The neglected “gift” of Ratzel for/from the Indian Ocean: thoughts on mobilities, materialities and relational spaces
Abstract. When Korf (2014) recently invited (critical) geographers to come to terms with the problematic heritage of our discipline, especially with respect to spatial political thought, he first of all drew our attention to the intellectual contributions of Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt. While he urges us to rethink our ongoing references to these key thinkers, especially in light of the rather strict avoidance of
politically problematic figures within our own discipline, such as Haushofer and Ratzel, this article now wishes to address geography's (dis)engagement with its politically problematic heritage from the opposite angle: focusing on Friedrich Ratzel, it asks if we might have been too radical in condemning his work as only
poison? What if the neglect of Ratzel has actually led to a moment where his ideas feature prominently in current geographical debates without us even noticing it? By drawing on his contributions to cultural geography and, in particular, the establishment of the cultural historical method and German diffusionism, this article takes up on this question and reflects on the (imagined/actual) role of Ratzel's scholarship in contemporary geography. By pointing out striking similarities to more recent discussions about mobility, materiality and relational space, it illustrates the contemporary, though widely unnoticed, (re)appearance of Ratzel's ideas, and uses this example to emphasize the need for more critical reflection concerning the history of our discipline as well as the complex ways in which political ideologies and intellectual reasoning relate to each other.