||That part of the discipline of geography concerned with the spatial differentiation and organization of human activity and its interrelationships with the physical environment.
Geography as a formal discipline has a long history; \'geographical knowledge\' is much older (see geography, history of). The separation of human from physical geography is relatively recent. Its roots are in both German (cf. anthropogeography) and French late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries\' writings (the latter on la gÃ©ographie humaine), whose influence continued into the early twentieth century, when geography was becoming established in the UK and in North America (Martin, 1985). From then on, however, contacts between the three language realms diminished substantially. Within the English-speaking world, geographers in the UK and the USA were numerically dominant, with British approaches widely adopted throughout the British Empire (not only the original dominions â€” Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa â€” but also many other countries, some of which, India and Nigeria for example, have substantial numbers of academic geographers in their universities: initially, many of the geography departments were staffed by British expatriates). French and German approaches developed in substantial isolation from the English-speaking world, and there was considerable fragmentation within both of those realms until relatively recently (on France, see Knafou, 1997). There was also substantial development of a Spanish-language realm (the discipline is now very large in parts of Latin America, especially Argentina), of a Soviet Russia-dominated eastern European realm, and a significant presence (largely Jewish, with strong North American links) in Israel. The remainder of this essay focuses on the English-speaking realm during the twentieth century, within which there have been substantial differences at certain times alongside common strands, representing the many close trans-Atlantic contacts.
In the first decades of the twentieth century most works in English covered both human and physical geography topics, emphasizing human-environment interrelationships and their regional variations, as in the main mid-twentieth century programmatic texts â€” Hartshorne\'s (1939) The nature of geography in North America and Wooldridge and East\'s (1951) The spirit and purpose of geography in the UK. Nevertheless, specialization by individual workers in either human or, especially, physical geography became more common between 1919 and 1939, although physical geography was substantially downgraded in the United States â€” Peltier (1954), for example, argued that the study of geography needed information about physical landforms (\'what? where? and how much?\') but need not incorporate geomorphology, the science of landform genesis, which was an intriguing development given that geography initially developed in the United States within university geology departments. (This lack of attention to \'why?\' questions regarding the environment in the USA â€” though not in Canada too â€” was not characteristic of UK geography then.) Its absence was marked by the lack of any contribution on physical geography to the volume of essays marking the Association of American Geographers\' 75th anniversary in 1979 (although see Marcus, 1979). The situation has since changed and contemporary geography in the USA once again incorporates a substantial volume of work in physical as well as human geography (see also Gaile and Willmott, 1989; NRC, 1997): although the two major branches of the discipline co-exist within the same institutional structures (university departments and learned societies), however, the intellectual links between them are relatively weak and little research involves close collaboration between human and physical geographers.
Human geography was only weakly developed by British geographers before the Second World War. Freeman (1980) suggested a fourfold division of interests then â€” physical, historical, regional, and human; his review grouped the last two together, concentrating on regional geography, land-use survey and the study of settlement types, especially villages. He quoted Fawcett (1934) that:
We are as yet in the early stages of investigation of the many problems of human geography, and have not reached well-established generalisations. The study is in the stage of collecting facts, and framing and establishing hypotheses, most of which can only mark stages in its development.Only after 1945 did human geography challenge physical geography in its standing within the discipline in the UK, as regional geography receded in both repute and practice and the sub-disciplines of urban, social, political, and industrial geography began to attract attention as the foci of individual careers (Johnston and Gregory, 1984), alongside an established strength in historical geography which was substantially different in its approach from that practised in North America.
Stimuli for new work came to the UK from European and North American sources, with the latter acting as an intermediary in some cases, as with the 1960s appreciation of the work of the Swedish geographer Torsten HÃ¤gerstrand on migration and diffusion (Duncan, 1974) and the \'(re)discovery\' of German developments of central place theory by geographers at the University of Washington, Seattle (Johnston, 1997). British urban geographers, for example, were influenced by German work â€” introduced to them by Dickinson (1947) and Conzen (1960) â€” and other continental European writings stimulated a range of American innovations (see Garrison\'s, 1959-60, review of work on locational analysis).
During the 1960s and 1970s many human geographers enthusiastically adopted the quantitative revolution and promoted the sub-discipline as locational analysis or spatial science. The main texts (Haggett, 1965; Morrill, 1970; Abler, Adams and Gould, 1971) did not subdivide human geography further. Nor did two pathbreaking books of essays (Chorley and Haggett, 1965, 1967), although the second of those influential volumes â€” Models in geography â€” included chapters covering demographic models, sociological models, economic development models, models of urban geography and settlement location, models of industrial location, and models of agricultural activity, all under the heading \'Models of socio-economic systems\'. Together these presaged the growth of some of the later major systematic specialisms within the discipline (population, social, urban, economic, industrial, agricultural) but not others (political, cultural).
British geographers continued attempts to sustain the links between human and physical geography through shared interests in models and quantitative methods â€” as illustrated by the two books edited by Chorley and Haggett, their volume on line patterns (Haggett and Chorley, 1969), and Haggett\'s (1972) major student text, written for the North American as well as the British market, though the last contained less physical than human geography material. By then, however, physical and human geographers were very largely going their separate ways as specialist researchers and though, for political and pedagogical reasons, they remained together in higher education institutions (with some claims that the discipline as a whole integrated material from the natural and social sciences and the humanities: Johnston, 1983) the nature of their research became ever more divorced (Johnston, 1986, 1996b, 1998).
The adoption of spatial science as the dominant paradigm for human geography in the 1960s was the basis for disciplinary self-promotion within the social sciences, among which it was largely disregarded until then. In the United States, two reports led to the discipline\'s acceptance within the funding bodies for scientific research. The first was commissioned because it was considered that \'geography does not have the esteem which it merits by virtue of the importance of its subject matter\' (NAS-NRC, 1965). The committee of seven responded that:
geography is on the threshold of an important opportunity that derives from: (1) the now vital need to understand as fully as possible every aspect of the man-environment system, including spatial distributions, throughout the world; (2) the development of a common interest among several branches of science in the overriding problem and its spatial aspects; (3) the development of a more or less common language for communication for the first time among all the pertinent branches of science through mathematical statistics and systems analysis; (4) the development of far more powerful techniques than ever before for analyzing systems problems, including spatial distributions; and (5) a backlog of spatial experience which geographers have accumulated from their spatial perspective and their past dedication to the study of the man-environment complex.The eventual outcome was a Geography and regional science Programme within the NAS-NRC (The National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council), indicating the discipline\'s acceptance within the national institutional structure for scientific research. The second report, part of a survey of the behavioural and social sciences (Taaffe, 1970), promoted modern geography as the study of spatial organization which promised contributions to \'better solutions to policy and planning decisions\'.
This US acceptance of human geography into the country\'s scientific and social scientific institutions, as spatial science with a strong basis in location theory, was paralleled in the UK where a Social Science Research Council (now the Economic and Social Research Council) was established in the mid-1960s without human geography as one of its component disciplines. This was challenged by the Institute of British Geographers (Steel, 1984) and a report prepared for a committee by Michael Chisholm resulted in the creation of a geography and planning committee responsible for allocating research studentships and grants. The unpublished report also stressed the spatial science/location theory elements of modern geography, alongside traditional strengths in area studies and society-environment interrelationships, as did a subsequent survey of current research in human geography (Chisholm, 1971; see also Chisholm and Rodgers, 1972; Chisholm, 1975).
Two main trends characterized human geography in the 1970s and 1980s: internal specialization and philosophical pluralism. Internal specialization was partly a consequence of rapid growth in the number of academic geographers (Stoddart, 1967), with scholars seeking to establish their own niches and career trajectories, and in part reflected their wide-ranging links with the literature, if not the practitioners, of other social sciences. (The flows were asymmetrical: geographers quoted other social scientists much more than other social scientists quoted geographers.) Specialist sub-groups were established within the main professional societies to cater for these interests (cf. geographical societies: each runs its own sections at major conferences, many organize specialist conferences, and some publish their own journals and book series. For analyses of these groups, see Goodchild and Janelle, 1988; Johnston, 1991: Gaile and Willmott\'s (1989) overview of American geography is based on the AAG\'s speciality groups). Other specialized journals â€” both sub-disciplinary (e.g. Political Geography; Journal of Transport Geography, Geographical Analysis) and inter-disciplinary (such as Environment and Planning A) â€” were launched by commercial publishers to realize the potential of new niche markets, segmenting the discipline\'s literature (see Johnston, 1996a).
urban geography and economic geography were the initial growth areas within spatial science, with shared interests in locational analysis and quantitative methods. They were later joined by a growing emphasis on social geography, a revived and revised political geography, a restructured cultural geography, and studies of a range of issues to do with society-nature relationships, such as resource management. These shifts in substantive emphasis were paralleled by a growing sophistication of quantitative work by a relatively small group of researchers in the late 1970s and early 1980s (as in work on spatial autocorrelation) and then the rapid growth of interest in geographical information systems from the mid-1980s on (see also geocomputation).
Philosophical pluralism reflected geographers\' growing involvement with the literature of other social science disciplines and, in the 1990s, some of the humanities. These provided bases for both critiques of current geographical practice (Harvey, 1973, and Gregory, 1978 were seminal early contributors) and attempts to restructure the discipline (e.g. Smith\'s (1977) volume with its focus on relevance, inequality and social justice). Critiques of locational analysis and spatial science were launched from two directions in the 1970s: one attacked quantification and positivist approaches for their derogation of individual humans and their attitudes, values and feelings (as in sense of place) which could not be appreciated through the search for quantitatively stated laws; the other criticized the same work for its implicit acceptance of the political status quo and an inability to match its quantitative descriptions with meaningful understanding as the basis for radical political action. These two strands of work â€” often termed humanistic geography and radical geography, respectively â€” meant that geographical scholarship in the 1980s was marked by three very different approaches to the discipline, or parts of it (humanistic geography was particularly associated with cultural and historical geography, for example, and radical geography with urban and economic studies).
These three strands of work became complexly interwoven within the fabric of geographical activity since the 1970s and their coexistence resulted in general rejection of the paradigm model of disciplinary development, whereby one approach achieves a hegemonic position, followed by a \'revolutionary episode\' in which it is overthrown for an alternative that is considered superior. Meanwhile, geographers have explored other literatures and opened their discipline to new stimuli â€” empirical, methodological, and philosophical (see, for example, the agenda in Thrift and Johnston, 1993). This exploration involved close engagement with disciplines in the humanities as well as the social sciences (notably literary theory, art history and theory, and history), and geographers are to the fore in a number of new multidisciplinary developments, notably the burgeoning area of Cultural Studies. The breadth of the contemporary discipline and the complex interweaving of various strands reflecting the many influences on what human geographers study, and how, mean that it is now impossible to impose any classificatory order on the discipline\'s structure and practices: more than ever before it comprises a range of communities exploring the myriad interactions of people, place and environment, with its more recent concerns and interactions illustrated by journals such as Society and Space, Ecumene, and Gender, Place and Culture.
Ideas in postmodernism attracted initial attention among those rejecting existing approaches in the 1980s (e.g. Dear, 1986; Soja, 1989), who offered it as a basis for reconstructing geographical practice around the main theme of difference. More influential, however, was the rapid expansion of feminist geography (Women and Geography Study Group, 1984). Arguments over both the role of women within the academy and the many \'silences\' about women across a wide range of subject matter studied in a male-dominated discipline alerted geographers, through the breadth of the feminist literature (reviewed by McDowell, 1993a, 1993b), to wider issues of positionality and the critiques of Grand Theory being developed in post-colonial and post-structural approaches to the humanities and social sciences. Increased interest in environmental issues across those disciplines â€” with the emergence of sub-fields such as environmental history and environmental ethics as well as environmental politics and environmental sociology â€” stimulated renewed interest in the interactions between society and nature, which if not bringing a fusion of physical and human geography into an integrated discipline (much of the former has become strongly scientific in recent years, with close links to the natural sciences and to engineering) has at least increased awareness of the social construction of nature.
Alongside these discussions, and stemming from the arguments that particular theoretical stances should not be privileged over others, there has been a cultural turn within human geography. This has involved challenges to not only the distinction between separate economic and cultural realms within society but also the privileged place allocated to economic mechanisms by some adherents to Marxist and other approaches, coupled with suggestions for embedding the two within each other (as in the essays in Lee and Wills, 1997). This is associated with calls for greater recognition of the role of (spatial) context as both a constraint to and enabler of behaviour: that \'places matter\' is pivotal to many geographers\' presentations of their discipline\'s niche within the academy and arguments for the centrality of place in the structuration of local responses to globalization processes (e.g. Massey and Allen, 1984). It has led many to reject any search for \'grand theory\' as they explore the tensions between various approaches to understanding (as in Gregory, 1994).
Against this trend towards philosophical pluralism and inter-disciplinary hybridization, others have argued for greater attention to a form of applied geography involving \'selling\' geography\'s relevance to contemporary, materialist society. Knowledge is becoming more commodified and universities are under pressure to \'sell\' their research capabilities (Johnston, 1995). Some have responded to this with calls for a renewed emphasis on spatial science and locational analysis based on the increased analytical power of GIS and associated modelling technologies (Openshaw, 1994). An example is provided by a further report on the nature of geography, designed to consolidate its status within the American scientific community because of a \'well-documented growing perception (external to geography as a discipline) that geography is useful, perhaps even necessary, in meeting certain societal needs\'. Entitled Rethinking geography: new relevance for science and society (NRC, 1997) it focuses strongly on materialistic utility: technical expertise is stressed and the report makes virtually no reference to the great range of methods used by geographers to appreciate people\'s understanding and construction of the worlds in which they live and act, as well as their transmission of that understanding to others through various textual devices. A statement that \'current trends in geography\'s techniques suggest a future in which researchers, students, business people, and public policy makers will explore a world of shared spatial data from their desktops\' because \'technology now plays a preeminent role in a wide range of geographic research\' sits very oddly alongside the work discussed in the previous paragraphs (which the report very largely ignored), as does a section on \'geography\'s relevance to issues for science and society\' which stresses two mathematical concepts â€” complexity and non-linearity.
The report was much influenced by a survey of opportunities for geography graduates and trends in geography faculty appointments in 212 American universities, which listed the main specializations of appointees as:
programs in environmental/resource management, techniques (GIS, cartography, and remote sensing), and urban planning. These tracks appear to be designed to prepare students for the occupations in which geographers have traditionally found work rather than to develop their interests in regional geography or the systematic specialties like urban, economic or physical geography that have traditionally formed the core of the discipline.Exploration of graduates\' employment opportunities led the authors to identify a major shift in the discipline as it was being taught to undergraduates:
The debate over geography as a broad-based liberal arts discipline or as a technical semiprofessional field ignores the realities of the current labor market. Sponsors told us they want employees who can combine technical skills with a broad-based background. Geography\'s comparative advantage over other social sciences lies in its ability to combine technical skills with a more traditional liberal arts perspective. Successful geography programs will be those that are able to find the appropriate balance of field-based technical skills like GIS, cartography and air-photo interpretation with competence in literacy, numeracy, decision making, problem solving and critical thinking.The argument presented in Rethinking geography is countered by a growing body of work under the general heading of critical human geography. This stresses the distinction between is and ought, between observations of what the world is (and has been) like and views of what it should be like, and includes explorations of moral philosophy and related fields (as in Harvey, 1996, and Smith, 1994) â€” to which Smith (1998) has suggested a particular geographic contribution â€” and is reflected in the launch of a journal on Ethics, Place and Environment (see moral landscapes). Such work has \'applied\' goals very different from that promoted in Rethinking geography: to increase self- and mutual awareness and to facilitate emancipation â€” what Buttimer (1993) terms education for responsibility and invitation to discovery (critical, speculative and emancipatory) rather than specifications of appropriate conduct.
There are strong tensions within contemporary human geography, therefore, at least partly stimulated by political pressures (on which see Sheppard, 1995). One set of arguments suggests that in order for their discipline to survive in universities, geographers must both ensure that graduates are taught the sorts of \'transferable skills\' necessary for job market success otherwise students will not be attracted to the discipline (these arguments are common in the Journal of Geography in Higher Education) and develop research agenda which allow them to \'sell\' their knowledge and skills in the public and private sectors: human geography must prove itself in a relatively narrow, utilitarian sense. On the other hand, there are geographers who promote their discipline as a locale for the development of critical thinking about issues involving the interrelationships among people and nature, in places, without privileging any one approach or interpretation.
Recent books reflect some of the excitement and debate that has characterized two or more decades of internal specialization and philosophical pluralism. Some review the richness of the discipline in all-embracing compendia such as Gaile and Willmott\'s (1989) 840 pages on Geography in America. Peet and Thrift\'s (1989) two-volume work brought together major reviews of work done in the radical geography mould; Gregory and Urry (1985), Gregory and Walford (1989) and Wolch and Dear (1990) edited volumes promoting new perspectives on the study of spatial structures; Macmillan\'s (1989) volume was largely prepared, despite some dissenting voices from within, as a defence of the quantitative-dominated approach, as was Haggett\'s (1990) personal view of 30 years in the discipline; others, such as Kobayashi and Mackenzie (1989) sought accommodations, in their case between the humanistic and radical views and promoting the restructured cultural geography (Jackson, 1989). All of these reflect the rapidity of change within the discipline. In 1973, Chorley invited several authors to consider Directions in geography: their essays bear little resemblance to those produced by another group twelve years later in The future of geography (Johnston, 1985) â€” and a further collection only seven years later again once more illustrates the rapidity of disciplinary change (Johnston, 1992), as does comparison of the three previous editions (1981, 1986, 1994) of the present work.
At the end of the 1980s, the Association of American Geographers commissioned what it termed the first comprehensive survey of the discipline for some 30 years, \'written primarily for geographers rather than for readers outside the discipline, and â€¦ focus[ing] on what geographers of all specialties and persuasions had in common\': its goals were to \'reintroduce geographers to each other\' and \'to highlight the common elements within a discipline whose practitioners are in danger of forgetting their shared heritage and ideals\'. Geography\'s inner worlds (Abler, Marcus and Olson, 1992) has four sections â€” on \'What geography is about\', \'What geographers do\', \'How geographers think\' and \'Why geographers think that way\': the five chapters on \'What geographers do\', for example, cover \'Observation\', \'Visualization\', \'Analysis\', \'Modeling\' and \'Communication\', and thereby privilege the ongoing legacy of the \'quantitative and theoretical revolution\'. The strongest themes in the editors\' retrospect, however, are their admitted failure to bridge the divide between human and physical geography as successfully as they hoped and their concerns about a similar divide developing within human geography â€” basically between those who can be described as \'spatial scientists\' and those who are \'social theorists\' â€” the major tension within contemporary human geography identified above.
In 1978 a senior American geographer edited a special issue of a general social science journal under the title Human geography: coming of age (Zelinsky, 1978). In retrospect, he would undoubtedly see that as a premature conclusion. In the following 20 years human geography has certainly not displayed the characteristics of maturity and staidness often associated with coming-of-age but has instead continued to demonstrate the vitality, vibrancy and unpredictability of youth. To some this is unfortunate; to others, it is the basis of their excitement in the discipline. Human geographers are involved with scholars from a wide range of other disciplinary perspectives in the exploration and development of new areas of work â€” including reinterpretations of the history and politics of their own discipline. Much of their research cannot be constrained by the \'disciplinary containers\' of universities. The major advances in all areas of knowledge are multidisciplinary, and yet the institutional structures constrain these developments somewhat â€” not least in the allocation of resources in universities (on which see Taylor, 1996, 1997) â€” leading to occasional myopic attempts to impose a disciplinary-based order on what might best be seen as a glorious intellectual anarchy, within which it may be very difficult to perceive \'progress\' (on which see Bassett, 1998). Different approaches have been more popular in some places and at some times than others but there is always tension among their protagonists as they seek approval and resources within the academy.Â (RJJ)
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