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They must result from experience, itself related to action. The examination of the social production of scales, their analysis as discursive and material arenas in which power relations temporarily crystallise into institutions, the analysis of jumping of scales in order to alter power relations within class, gender, ethnic or cultural struggles, become now evident questions, although with complex responses. Another more recent jump gave rise to postcolonial geographies Sidaway, , which deal explicitly with recovering the experiences of the colonized peoples and therefore open new avenues to understand past imperialism and hopefully to fight new forms of imperialism.

This is surely an approach with a long history and in every branch of social sciences — including human geography —, one or more institutional schools, currents or approaches have been developed. But if we highlight the institutional nature of contemporary human geography, we mean that institutions became a central concept overarching all new geographical practice.

Institutions are understood as norms and conventions that regulate and order social relations and practices and as such they are another side of the micro-macro relation we dealt with earlier: indeed, they are the mediating elements between everyday social practices and the reproduction of broader social structures. And precisely because they are another side of the same relation, institutions are profoundly geographical. They are part and parcel of the places, the locales and the landscape considered by present-day geography.

The origins of this school can be related to the emergence of the crisis of the Fordist era and the fact that economic theories as such were unable to explain both the capacities of the economic system to sustain such a long term economic growth and the collapse of the system Boyer, Regulation theory is precisely about institutions that embed economy in society.

And geographers showed that the spatial arrangements of society are crucial in what regulationists call the modes of regulation, the set of institutions that reproduce the accumulation regimes. Although these forms of the institutionalist approach acknowledge that economic structure and state organisation shape the opportunities and values of individuals, they do not think in terms of a functional fit between modes of regulation and accumulation regimes. They rather stress the inventive way people learn collectively about the issues, interact and possibly undertake actions that react to structural or contextual pressures and thereby change that context Healey, , pp.

However, we feel that four points can be made. The first three ones advocate progress, at least if we consider that debates and oppositions of the past now found their solution. The last point expresses a concern about the role of human geography in the present-day global world. The last uncontested progress in human geography was the theoretical and quantitative revolution.


  1. 1.1 Geography Basics;
  2. Your Life on Purpose: How to Find What Matters and Create the Life You Want.
  3. What Is Geography?.
  4. 1(e). History of Physical Geography?
  5. What are the Themes of Human Geography?;
  6. About the author.
  7. Universal Algebras!

But the progress achieved in terms of theories and laws about the spatial arrangement of society was paid for by a narrow conception of space. Regularities in space that could be moulded in hypotheses and theories were found by formalising the nature of space and thus reducing it to its topological and geometrical characteristics or by generalising the spatial behaviour of human beings. As a result, what are intrinsically socio-spatial facts were emptied of their social significance. One had to wait for radical geography to reintroduce social relations into spatial categories and thus to reaffirm the importance of social power in geography, but obviously this approach could not convince the whole geographers community.

Again, places, locales, landscapes are seen as arenas encompassing all aspects of human action and social relations. Notwithstanding the claims of the editor cited in the introduction, this is progress. Such an approach endows geography with a much more relevant conception of reality to engage in clarifying and understanding the problems of our time. Nevertheless, today there are some signs that a new ground could be found to incorporate physical environment into human geography just like physical geography has found a new ground to incorporate the social realm into its research field.

These signs all originate in the increasing ecological stress on this planet. Physical geographers are at the core of these matters but the pressure of the problems is such that they are joined by others, natural scientists as well as engineers and agronomists. However, in the wake of the new stance taken by geographers, nature is presently considered as an hybrid category, being natural and social at the same time Latour, ; Cornut and Swyngedouw, Nature is not external to society and therefore looses its universal character.

The root of this new conception can once again be found in Marxist historical materialism and its dialectics Social relations only exist through the transformation of the physical environment in order to respond to human needs and these relations make and transform nature just as they make and transform society From the static equilibrium of the ecosystem of the Club of Rome and the urge to respect these constraints imposed by nature, the conception moved towards sustainable development, which implies a dynamic equilibrium the concept of development would be senseless otherwise and today the idea that ecosystems are chaotic is gaining consideration.

We thus accept to live with risk and uncertainty, but at the same time it implies that humanity is part of the chaos. The planet earth is turned into a gigantic experimental laboratory of global change. And this gradually attracts more and more attention from human geography.

Surely, the hybrid conception of nature is a step forward in coping with this reality. At the same time these changes in the conception of ecosystems are proof of the way social development influences the formation of concepts in the natural sciences by offering thought models that reflect societal structures and dynamics De Frenne, Not the study of the individual features of places, but the analysis and explanation of the regularities in space would put geography on the way of science.

But today, both approaches do not appear anymore as irreconcilable points of view, but as elements of a Hegelian sequence. They are the two poles of a dialectic, which is now at the heart of geography. Actually, such a point of view is a mere echo of the four characteristics of the new elements in geographical practice and both poles appeared under other concepts in the course of the description of the holographic, ethnographic, constructivist and institutionalist nature of geography.

We now look at places and space with agencies and structures in mind, we consider them as key-elements in the complex dialectic between individuals and societies, between the local and the global and both idiosyncracies and regularities dissolve when the new ontology discloses the hybrid character of the objects under study. Again, one would find it difficult to contend that overcoming an old but still pregnant opposition in geographical practice is not progress.

Has the relation between geography and society changed? Or in other words, has the role and the influence of geography on social reality changed? Theoretical and quantitative geography corresponded quite well to the needs of the modern world, in creating normative and sometimes voluntaristic models of the best possible, rational organisation of space.

It was a full ingredient of progress and economic growth in the postwar era. The postmodern stance has put lots of question marks around this instrumentalist view of science. It clarifies the difference in the way a postmodernist and a historical materialist geographer conceive of social reality. The discussion raises the question whether we should look at the world as something that can be made or remade, but in the absence of any solid ground to justify such interventions in reality the postmodernist conundrum, Webster, , p. In other words, are there limits to constructivism and if yes, what are they?

This often leads to the conclusion that the production of scientific knowledge is a process of consensus building among scientists rather than a process of discovering how nature works Labinger and Collins, However, leaving aside the question whether in view of the perennial discussions and differences of opinions between scientists it would not be better to consider fields of conflict rather than communities of consensus Rouse, , we think it still justified to conceive of science as being an effort to discover how nature works, despite the fact that the production of scientific knowledge is a process of consensus building.

Let us consider the societal space of action. This space of action is characterized by a distribution of social relations and power relations, within which human beings occupy positions that make them participate in social practices in different ways. This space of action is structured, discursively as well as materially, into a field of action by ideology and ensuing action. A Marxist conceives the space of action as a field of action of social classes.

A nationalist sees a field of action of peoples or nations. A certain research tradition in economics sees a game theoretic field of action of individual and collective actors. People can be mobilized to unite into a class, a nation or another collectivity on the basis of comparable or compatible positions in the space of action, and, although a social theorist might be correct in attributing a greater probability to the formation of one particular collectivity, there is no reason to give ontological priority to this formation: the mobilizations and ensuing actions based on the other discursive structurations of the space of action may change the material structuration of that space, in other words, they may change the degree to which positions are comparable or compatible and, as a consequence, the division of probabilities Bourdieu, This means that the future is open.

Different futures are possible, i. Different descriptions the discursive fields of actions of social reality the space of action can thus be true at the same time and they can lead to a change in what they describe the material fields of action. However, this does not imply that social reality would be different from physical reality in the sense that only the latter would exist and act independently of the knowledge of it.

After all, there are futures that are not realizable, implying that their descriptions discursive structurations of the space of action are patently false. A crucial consequence is that radical geography, which up to now appeared as a necessary step to attain the nature of geography we described in this short essay, remains a fundamental component to human geography in order to explicit the question of social justice.

Radical geography is able to prove the naivety of such a statement. And this gradually attracts more and more attention from human geography. Surely, the hybrid conception of nature is a step forward in coping with this reality. At the same time these changes in the conception of ecosystems are proof of the way social development influences the formation of concepts in the natural sciences by offering thought models that reflect societal structures and dynamics De Frenne, Not the study of the individual features of places, but the analysis and explanation of the regularities in space would put geography on the way of science.

But today, both approaches do not appear anymore as irreconcilable points of view, but as elements of a Hegelian sequence. They are the two poles of a dialectic, which is now at the heart of geography. Actually, such a point of view is a mere echo of the four characteristics of the new elements in geographical practice and both poles appeared under other concepts in the course of the description of the holographic, ethnographic, constructivist and institutionalist nature of geography. We now look at places and space with agencies and structures in mind, we consider them as key-elements in the complex dialectic between individuals and societies, between the local and the global and both idiosyncracies and regularities dissolve when the new ontology discloses the hybrid character of the objects under study.

Again, one would find it difficult to contend that overcoming an old but still pregnant opposition in geographical practice is not progress. Has the relation between geography and society changed? Or in other words, has the role and the influence of geography on social reality changed?

Theoretical and quantitative geography corresponded quite well to the needs of the modern world, in creating normative and sometimes voluntaristic models of the best possible, rational organisation of space. It was a full ingredient of progress and economic growth in the postwar era. The postmodern stance has put lots of question marks around this instrumentalist view of science. It clarifies the difference in the way a postmodernist and a historical materialist geographer conceive of social reality.

The nature of changes in human geography since the s: variation or progress?

The discussion raises the question whether we should look at the world as something that can be made or remade, but in the absence of any solid ground to justify such interventions in reality the postmodernist conundrum, Webster, , p. In other words, are there limits to constructivism and if yes, what are they?

This often leads to the conclusion that the production of scientific knowledge is a process of consensus building among scientists rather than a process of discovering how nature works Labinger and Collins, However, leaving aside the question whether in view of the perennial discussions and differences of opinions between scientists it would not be better to consider fields of conflict rather than communities of consensus Rouse, , we think it still justified to conceive of science as being an effort to discover how nature works, despite the fact that the production of scientific knowledge is a process of consensus building.

Let us consider the societal space of action. This space of action is characterized by a distribution of social relations and power relations, within which human beings occupy positions that make them participate in social practices in different ways. This space of action is structured, discursively as well as materially, into a field of action by ideology and ensuing action. A Marxist conceives the space of action as a field of action of social classes. A nationalist sees a field of action of peoples or nations.

A certain research tradition in economics sees a game theoretic field of action of individual and collective actors. People can be mobilized to unite into a class, a nation or another collectivity on the basis of comparable or compatible positions in the space of action, and, although a social theorist might be correct in attributing a greater probability to the formation of one particular collectivity, there is no reason to give ontological priority to this formation: the mobilizations and ensuing actions based on the other discursive structurations of the space of action may change the material structuration of that space, in other words, they may change the degree to which positions are comparable or compatible and, as a consequence, the division of probabilities Bourdieu, This means that the future is open.

Different futures are possible, i. Different descriptions the discursive fields of actions of social reality the space of action can thus be true at the same time and they can lead to a change in what they describe the material fields of action. However, this does not imply that social reality would be different from physical reality in the sense that only the latter would exist and act independently of the knowledge of it. After all, there are futures that are not realizable, implying that their descriptions discursive structurations of the space of action are patently false.

A crucial consequence is that radical geography, which up to now appeared as a necessary step to attain the nature of geography we described in this short essay, remains a fundamental component to human geography in order to explicit the question of social justice. Radical geography is able to prove the naivety of such a statement. Its basic idea is that:. Desirable purposes refer to collective interests. Collective interests, like all sectional interests, originate in certain social positions and situations, but, in contrast with other sectional interests, they exert an attraction on other social groups.

This attraction derives from the development of a comprehensive ideology. The problem is which, or better, whose collective interests should be promoted, i. AMIN A.

Outline of geography

AYER A. B ourdieu P. B oyer R. B runet R. B uttimer A. Bulletin, 50, 2, pp. DEAR M. Readings in human geography, Oxford, Blackwell. D enis J. F oucault , M. G iddens A. H arvey D. H erbert S. Hubbard P. Labinger J. A conversation about science, Chicago, University of Chicago Press. L atour B. LAW J. MARX K. M assey D. SAEY P. S idaway J. S wyngedouw E. World-economy, nation-state and locality, London, Longman. T hrift N. VOn Glasersfeld E.

What are the Themes of Human Geography?

Wood A. This article does not present the results of a systematic research into the tendencies in human geography since the s, but expresses a personal view, gradually built up during career-long fundamental, critical and applied research on mainly location theory, social urban geography and political geography, and sustained by the reading of recent work among which Bryson et al.

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Such images are the only source of data at the global scale and are increasingly important for modeling environmental changes. Much experimentation was required to realize the potential uses of the massive volume of data provided from spacecraft sensors, and remote-sensing techniques became important tools; radar, for example, circumvented the problem of generating images in cloudy areas.

The techniques for producing these newer images were largely the province of physics, mathematics, and computer science. Geographers were concerned with their use in understanding and managing the environment , with field studies providing the ground data against which image assessments could be evaluated, and developing remote-sensing methods for various tasks, such as estimating precipitation in desert areas. Scientific rigour was associated with quantification; identities and relationships had to be expressed numerically because of the precision and unambiguity of mathematical statements and the replicability of results expressed in those terms.

Mathematical procedures were adopted to model integrated systems, with statistical methods deployed to test hypotheses regarding system components, such as the relationship between land values and distance from a city centre, or the steepness and stability of a range of slopes. Geographers initially assumed that they could adapt standard statistical procedures to their particular problems, exploring the validity and viability of a range of approaches from econometrics, biometrics, psychometrics, and sociometrics.

The greatest emphasis in these pioneering applications and textbooks was placed on methods associated with the general linear model—e. Geographers soon realized that spatial data present specific analytical problems that require particular treatment and for which standard procedures have to be modified.

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A wide range of issues in geostatistics was identified, such as the problems of spatial autocorrelation in analyzing all spatial data, the modifiable areal unit problem and associated ecological fallacies in human geography, and the means of estimating values on maps from what is known about neighbouring sites. Analyzing spatial data has been enormously facilitated by developments in computer power and algorithms.

Advancements in computational skills have allowed geographers to not only address previously intractable problems but also provide a means for thinking about problems that were not even considered before technology enabled them. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents.

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