Practice, for example, is a survey that presents a solid introduction to the subject to undergraduate college students. Dissident Geographies: An Introduction to Radical Ideas and Practice, which she wrote with Jane Wills, covers such subjects as postcolonialism, Marxism, sexual orientation, anarchism, and gender issues as forces of resistance to existing power structures in society. Thus the authors challenge many sacred ideals, such as the necessity for capitalism to be globalized, the moral superiority of heterosexuality, and why famines are not unavoidable tragedies. Lauding Dissident Geographies as "an exciting book," Jeff Hopkins declared in Canadian Geographer, "Those geographers who are dismissive at worst or 'squeemish' at least of radical approaches to geography … will find a convincing and well articulated explanation of the intellectual integrity of this kind of research and how geography as a discipline and geographers as activists, colleagues, educators and researchers can help bring about positive change in society."
Blunt has also written about geographies of home and migration, focusing on the Anglo-Indian community in India, Britain, and Australia in the fifty years before and after Indian independence in 1947. Anglo-Indians are people who are of mixed European and Indian birth—a product of European imperialism—whose chosen culture is more European than Indian, even though they were born on the Asian subcontinent. This research led Blunt to complete her 2005 publication, Domicile and Diaspora: Anglo-Indian Women and the Spatial Politics of Home.
Blunt told CA: "In Domicile and Diaspora, I draw on interviews and focus groups with over 150 Anglo-Indians, as well as on archival research, to analyze the spatial politics of home in relation to imperialism, nationalism, decolonization and multiculturalism. The book extends feminist and postcolonial theories about home and identity in relation to critical 'mixed race' studies. Key themes include imaginative geographies of Britain as fatherland and India as motherland; the establishment of Anglo-Indian homelands; Anglo-Indian migration under the British Nationality Act of 1948 and the White Australia Policy; and the spatial politics of home for Anglo-Indians now living in India, Britain and Australia."
"My interest in critical geographies of home is also reflected in a book I have written with Robyn Dowling simply called Home. This book explores home as a material and an imaginative space over household, national, and transnational scales. Drawing on a wide range of historical and contemporary examples, Home unsettles notions of home and explores the critical intersections of home, identity and power."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Belles Lettres, spring, 1995, M. D. Allen, "Errant Women in 'Exotic' Lands," review of Travel, Gender, and Imperialism: Mary Kingsley and West Africa, p. 36.
Canadian Geographer, fall, 2001, Jeff Hopkins, review of Dissident Geographies: An Introduction to Radical Ideas and Practice, p. 445.
Geographical Review, April, 1995, Darcy Ann Olsen, review of Writing Women and Space: Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies, p. 261.
Growth and Change, winter, 1996, Karen Morin, review of Writing Women and Space, p. 115.
Southeastern Geographer, November, 2004, Patricia L. Price, review of Cultural Geography in Practice, p. 285.
Women's Studies, January, 1997, Lisa Colletta, review of Travel, Gender, and Imperialism, p. 125.
Department of Geography, Queen Mary College, London Web site, http://www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/. (April 19, 2005), "Alison Blunt."