Philip W Porter
The enduring core of my research and teaching interests is the way people fashion livelihoods and the patterns of human settlement and systems of resource use that result. As it happens, I concentrate on the geography of Africa (Preston James said one day: "Let there be regions" and instructed us to choose one over the weekend). After some thirteen periods of research, teaching and travel in Africa since 1955, I am beginning to understand some parts of that huge continent. My systematic interests are varied -- cultural ecology, development, agricultural geography, agrometeorology, cartography, population geography, air photo interpretation. For the most part they are pressed into service to help me understand human use and understanding (perception) of environment. A year's field work in East Africa with a team of anthropologists in the early 1960s influenced my thought considerably. As a graduate student I was strongly influenced by the writings of John K. Wright, Jean Brunhes, Frederic LePlay, and James Thurber. More recently I have been influenced by the thinking of David Harvey, and have been reading work on post-modernism, critical theory, environmental ethics, and eco-feminism. It takes study of local conditions in the context of global systems to understand a place these days. I try to help students (if they wish) to become unhyphenated geographers, that is, geographers who do not divide the field (and limit their interests) according to physical and cultural domains. I strongly encourage our students to engage in overseas field research and to challenge themselves to understand the inner and outer geographies of people of other cultures.