As I understand it, the idea of an article like this is for the editors to choose an expert on a topic, and ask that expert to call upon his or her vast existing knowledge to communicate what we currently know about the topic. I am not an expert on the use of autobiography in geography, or I do not think of myself that way. However, I have been thinking seriously about it recently. I wrote an autobiography, or really an account of my 4 years in professional limbo, between getting my PhD and finally landing a tenure track job. The article was published in Antipode, and I argued that we need to begin a serious critical examination of the issue of non tenure track faculty in geography. One thing such an examination will reveal, I suggested, is that when we look at power relations in the academy from the perspective of the marginalized, a whole host of assumptions that justify those power relations – and therefore prop them up – will crumble. There is something very valuable, I claimed, about seeing the world and writing about it from a particular perspective. Writing the article was at once the most frightening, cathartic, and rewarding experience of my career. It was some of the best academic work I have done. It also elicited, by far, the largest response I have ever received. Some few (who made an appearance in the narrative) were angry, but the overwhelming majority were extremely appreciative. The article really affected people, in a variety of ways. As the responses rolled in, I came to understand that autobiography has great power. I also appreciated even more fully the wealth of ethical and intellectual debates swirling around the form. Because autobiography is so powerful, we must take those debates very seriously. In writing the Antipode article, engaging the response, and in preparing this article, I spent much energy grappling with those debates. In what follows, I report on what I have learned.

Four Forms

Autobiography in Geography