Weeds, plagues, and bodily secretions: A geographical interpretation of metaphors of displacement

T Cresswell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Metaphor has been the subject of a long and sustained tradition in geographical inquiry. Metaphors have been seen as evidence for people's attachment to the earth, as ways of developing a new theory, and as sources of misleadingly simple geographical understandings in the wider realm of ''theory. In this paper, I interpret metaphors which are not obviously geographical in nature to reveal how metaphors can be understood as ways of thinking and acting with geographical and political implications. I focus on the ecological metaphor of the ''weed,'' the medical metaphor of ''disease,'' and the bodily metaphor of ''secretion'' and suggest that these have been used to label people and actions as ''out-of-place,'' as if they were weeds, diseases, or bodily secretions. The point is that these metaphors are ways of acting and not merely poetic flourishes. Positioning these ''metaphors of displacement'' within the theories of, and geographical engagement. with, metaphor, I argue that geographers could profitably engage themselves with interpretations of metaphors as they are used in contexts of social power and conflict in the world beyond academia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-345
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1997

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • disease
  • displacement
  • metaphor
  • practice
  • secretion
  • weeds


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