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The Nature of Cultural Geography


... of place Spatial organization and interdependence Central place theory Megalopolis Geography as an academic discipline Natural ... heritage at least as ... India ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Nature of Cultural Geography

The Nature of Cultural Geography
  • Chapter 1
  • The Human Matrix

  • Pair up into dyads
  • Discuss these two questions for 10 minutes, five
    minutes each
  • What does culture mean to you?
  • Would you identify yourself as belonging to a
    cultural group? Why or why not?

  • Humans are by nature geographers
  • Possess awareness of and curiosity about the
    distinctive character of places
  • Can think territorially or spatially
  • Each place on Earth is unique
  • Places possess an emotional quality and
    significance that contribute to our identity as
    unique human beings
  • Geographers, over the centuries, generated a
    number of concepts and ideas that literally
    changed the world

Seven Cultural Geographical Idea That Changed the
  • Maps
  • Human adaptation to habitat
  • Human transformation of the earth
  • Sense of place
  • Spatial organization and interdependence
  • Central place theory
  • Megalopolis

Geography as an academic discipline
  • Natural human geographical curiosity and need for
  • First arose among the ancient Greeks, Romans,
    Mesopotamians, and Phoenicians
  • Arab empire expanded geography during Europes
    Dark Ages

Geography as an academic discipline
  • Center of learning shifted to Europe during the
    Renaissance period
  • Modern scientific study of geography arose in
  • Analytical geography began in the 1800s asking
    what, where, and why
  • Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Ritter

What is cultural geography?
  • The meaning of culture
  • For this course defined as learned collective
    human behavior, as opposed to instinctive, or
    inborn behavior
  • Learned traits
  • Cultural geography the study of spatial
    variations among cultural groups and the spatial
    functioning of society.

Cultural geography
  • Focuses on cultural phenomena that may vary or
    remain constant from place to place
  • Explains how humans function spatially

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What is cultural geography?
  • Physical geography brings spatial and ecological
  • Bridges the social and earth sciences
  • Seeks a integrative view of humankind in its
    physical environment
  • Appears less focused than most other disciplines
    making it difficult to define

No easy explanations for cultural phenomena
  • Many complex causal forces
  • Wheat cultivations (next slide)
  • Cultural geography seeks explanations of diverse
    casual factors

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Themes in cultural geography
  • Culture region a geographical unit based on
    human traits
  • Maps are an essential tool for describing and
    revealing regions
  • Major types of culture regions
  • Formal
  • Functional
  • Vernacular

Formal culture region
Kerala, India
  • A formal culture region can be defined in this
    picture by ethnicity, dress and social custom.
  • While people do not generally reveal their bodies
    in public, at the end of the day they dress up to
    go to the beach and watch the sunset.

Kerala, India
  • Boys and girls do not mingle but observe each
    other from a distance.
  • Unchaperoned dating is rare and marriages are
    typically arranged.
  • These are learned, collective human behaviors.

Formal culture region
  • An area inhabited by people who have one or more
    cultural traits in common.
  • More commonly multiple related traits
  • No two cultural traits have the same

Complex multiculture regions
  • Territorial extents of a culture region depend on
    what defining traits are used.

Formal culture regions
  • Many different formal regions can be created
  • Depends on traits
  • Geographers intuition

  • Formal culture regions must have boundaries
  • rarely sharp because cultures overlap and mix
  • Culture regions reveal a core where all defining
    traits are present
  • Farther from core regional characteristics weaken
    and disappear
  • Formal regions display core/periphery pattern
  • Human world is chaotic

Functional culture region
Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • This mobile post-office is the node of a
    functional region.
  • People come to the node at specific times during
    the week to deposit their mail.
  • This vehicle is one of several linked to a
    particular post office which is part of of a
    larger network of post offices.
  • Each post office is a node in its own mail
    delivery region.

Functional culture region
  • The scene is in the citys CBD where individual
    buildings are nodes of activities linked to other
    buildings and places.
  • Note the skywalk which facilitates interaction
    between structures.

Functional culture regions
  • An area organized to function politically,
    socially, or economically
  • Examples city, independent state, church
    diocese, a trade area
  • Have nodes or central points from which functions
    are coordinated and directed.
  • Many functional regions have clearly defined

Farm as a formal culture region
  • all land owned and leased, farmstead is node,
    borders marked by fences, hedges

Functional culture region
  • States in the United States and Canadian
  • Not all functional areas have clearly defined
    borders newspapers, sales area
  • Fans of UT vs TAMU
  • Generally functional culture regions do not
    coincide spatially with formal culture regions

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Vernacular culture regions
  • A region perceived to exist by its inhabitants,
    has widespread acceptance and uses a special
    regional name.

Vernacular culture region
  • Generally lack sharp borders
  • Can be based on many different things
  • physical environment
  • economic, political, historical aspects
  • often created by publicity campaigns
  • Grows out of a peoples sense of belonging and
    regional self -consciousness

Vernacular culture region
Vernacular culture region
  • Not unique to North America
  • Northern Territory Outback Australia
  • Transcends state lines
  • Japanese ties
  • Heavy duty bumper and roo bars to deflect

  • How do vernacular culture regions differ from
    formal and functional regions
  • Often lack the organization necessary for
    funtional regions
  • Unlike formal regions, they frequently do not
    display cultural homogeneity
  • Many are rooted in the popular or folk culture

Cultural diffusion
  • Spatial spread of learned ideas, innovations, and
  • Each cultural element originates in one or more
    places and then spreads.
  • Some spread widely, others remain confined to an
    area of origin.
  • 100 Percent American
  • Torsten Hägerstrand

Cultural diffusion
Expansion diffusion
  • Ideas spread throughout a population from area to
  • Creates a snowballing effect
  • Subtypes
  • Hierarchical diffusion ideas leapfrog from one
    node to another temporarily bypassing some
  • Contagious diffusion wavelike, like disease
  • Stimulus diffusion specific trait rejected, but
    idea accepted

Relocation diffusion
  • Relocation diffusion occurs when individuals
    migrate to a new location carrying new ideas or
    practices with them
  • Religion is prime example

Time-distance decay factor
  • Ripples on a pond.
  • Acceptance of an innovation is strongest where it
  • Acceptance weakens as it is diffused farther
  • Acceptance also weakens over time.

Barriers to diffusion
  • Absorbing barriers completely halt diffusion
  • More commonly barriers are permeable, allowing
    part of the innovation wave to diffuse, but
    acting to weaken and retard the continued spread.

Guangzhou (Canton), China
  • PRC recently opened its doors to foreign
    investment and a number of cities have been
    designated as Special Economic Zones.
  • An absorbing barrier has become permeable.
  • Sincle coastal cities were the first to allow
    foreign instrusions, these have highest influx of
    joint-venture projects.

  • Proctor and Gamble has designed soaps and
    detergents for Chinas specific water conditions.
  • Just as PG diffused from North America to China,
    other manufacturers will diffuse into other parts
    of China.

  • As more cities are opened Chinas urban economies
    will become increasingly internationalized and
    each city will function as a key center of
    diffusion to places lower on the social-economic
  • How does time-distance decay play a role here?

Stages of innovation acceptance
  • First acceptance takes place at a slow steady
  • Second raid growth in acceptance and the trait
    spreads rapidly
  • fashion or dance fad
  • neighborhood effect
  • Third slower growth and acceptance of innovation

Neighborhood effect
  • Hägerstrands explanation of the core/periphery
    spatial arrangement of diffusion resembles
    pattern in culture regions
  • others say too narrow and mechanical
  • assumes all innovations are beneficial throughout
    geographical space
  • nondiffusion more prevalent than diffusion, but
    not accounted for

Susceptibility to an innovation
  • More crucial when world communications are rapid
    and pervasive
  • Friction of distance is almost meaningless
  • Must evaluate and explain on a region-by-region
  • Inhabitants of two regions will not respond
    identically to an innovation
  • Geographers seek to understand spatial variation
    in receptiveness

Cultural ecology
  • Ecology is two-way relationship between an
    organism and its physical environment
  • Cultural ecology is the study of the
    cause-and-effect interplay between cultures and
    the physical environment
  • Ecosystem entails a functioning ecological system
    where biological and cultural Homo sapiens live
    and interact with the physical environment.

Cultural ecology
  • Culture is the human method of meeting physical
    environmental challenges.
  • adaptive system
  • assumes plant and animal adaptations are relevant
  • facilitates long-term, successful, nongenetic
    human adaptation to nature and environmental
  • adaptive strategy that provides necessities of
    life food, clothing, shelter, defense
  • No two cultures employ the same strategy, evenin
    within the same physical environment

Cultural ecology
  • The physical environment plays a powerful role in
    the cultural landscape of this remote region of
    Pakistans northern frontier.
  • The Muslim, Pathan have an adaptive strategy of
    harnessing local resources for their needs.

Bahrain, Pakistan
  • The settlement hugs the valley walls and the
    river is harnessed to provide water power for
    turning grinding stones (primarily corn) in the
    foreground structure.
  • Since limited wood supply precludes its
    widespread use, houses are constructed of
    dry-mortared stones and many have sod roofs

Cultural ecology
  • Four schools of thought developed by geographers
    on cultural ecology
  • Environmental determinism
  • Possibilism
  • Environmental perception
  • Humans as modifiers of the earth

Environmental determinism
  • Developed during the first quarter of the 20th
  • Physical environment provided a dominant force in
    shaping cultures
  • Humans were clay to be molded by nature
  • Believed mountain people, because they lived in
    rugged terrain were
  • Backward
  • Conservative
  • Unimaginative
  • Freedom loving

Environmental determinism
  • Believed desert dwellers were
  • Likely to believe in one god
  • Lived under the rule of tyrants
  • Temperate climates produced
  • Inventiveness
  • Industriousness
  • Democracy
  • Coastlands with fjords produced navigators and
  • Overestimated the role of environment

  • Took the place of determinism in the 1920s
  • Cultural heritage at least as important as
    physical environment in affecting human behavior
  • Believe people are the primary architects of

  • Chongqing and San Francisco
  • Similar environment
  • Street patterns
  • SF has smaller population but larger area
  • Culture

  • Physical environment offers numerous ways for a
    culture to develop.
  • People make culture trait choices from the
    possibilities offered by their environment to
    satisfy their needs.
  • High technology societies are less influenced by
    physical environment.
  • Geographer Jim Norwin warns control over
    environment may be an illusion because of
    possible future climatic changes.

Environmental perception
  • Each persons or cultural groups mental images
    of the physical environment are shaped by
    knowledge, ignorance, experience, values, and
  • Environmental perceptionists declare-choices
    people make will depend more on how they perceive
    the lands character than its actual character
  • People make decisions based on distortion of
    reality with regard to their surrounding physical

Environmental perception
  • Geomancya traditional system of land-use
    planning dictating that certain environmental
    settings, perceived by the sages as auspicious,
    should be chosen as the sites for houses,
    villages, temples, and graves (feng-shui)
  • an East Asian world view and art
  • affected the location and morphology of urban
    places in countries such as China and Korea
  • diffused (look up feng-shui on internet)

Natural hazards
  • Humans perceptions of natural hazards
  • Flooding, hurricanes, volcanic eruption,
    earthquakes, insect infestations, and droughts
  • Some cultures consider them as unavoidable acts
    of the gods sent down as punishments because of
    the peoples shortcomings
  • During times of natural disasters, some cultures
    feel the government should take care of them
  • Western cultures feel technology should be able
    to solve the problems created by natural hazards

Natural hazards
  • In virtually all cultures, people knowingly
    inhabit hazard zones
  • Especially floodplains, exposed coastal sites,
    drought-prone regions, and active volcanic areas
  • More Americans than ever live in hurricane- and
    earthquake-prone areas of the United States

Monserrat - 1996
Missouri River
Hazard Perception
  • Levees failed to prevent the Mississippi and
    Missouri rivers from flooding.
  • Floods are natural occurrences and contrary to
    the perception of some, human made devices are
    directed toward control rather than prevention.
  • When the water recedes and tons of muck and
    debris are removed, will the farmer move back and
    start over?

Natural hazards
  • Migrants tend to imagine new homelands as being
    more similar to their old homelands than is
    actually the case
  • Humans perceptions of natural resources
  • Hunting and gathering cultures
  • Agricultural groups
  • Industrial societies

Humans as modifiers of the earth
  • Another facet of cultural ecology
  • In a sense, the opposite of environmental
  • George Perkins Marsh
  • Example of soil erosion around Athens in ancient

Humans as modifiers of the earth
  • Human modification varies from one culture to
  • Geographers seek alternative, less destructive
    modes of environmental modification
  • Humans of the Judeo-Christian tradition tend to
    regard environmental modification as divinely
  • Other more cautious groups take care not to
    offend the forces of nature

Environmental modification
Queensland, Australia
  • Rainforest north of Cairns, signs demonstrate
    conflicting perceptions of a particular resource.
  • Thousands of acres of Australian rainforest
    destroyed yearly.

Cultural integration
  • Cultures are complex wholes rather than series of
    unrelated traits
  • Cultures form integrated systems in which parts
    fit together causally
  • All cultural aspects are functionally
    interdependent on one another
  • Changing one element requires accommodating
    change in others
  • To understand one facet of culture, geographers
    must study the variations in other facets and how
    they are causally interrelated and integrated

Cultural integration
  • The influence of religious beliefs
  • Voting behavior
  • Diet and shopping patterns
  • Type of employment and social standing
  • Hinduism segregates people into social classes
    (castes), and specifies what forms of livelihood
    are appropriate for each
  • Mormon faith forbids consumption of alcoholic
    beverages, tobacco, and other products, thereby
    influencing both diet and shopping patterns

Cultural integration
  • If improperly used can lead the geographer to
    cultural determinism such as
  • physical environment is inconsequential as an
    influence on culture
  • culture offers all the answers for spatial
  • nature is passive while people and culture are
    the active forces

Cultural integration
  • Social science
  • Those who view cultural geography as a social
    science apply the scientific method to the study
    of people
  • Devise theories that cut across cultural lines to
    govern all of humankind
  • Believe economic causal forces more powerful in
    explaining human spatial behavior than any others

Model of Latin American city
Humanistic geography
  • Celebrates the uniqueness of each region and
  • Place is the key word connoting the humanistic
  • Topophiliaword coined by Yi-Fu Tuan, literally
    meaning love of place
  • Has witnessed a resurgence in recent decades
  • Social-science approach has declined in popularity

Humanistic geography
  • Anne Buttimer
  • Seek to explain unique phenomenaplace and
    region-rather than universal spatial laws
  • Most doubt that laws of spatial behavior even
  • Believe in a far more chaotic world than
    scientists could tolerate
  • Reject the use of mathematicsfeel human beliefs
    and values cannot be measured

Who is right?
  • Debate between scientists and humanists in
    cultural geography
  • Necessary and healthy
  • Both ask different questions about place and
  • Geography is the bridging discipline, joining the
    sciences and humanities
  • Postmodernism

Cultural landscape
  • The visible, material landscape that cultural
    groups create in inhabiting the Earth
  • Cultures shape landscapes out of the raw
    materials provided by the Earth
  • Each landscape uniquely reflects the culture that
    created it
  • Much can be learned about a culture by carefully
    observing its created landscape

Cultural landscape
  • Some geographers regard landscape study as
    geographys central interest
  • Reflects the most basic strivings of humankind
  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Contains evidence about the origin, spread, and
    development of cultures

Cultural landscape
  • Accumulation of human artifacts, old and new
  • Can reveal much about a past forgotten by present
  • Landscapes also reveal messages about present-day
    inhabitants and cultures
  • Reflect tastes, values, aspirations, and fears in
    tangible form
  • Spatial organization of settlements and
    architectural form of structures can be
    interpreted as expression of values and beliefs
    of the people
  • Can serve as a means to study nonmaterial aspects
    of culture

Cultural landscape
  • How architecture reflects past and present values
    of landscape
  • Example of centrally located, tall structures
    built of steel, brick, or stone
  • Example of medieval European cathedrals and
    churches that dominated the landscape

Cultural landscape
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Now capital prior to 1997 administrative center
    for British colony of Malaya.
  • During 20s an 30s Art Deco architecture popular.
  • Built in 1928, originally wet market for mean,
    poultry and fish were rendered and sold.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Renewed, it now contains a shopping bazaar
    selling local handicraft products, souveniers and
  • Heritage revealed through architecture and sign.
  • Only traditional cart suggests truth.

Cultural landscape
  • Humanistic view of cultural landscape
  • Content to study the cultural landscape for its
    aesthetic value
  • Obtain subjective messages that help describe the
    essence of place
  • Geographer Tarja Keisteri distinguishes the
    factual, concrete, physical, functioning
    landscape from the experimental, perceived,
    symbolic, aesthetic landscape
  • Distinction between scholarly analysis and
    subjective artistic interpretation are often
  • Provides people with landmarks and reassures
    people they are not rootless without identity or

Cultural landscape
  • Most geographical studies have focused on three
    principal aspects of landscape
  • Settlement formsDescribe the spatial arrangement
    of buildings, roads, and other features people
    construct while inhabiting an area
  • Land-division patternsreveal the way people
    divide the land for economic and social uses
  • Example of land division of small and large farms
  • Example of urban housing and street patterns

Cultural landscape
  • Architecture
  • North Americas different building styles
  • Regional and cultural differences

  • Five themes of geography are interwoven
  • Culture region
  • Cultural diffusion
  • Cultural ecology
  • Cultural integration
  • Cultural landscape

Folk and popular architecture reflect culture
near Ottawa
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