(a). Introduction to Geography

(a). Introduction to Geography

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What are the Branches of Geography?

Geography 101


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Geography is divided into two main branches: human geography and physical geography. There are additional branches in geography such as regional geography, cartography, and integrated geography.

Human Geography

This is a main branch in geography and it mainly covers studies of the human race. This normally involves their backgrounds, how they interact and the perceptions that they have for various ideologies affecting them. In addition to this, the discipline also studies the way in which the groups of people that inhabit the earth organize themselves on the particular regions that they inhabit. As a matter of fact, many other branches of geography normally fall under human geography. More: Sub-branches of Human Geography .

Physical Geography 

Physical geography is a major branch of the science and it mainly deals with the study of the natural characteristics of the earth. It covers both the ones that are on the earth’s surface as well as those near it. More: Sub-branches of Physical Geography .


Geographers who study cartography are usually more involved in the mapping of things. In general, every geographer must have the essential knowledge that is required in displaying data on maps. Cartography focuses on ways in which the entire mapping procedure can be technologically advanced by creating maps that are generally of higher quality.

On a conclusive note, geography is a very wide subject and this is why it is comprised of numerous sub-disciplines within it. There are other branches within this science that have not been discussed and some of the notable ones include: Geographic education, historical geography, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) , remote sensing , and quantitative methods. There are some branches in geography which are generally interrelated very closely to others but there are others that have very different principalities in place.

Related Resources on Geography

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Cultural geography

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See also: Cultural area , Cultural landscape , Cultural space , and Social space

Cultural geography is a subfield within human geography . Though the first traces of the study of different nations and cultures on Earth can be dated back to ancient geographers such as Ptolemy or Strabo , cultural geography as academic study firstly emerged as an alternative to the environmental determinist theories of the early Twentieth century, which had believed that people and societies are controlled by the environment in which they develop. [1] Rather than studying pre-determined regions based upon environmental classifications, cultural geography became interested in cultural landscapes . [1] This was led by Carl O. Sauer (called the father of cultural geography), at the University of California, Berkeley . As a result, cultural geography was long dominated by American writers.

Geographers drawing on this tradition see cultures and societies as developing out of their local landscapes but also shaping those landscapes. [2] This interaction between the natural landscape and humans creates the cultural landscape . This understanding is a foundation of cultural geography but has been augmented over the past forty years with more nuanced and complex concepts of culture, drawn from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology , sociology , literary theory , and feminism . No single definition of culture dominates within cultural geography. Regardless of their particular interpretation of culture, however, geographers wholeheartedly reject theories that treat culture as if it took place “on the head of a pin”. [3]

Among many applicable topics within the field of study are:

  • Globalization has been theorised as an explanation for cultural convergence. [4]
  • Westernization or other similar processes such as modernization , americanization , islamization and others. [5]

This geography studies the geography of culture

  • Theories of cultural hegemony or cultural assimilation via cultural imperialism .
  • Cultural areal differentiation, as a study of differences in way of life encompassing ideas, attitudes, languages, practices, institutions and structures of power and whole range of cultural practices in geographical areas. [6]
  • Study of cultural landscapes [7] [8] and cultural ecology .
  • Other topics include sense of place , colonialism , post-colonialism , internationalism , immigration , emigration and ecotourism .


  • 1 History
  • 2 “New cultural geography”
  • 3 Journals
  • 4 Learned societies and groups
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading

History[ edit ]

Though the first traces of the study of different nations and cultures on Earth can be dated back to ancient geographers such as Ptolemy or Strabo , cultural geography as academic study firstly emerged as an alternative to the environmental determinist theories of the early Twentieth century, which had believed that people and societies are controlled by the environment in which they develop. [1] Rather than studying pre-determined regions based upon environmental classifications, cultural geography became interested in cultural landscapes . [1] This was led by Carl O. Sauer (called the father of cultural geography), at the University of California, Berkeley . As a result, cultural geography was long dominated by American writers.

Sauer defined the landscape as the defining unit of geographic study. He saw that cultures and societies both developed out of their landscape, but also shaped them too. [2] This interaction between the natural landscape and humans creates the cultural landscape . [2] Sauer’s work was highly qualitative and descriptive and was challenged in the 1930s by the regional geography of Richard Hartshorne . Hartshorne called for systematic analysis of the elements that varied from place to place, a project taken up by the quantitative revolution . Cultural geography was sidelined by the positivist tendencies of this effort to make geography into a hard science although writers such as David Lowenthal continued to write about the more subjective, qualitative aspects of landscape. [9]

In the 1970s, new kind of critique of positivism in geography directly challenged the deterministic and abstract ideas of quantitative geography. This revitalized cultural geography manifested itself in the engagement of geographers such as Yi-Fu Tuan and Edward Relph and Anne Buttimer with humanism , phenomenology , and hermeneutics . This break initiated a strong trend in human geography toward Post-positivism that developed under the label New Cultural Geography while deriving methods of systematic social and cultural critique from critical geography . [10] [11]

“New cultural geography”[ edit ]

Since the 1980s, a new cultural geography has emerged, drawing on a diverse set of theoretical traditions, including Marxist political-economic models , feminist theory , post-colonial theory , post-structuralism and psychoanalysis .

Drawing particularly from the theories of Michel Foucault and performativity in western academia, and the more diverse influences of postcolonial theory , there has been a concerted effort to deconstruct the cultural in order to reveal that power relations are fundamental to spatial processes and sense of place . Particular areas of interest are how identity politics are organized in space and the construction of subjectivity in particular places. [12]

Examples of areas of study include:

  • Feminist geography
  • Children’s geographies
  • Some parts of tourism geography
  • Behavioral geography
  • Sexuality and space
  • Some more recent developments in political geography
  • Music geography

Some within the new cultural geography have turned their attention to critiquing some of its ideas, seeing its views on identity and space as static. It has followed the critiques of Foucault made by other ‘ poststructuralist ‘ theorists such as Michel de Certeau and Gilles Deleuze . In this area, non-representational geography and population mobility research have dominated. Others have attempted to incorporate these and other critiques back into the new cultural geography [13] .

Groups within the geography community have differing views on the role of culture and how to analyze it in the context of geography. [14] [12] It is commonly thought that physical geography simply dictates aspects of culture such as shelter, clothing and cuisine. However, systematic development of this idea is generally discredited as environmental determinism . Geographers are now more likely to understand culture as a set of symbolic resources that help people make sense of the world around them, as well as a manifestation of the power relations between various groups and the structure through which social change is constrained and enabled. [15] [16] There are many ways to look at what culture means in light of various geographical insights, but in general geographers study how cultural processes involve spatial patterns and processes while requiring the existence and maintenance of particular kinds of places.

Journals[ edit ]

Academic peer reviewed journals which are primarily focused on cultural geography or which contain articles that contribute to the area.

  • Journal of Cultural Geography
  • Antipode
  • Area
  • Cultural Geographies
  • Society and Space – Environment and Planning D
  • Geography Compass (Cultural Geography Section)
  • Social & Cultural Geography
  • Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Learned societies and groups[ edit ]

  • Social and Cultural Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
  • Cultural Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers
  • Cultural Geography Study Group of the Institute of Australian Geographers.

See also[ edit ]

  • Cultural region
  • Environmental determinism
  • Possibilism (geography)

References[ edit ]

  1. ^ a b c d Peet, Richard; 1998; Modern Geographical Thought; Blackwell
  2. ^ a b c Sauer, Carl; 1925; The Morphology of Landscape
  3. ^ Gregory, Derek; Urry, John (1985). Social Relations and Spatial Structures. London: Macmillan Education. pp. 9–19. ISBN   978-0312734848 .

  4. ^ Zelinsky, Wilbur (2004). “Globalization Reconsidered: The Historical Geography of Modern Western Male Attire”. Journal of Cultural Geography. 22.
  5. ^ Debres, Karen (2005). “Burgers for Britain: A Cultural Geography of McDonald’s UK”. Journal of Cultural Geography. 22.
  6. ^ Jones, Richard C. (2006). “Cultural Diversity in a “Bi-Cultural” City: Factors in the Location of Ancestry Groups in San Antonio.” Journal of Cultural Geography.
  7. ^ Sinha, Amita; 2006; Cultural Landscape of Pavagadh: The Abode of Mother Goddess Kalika; Journal of Cultural Geography
  8. ^ Kuhlken, Robert; 2002; Intensive Agricultural Landscapes of Oceania; Journal of Cultural Geography
  9. ^ Jordan-Bychkov, Terry G.; Domosh, Mona; Rowntree, Lester (1994). The human mosaic: a thematic introduction to cultural geography. New York: HarperCollins CollegePublishers. ISBN   978-0-06-500731-2 .
  10. ^ Tuan, Yi-Fu (1977). Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN   978-0816638772 .
  11. ^ Relph, Edward (1976). Place and Placelessness. London: Pion. ISBN   978-0850861761 .
  12. ^ a b Simandan, Dragos (2016). “Proximity, subjectivity, and space: Rethinking distance in human geography”. Geoforum. 75: 249. doi : 10.1016/j.geoforum.2016.07.018 .
  13. ^ Whatmore, S., 2006. Materialist returns: practising cultural geography in and for a more-than-human world. Cultural geographies, 13(4), pp.600-609.
  14. ^ Whatmore, Sarah (2016). “Materialist returns: Practising cultural geography in and for a more-than-human world”. Cultural geographies. 13 (4): 600. doi : 10.1191/1474474006cgj377oa .
  15. ^ Wylie, John (2016). “Timely geographies: ‘New directions in cultural geography’ revisited”. Area. 48 (3): 374. doi : 10.1111/area.12289 .
  16. ^ Adams, Paul C.; Hoelscher, Steven; Till, Karen E. (2001). Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN   978-0816637560 .

Further reading[ edit ]

  • Carter, George F. Man and the Land. A Cultural Geography. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964.
  • Tuan, Yi-Fu. 2004. “CENTENNIAL FORUM: Cultural Geography: Glances Backward and Forward”. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 94 (4): 729-733.
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      ArcNews Online

      Fall 2009

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      Online Only Article

      What Is The Geographic Approach?

      By Matt Artz and Jim Baumann, Esri

      Perhaps you’ve heard Esri president Jack Dangermond mention The Geographic Approach. It’s a phrase he often uses to describe his high-level vision for using geospatial technology as a key method in finding answers to problems.

        the 5 steps in the geographic approach, click to enlarge
      The Geographic Approach provides the necessary framework for GIS analysis.

      “Geography, the science of our world, coupled with GIS is helping us [better] understand the earth and apply geographic knowledge to a host of human activities,” Dangermond says. “The outcome is the emergence of The Geographic Approach—a new way of thinking and problem solving that integrates geographic information into how we understand and manage our planet. This approach allows us to create geographic knowledge by measuring the earth, organizing this data, and analyzing and modeling various processes and their relationships. The Geographic Approach also allows us to apply this knowledge to the way we design, plan, and change our world.”

      Solving problems using a geographic approach is not new. It is fundamental to the way geographers study and analyze our world. The concept is perhaps best articulated by Ian L. McHarg in the 1969 book Design with Nature, in which he details the philosophical context for managing human activities within natural and cultural landscapes.

      As a methodology, The Geographic Approach is used for location-based analysis and decision making. GIS professionals typically employ it to examine selected geographic datasets in detail, which are combined for the comprehensive study and analysis of spatial problems. This methodology parallels the well-known scientific method and includes a research-focused, iterative process for examining diverse datasets and uncovering potential solutions. GIS augments the analytic process, helping give people a clearer understanding of complex problems that often include geographic components. This in turn allows better decision making and more opportunities to conserve limited resources, as well as improves the way we work.
      Many experienced GIS professionals intuitively begin their projects with a structured methodology of this nature. But for those new to GIS technology, these five steps will provide a defined and proven approach.

      Step 1: Ask

      Approaching a problem geographically involves framing the question from a location-based perspective. What is the problem you are trying to solve or analyze, and where is it located? Being as specific as possible about the question you’re trying to answer will help you with the later stages of The Geographic Approach, when you’re faced with deciding how to structure the analysis, which analytic methods to use, and how to present the results to the target audience.

      Step 2: Acquire

      After clearly defining the problem, it is necessary to determine the data needed to complete your analysis and ascertain where that data can be found or generated. The type of data and the geographic scope of your project will help direct your methods of collecting data and conducting the analysis. If the method of analysis requires detailed and/or high-level information, it may be necessary to create or calculate the new data. Creating new data may simply mean calculating new values in the data table or obtaining new map layers or attributes but may also require geoprocessing. Sometimes you might have to consider using surrogate measures, which allows data creation through indirect means. For example, an economic indicator can be used as a surrogate for income. However, because of the limits in collecting accurate data in this way, it is necessary to indicate in your results the manner in which the data was collected.

       photo of Jack Dangermond speaking at UC2009
      Esri President Jack Dangermond says that the Geographic Approach is a new way of thinking and problem solving.

      Step 3: Examine

      You will not know for certain whether the data you have acquired is appropriate for your study until you thoroughly examine it. This includes visual inspection, as well as investigating how the data is organized (its schema), how well the data corresponds to other datasets and the rules of the physical world (its topology), and the story of where the data came from (its metadata). Since the data ultimately selected for your analysis depends on your original question or questions, as well as the results that you are seeking and how those results will be used, your examination may be dependent on how precise the data must be to answer the original questions. Because data acquisition can be the most expensive and time-consuming part of the process, it is important that you begin with a well-defined data model for your organization and your project. This will provide the basis for evaluating potential data acquisitions.

      Step 4: Analyze

      The data is processed and analyzed based on the method of examination or analysis you choose, which is dependent on the results you hope to achieve. Understanding the effects of parameters you have established for the analysis, as well as the algorithms being implemented, is critical so that you can correctly interpret the results. Do not underestimate the power of “eyeballing” the data. Looking at the results can help you decide whether the information is valid or useful, or whether you should rerun the analysis using different parameters or even a different method. GIS modeling tools make it relatively easy to make these changes and create new output.

      Step 5: Act

      The results and presentation of the analysis are important parts of The Geographic Approach. The results can be shared through reports, maps, tables, and charts and delivered in printed form or digitally over a network or on the Web. You need to decide on the best means for presenting your analysis. You can compare the results from different analyses and see which method presents the information most accurately. And you can tailor the results for different audiences. For example, one audience might require a conventional report that summarizes the analyses and conveys recommendations or comparable alternatives. Another audience may need an interactive format that allows them to ask what-if questions or pursue additional analysis. Yet another audience may simply need to know how the results affect them or their interests.

      The Geographic Approach provides the necessary framework for GIS analysis and helps ensure accurate, verifiable results. By carefully documenting, archiving, and sharing your results and methodology, other researchers receive the opportunity to verify your findings. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of this data to be established.

      Clearer Understanding of Results

      Using a methodology such as The Geographic Approach formalizes the analytic process with GIS, which allows a clearer understanding of the results and promotes a response that can be supported by the data. By applying The Geographic Approach to help us solve complex problems, we can make better decisions, conserve resources, and improve the way we work.

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