A Radical Geography Community

Symposium – Introducing Milton Santos and “The Active Role of Geography”

Readers might have seen the online versions of two very different papers recently, Lucas Melgaço’s Thinking Outside the Bubble of the Global North: Introducing Milton Santos and “The Active Role of Geography” and the late Milton Santos and colleagues’ The Active Role of Geography: A Manifesto (the print versions will be available in Antipode 49:4 in September 2017, and the online versions will remain freely available).

Supported by a Translation and Outreach Award from the Antipode Foundation[1], Lucas (an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) translated the Manifesto with Tim Clarke (a graduate student in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa), and together they commissioned ten commentaries on it, some of them by its co-authors (available here and below).

First published in Portuguese in Brazil in 2000, and again in Spain in 2001[2], the Manifesto is a provocative piece. It was written by Brazilian geographer Milton Santos – one of the most quoted, celebrated, and controversial social scientists of the so-called “global South”. Santos penned it with some of his students in the Laboratory of Political Geography and Territorial and Environmental Planning (Laboratório de Geografia Política e Planejamento Territorial e Ambiental; LABOPLAN) at the University of São Paulo, and initially distributed it as a pamphlet at a national Brazilian geographers’ meeting.

At the time, university geography in Brazil was facing an identity crisis. A cool neoliberal wind was blowing through the academy, and many disciplines were struggling to justify their existence in terms of economic utility; degree courses were becoming ever more “applied” and departments were fragmenting, becoming increasingly siloed. Santos’ impassioned intervention on the meaning and value of Geography offers ten theses on its present condition, its central concepts, the risks to it, geographical training, the discipline’s division and reduction, ideas of totality and territory, society and space, and Geography’s future – arguments that will no doubt travel across time and space.

The Manifesto provoked much debate in Brazil when first published, and we hope that its translation will stimulate plenty of thinking here and now. It’s a superb introduction, Lucas argues, to Santos’ work, which:

 … employs a rich vocabulary including reinterpretations of concepts such as “totality”, as well as original concepts like “used territory”. These and other concepts have formed the basis of what could be called a “Miltonian” school of thought in geography. However, despite his national and regional importance to Brazil and the “global South” more generally, he has long been overlooked by the English-speaking community of geographers. The symposium intends to bridge this gap by offering an introduction to Santos and to the English translation of one of his most important and hotly debated texts, “The Active Role of Geography: A Manifesto”.

The symposium is part of a wider project introducing Santos’ ideas to Anglophone geographers[3], including Lucas and Tim’s brilliant translation of Santos’ Toward an Other Globalization: From the Single Thought to Universal Conscience (Springer, 2017) and Lucas and Carolyn Prouse’s edited collection Milton Santos: A Pioneer in Geography from the Global South (Springer, 2017).

Thanks to Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore for their work on this since 2014–Andy Kent

The introduction

Thinking Outside the Bubble of the Global North: Introducing Milton Santos and “The Active Role of Geography”

–Lucas Melgaço

The Manifesto

The Active Role of Geography: A Manifesto

–Adriana Bernardes, Adriano Zerbini, Cilene Gomes, Edison Bicudo, Eliza Almeida, Flavia Betioli Contel, Flávia Grimm, Gustavo Nobre, Lídia Antongiovanni, Maria Bueno Pinheiro, Marcos Xavier, María Laura Silveria, Marina Montenegro, Marisa Ferreira da Rocha, Milton Santos, Mónica Arroyo, Paula Borin, Soraia Ramos and Vanir de Lima Belo (trans Tim Clarke and Lucas Melgaço)

The commentaries

1. Space, Location, and Place – Cilene Gomes

2. Used Territory: Ontology and Praxis in the Thought of Milton Santos – Flavia Grimm and Marina Regitz Montenegro

3. From Totality to Place and Vice-Versa: Brazilian Experiences – Eugenio Fernandes Queiroga

4. A Critique of Fragmented Geographical Training – Rubens de Toledo Junior

5. The Geographic Space: A Fragmented Space? – Delfina Trinca Fighera

6. Manifesto for a Comprehensive and Transformative Geography – Fabio Betioli Contel

7. Method, Technique, and Totality in the Revolutionary Work of Milton Santos – James Humberto Zomighani Junior

8. Reflections on Planning in the Trajectory of Milton Santos – Flavia Grimm

9. Globalization: The Territory as Resource and as Shelter – Eliza Pinto de Almeida

10. The Philosophy of Techniques: The Real and the Concrete of Geography – Sérgio Gertel


[1] The Antipode Foundation is committed to facilitating engagement with scholarship from outside the English-speaking world; making communication and exchange within and beyond communities possible; enabling hitherto underrepresented groups, regions, countries and institutions to connect to the Anglophone world; and allowing it in turn to learn from important developments in non-English language research. To this end, there are limited funds available for the translation of essays, whether new or already published. Please contact Antipode’s Translations Editor, Jenny Pickerill ( /, if you have an essay to be considered for translation.

[2]  We would like to thank both Laboratório de Gestão do Território (LAGET)–Departamento de Geografia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and Universidad de Barcelona for permission to translate and publish in the journal.

Santos M with Bernardes A, Zerbini A, Gomes C, Bicudo E, Almeida E, Betioli Contei F, Grimm F, Nobre G, Antongiovanni L, Bueno Pinheiro M, Xavier M, Silveira M L, Montenegro M, Ferreira da Rocha M, Arroyo M, Borin P, Ramos S and de Lima Belo V (2000) O Papel Ativo da Geografia: Um Manifesto. Revista Território 5(9):103-109 (last accessed 8 December 2016)

Santos M with Bernardes A, Zerbini A, Gomes C, Bicudo E, Almeida E, Betioli Contei F, Grimm F, Nobre G, Antongiovanni L, Bueno Pinheiro M, Xavier M, Silveira M L, Montenegro M, Ferreira da Rocha M, Arroyo M, Borin P, Ramos S and de Lima Belo V (2001) O Papel Ativo da Geografia: Um Manifesto. Biblio 3W: Revista Bibliográfica de Geografía y Ciencias Sociales 6(270) (last accessed 8 December 2016)

[3] In his lifetime, Santos published six pieces in Antipode, the first in 1974 and the last in 1980:

Santos M (1974) Geography, Marxism, and underdevelopment. Antipode 6(3):1-9

Santos M (1977a) Society and space: Social formation as theory and method. Antipode 9(1):3-13

Santos M (1977b) Spatial dialectics: The two circuits of urban economy in underdeveloped countries. Antipode 9(3):49-60

Santos M (1977c) Planning underdevelopment. Antipode 9(3):86-98

Santos M (1980) The Devil’s totality: How geographic forms diffuse capital and change social structures. Antipode 12(3):41-46

Santos M and Peet R (1977) Introduction. Antipode 9(1):1-3

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