Volume 16, Number 1, April 2017
What should an overtly critical Latin Americanist geography look like? That’s the question we explore in this introduction to The Journal of Latin American Geography’s first special issue dedicated to critical geographies in Latin America. About a year ago the journal’s editorial team published a new editorial position in which they set out an explicitly critical vision for the journal, writing: “As part of our commitment to critical and progressive scholarship, we seek to engage the most crucial scholarly and social debates of our times, while retaining a historical perspective and intellectual grounding in geographic theory” (Gaffney et al. 2016: 1). They go on to write that the journal specifically seeks to publish research focusing on environmental justice, human rights, political agency, and power, “from critical perspectives” (Gaffney et al. 2016: 1, our emphasis). Given that this special issue is the opening salvo in the journal’s turn toward a more explicitly critical editorial position, we feel that it’s worth briefly reflecting on what critical Latin American(ist) geography could and should be. To that end, we aim to make three distinct, though inter-related points: 1) that critical Latin Americanist geography must be overtly politicized and committed to the disassembly of unequal power structures throughout the region; 2) that we must rethink not only what Latin America is as a region, but the process through which we conceptualize and define the region to begin with; and 3) that critical Latin Americanist geography must do more to break down the scholarly barriers between North American and European Latin Americanist geography on the one hand, and Latin American geography on the other.