Federico FerrettiFederico FERRETTI, professor of geography at the Alma Mater Studiorum of the University of Bologna, associate member of the Géographie-cités laboratory, will speak in four seminars at the Condorcet Campus and at the ENS in spring 2022.


Archives in the history of geography: methodological problems and perspectives for research

in the framework of the seminar Geography and Social Sciences, organised by Marie-Vic Ozouf-Marignier and Nicolas Verdier

21 April 2022, from 14:30 to 16:30

EHESS, Room 50
Campus Condorcet
2 Cours desHumanités
93300 Aubervilliers


Based on the experience of almost twenty years of work in archives of several types, in several countries and in several languages, this paper seeks to establish methodological guidelines for navigating the complexity of sources that have recently become available to researchers working on the history of geography.

At the same time, this paper aims to highlight the importance of working with unpublished sources for any intellectual history. Special reference is made to recent trends in global history that consider archives (also in their international and multilingual aspects) as indispensable resources for a transnational and transcultural reading of the circulation of ideas.

These approaches complement well the spatial and contextual turns of the history of geography (and of the humanities and social sciences in general), which consider insufficient the only internalist readings of the construction of knowledge, by emphasizing the importance of the cultural and historical contexts of the production of these ideas. A fundamental part of these contexts are the places where knowledge is produced, as well as its circulation and transfer, factors whose role in the construction of knowledge is now well known. In addition, the importance of material aspects of intellectual history, such as networks and laboratories, is increasingly recognized. This also includes the concrete existences of individuals and groups, hence the rediscovery of biography and autobiography in the history of geography. Archives play a strategic role in all these intellectual approaches, which will be demonstrated through selected examples.

Geohistory and geopoetics in the Brazilian Northeast (1945-2002): the works of Josué de Castro and Mauro Mota

in the framework of the seminar History of Brazil, 16th – 21st century. Historiography, ongoing investigations, organised by Claudia Damasceno Fonseca, Laura de Mello e Souza, Jean Hébrard and Jean-Frédéric Schaub

16 May 2022 from 12:30 to 14:30

Condorcet Campus
Centre des colloques, room 3.06


Based on archival research carried out in the rich personal collections of the Brazilian geographers Josué de Castro (1908-1973) and Mauro Mota (1911-1984), deposited at the Coordenação-Geral de Estudos da História Brasileira (CEHIBRA) of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation (FUNDAJ) in Recife, This seminar approaches the notion of geopoetics by starting from the literary works that these committed intellectuals have produced in the form of poetry, novels or short stories, to raise awareness among local and international audiences about the social and environmental dramas of their region, particularly the Northeast of Brazil.

Starting from a questioning of the initially Euro-centric character of so-called ‘geopoetics’ studies and drawing on a rich international literature in the camps of postcolonial, de-colonial and feminist criticism, I interrogate my sources on the political and epistemological efficacy of these narratives on the condition of misery and the cyclical migrations taking place in the arid interior of the Nordeste (sertão), which periodically filled the coastal cities of the Nordeste, where the poor continue to crowd into informal housing such as favelas even today. It is to a particular form of such housing, the Mocambos of Recife, that an author like Castro, the famous geographer of hunger, dedicated some of his most successful narrative pages from his “Crab Cycle”.

By analysing the production and circulation of works such as Castro’s short stories and Mota’s poetry, I highlight the performance of a communicative strategy that brought geography to gain public success and social relevance in the mid-twentieth century, and that can dialogue today with de-colonial approaches rediscovering non-European traditions (such as indigenous and Afro-Brazilian cultures) with which critical geographers from the Nordeste were already quite familiar.

Creative exile: when political persecution becomes an opportunity for researchers

in the framework of the seminar Groupe de Réflexion sur le Brésil Contemporain, organised by Afrânio-Raul Garcia Jr, Camila Moreira Cesar, Benoît de L’Estoile, Waldir Lisboa Rocha, Vassili Rivron and Glauber Sezerino

18 May 2022

Ecole Normale Supérieure
45, rue d’Ulm, salle des Lettres 1


This seminar is based on archival work carried out in the personal archives of the Brazilian critical geographers Milton Santos (1926-2001) and Manuel Correia de Andrade (1922-2007) deposited at the Institute of Brazilian Studies (IEB-USP) in São Paulo and on French police files concerning Josué de Castro (1908-1973) during his stay in Paris. These geographers were among the intellectuals and activists persecuted by the Brazilian military dictatorship after the 1964 coup d’état, in some cases suffering arrest and in others even prolonged exile.

Drawing on the postcolonial literature on the condition of exile as anguish and impossibility of going back according to authors such as Edward Said and Stuart Hall, and focusing on the correspondence of Santos, Andrade and Castro, I analyse their international networking between the North and the Global South that allowed them to build, in the 1960s-1970s, cosmopolitan circuits of political solidarity and critical geography whose importance has been overlooked until very recent times.

I therefore argue that exile was paradoxically one of their weapons, because despite all the painful constraints that this condition entails, it allowed them to construct discourses and practices that were truly plurilingual, transnational and transcultural, and which can feed current de-colonial trends. Methodologically, this research is also inspired by recent trends in Global History that value archives as instruments for understanding transnational networks of knowledge circulation.

Networking and Dialogue to Change Geography: Anne Buttimer (1938-2017), the International Geographical Union and the International Dialogue Project

in the framework of the monthly seminars of the EHGO team, organised by Olivier Orain and Nicolas Verdier

20 May 2022

Condorcet Campus
room 1122 south research building
5, cours des Humanités 93322 Aubervilliers


This paper will focus on a research experiment that has been carried out over the last five years around the archives of Anne Buttimer, who unfortunately passed away in July 2017, leaving behind a very rich heritage of archival documentation, corresponding to a lifetime of cosmopolitan and internationalist research, with the explicit mandate to use it to extend her research in the fields of humanistic and critical geographies, and of course the history of geography. The focus will be on the hitherto little studied relations between the intellectual trends known respectively as “humanistic geographies” and “radical geographies”.

A study of Anne Buttimer’s unpublished correspondence has allowed us to discover and better contextualize her relationships with North and South American radical geographers such as David Harvey, Bill Bunge, Myrna Breitbart and Milton Santos among others, as well as her references to the anarchist geographical tradition of Reclus and Kropotkin. At the same time, we discover the Freirean inspiration of the International Dialogue Project that Buttimer conducted with Torsten Hägerstand from 1977 to 1988, which once again demonstrates the performance of archival research in understanding the issues of the construction and international circulation of knowledge.