Human geography is one of the two major sub-fields of the discipline of geography. Human geography is a branch of the social sciences that studies the world, its people, communities and cultures with an emphasis on relations of and across space and place. Human geography differs from physical geography mainly in that it has a greater focus on studying human activities and is more receptive to qualitative research methodologies. As a discipline, human geography is particularly diverse with respect to its methods and theoretical approaches to study.
The main fields of study in human geography focus around the core fields of:
Cultural geography is a sub-field within human geography. Cultural geography is the study of cultural products and norms and their variations across and relations to spaces and places. It focuses on describing and analyzing the ways language, religion, economy, government and other cultural phenomena vary or remain constant, from one place to another and on explaining how humans function spatially.
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 make apparent the various power relations. A particular area of interest is that of identity politics and construction of identity.
Examples of areas of study include
Some parts of Tourism 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 critiques back into the new cultural geography.
Economic geography is the study of the location, distribution and spatial organization of economic activities across the world. It represents a traditional subfield of the discipline of geography. However, in recent decades, many economists have also approached the field in ways more typical of the discipline of economics. Economic geography has taken a variety of approaches to many different subject matters, including but not limited to the location of industries, economies of agglomeration (also known as "linkages"), transportation, international trade, development, real estate, gentrification, ethnic economies, gendered economies, core-periphery theory, the economics of urban form, the relationship between the environment and the economy (tying into a long history of geographers studying culture-environment interaction), and globalization.
The history of economic geography was influenced by many theories, arising mainly from economics and geography. Some of the first traces of the study of spatial aspects of economic activities can be found in seven Chinese maps of the State of Qin dating to the 4th century BC. Ancient writings can be attributed to the Greek geographer Strabo's Geographika compiled almost 2000 years ago. As the science of cartography developed, geographers illuminated many aspects used today in the field; maps created by different European powers described the resources likely to be found in American, African and Asian territories. The earliest travel journals included descriptions of the native peoples, the climate, the landscape, and the productivity of various locations. These early accounts encouraged the development of transcontinental trade patterns and ushered in the era of mercantilism. World War - II contributed to the popularization of geographical knowledge generally and post-war economic recovery and development contributed to the growth of economic geography as a discipline. During environmental determinism's time of popularity, Ellsworth Huntington and his theory of climatic determinism, while later greatly criticized, notably influenced the field. Valuable contributions also came from location theorists such as Johann Heinrich von Thünen or Alfred Weber. Other influential theories include Walter Christaller's Central place theory, the theory of core and periphery.
Fred K. Schaefer's article "Exceptionalism in geography: A Methodological Examination" published in the American journal Annals of the Association of American Geographers, as well as his critique of regionalism, made a large impact on the field: the article became a rallying point for the younger generation of economic geographers who were intent on reinventing the discipline as a science and quantitative methods began to prevail in research. Well-known economic geographers of this period include William Garrison, Brian Berry, Waldo Tobler, Peter Haggett and William Bunge.
Contemporary economic geographers tend to specialize in areas such as location theory and spatial analysis (with the help of geographic information systems), market research, geography of transportation, real estate price evaluation, regional and global development, planning, Internet geography, innovation, social networks.
Branches of economic geography
Thematically economic geography can be divided into these sub disciplines:
Geography of agriculture
It is traditionally considered the branche of economic geography that investigates those parts of the Earth's surface that are transformed by humans through primary sector activities. It thus focuses on structures of agricultural landscapes and asks for the processes that lead to these spatial patterns. While most research in this area concentrates rather on production than on consumption, a distinction can be made between nomothetic (e.g. distribution of spatial agricultural patterns and processes) and idiographic research (e.g. human-environment interaction and the shaping of agricultural landscapes). The latter approach of agricultural geography is often applied within regional geography.
» Geography of industry
» Geography of international trade
» Geography of transport and communication
» Geography of finance
Historical geography is the study of the human, physical, fictional, theoretical, and "real" geographies of the past. Historical geography studies a wide variety of issues and topics. A common theme is the study of the geographies of the past and how a place or region changes through time. Many historical geographers study geographical patterns through time, including how people have interacted with their environment and created the cultural landscape. Historical geography seeks to determine how cultural features of various societies across the planet emerged and evolved, by understanding their interaction with their local environment and surroundings.
In its early days, historical geography was difficult to define as a subject. A textbook from the 1950s cites a previous definition as an 'unsound attempt by geographers to explain history'. Its author, J. B. Mitchell, came down firmly on the side of geography: 'the historical geographer is a geographer first last and all the time'. By 1975 the first number of the Journal of Historical Geography had widened the discipline to a broader church: 'the writings of scholars of any disciplinary provenance who have something to say about matters of geographical interest relating to past time'.
For some in the United States of America, the term historical geography has a more specialized meaning: the name given by Carl Ortwin Sauer of the University of California, Berkeley to his program of reorganizing cultural geography (some say all geography) along regional lines, beginning in the first decades of the 20th century. To Sauer, a landscape and the cultures in it could only be understood if all of its influences through history were taken into account: physical, cultural, economic, political, and environmental. Sauer stressed regional specialization as the only means of gaining sufficient expertise on regions of the world. Sauer's philosophy was the principal shaper of American geographic thought in the mid 20th century. Regional specialists remain in academic geography departments to this day. But some geographers feel that it harmed the discipline; that too much effort was spent on data collection and classification and too little on analysis and explanation. Studies became more and more area-specific as later geographers struggled to find places to make names for them. These factors may have led in turn to the 1950s crisis in geography, which raised serious questions about geography as an academic discipline in the USA.
Population geography is a division of human geography. It is the study of the ways in which spatial variations in the distribution, composition, migration and growth of populations are related to the nature of places. Population geography involves demography in a geographical perspective. It focuses on the characteristics of population distributions that change in a spatial context. Examples can be shown through population density maps. A few types of maps that show the spatial layout of population are choropleth, isoline and dot maps. Population geography studies:
» Demographic phenomena (natality, mortality, growth rates, etc.) through both space and time
» Increase or decrease in population numbers
» The movements and mobility of populations
» Occupational Structure
» The way in which places in turn react to population phenomena. e.g. immigration.
Settlement geography is a branch of geography that investigates the earth's surface's part settled by humans. According to the United Nations' Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements (1976), "human settlements means the totality of the human community – whether city, town or village – with all the social, material, organizational, spiritual and cultural elements that sustain it".
Traditionally, it belongs to cultural geography and is divided into the geography of urban settlements (cities and towns) and rural settlements (e.g. villages and hamlets). Thereby, settlements are mostly seen as elements of the cultural landscape that developed over time. Apart from Australia, Europe and India, the term is actually rarely used in English-speaking geography. One of the last English books on settlement geography was published by Cambridge University Press in the 90s. However, it is a traditional and actual branch in many other countries.
Referring to stone (1965), settlement geography is...
The description and analysis of the distribution of buildings by which people attach themselves to the land. Further, that the geography of settling designate the action of erecting buildings in order to occupy an area temporarily or permanently. It should be understood that buildings are one tangible expression of man-land relationships and that specification of this focus assumes study may be at any scale from quite general to most specific; there is no restriction to large-scale study of individual building plans or architectural details. Buildings are simply one representation of the process of people living in an area they are a mappable division of the landscape to which attention needs direction.
Jordan (1966) emphasizes that settlement geography not exclusively investigates the distributions, but even more the structures, processes and interactions between settlements and its environment (such as soil, geomorphology, economy or society), which produce them. "The study of settlement has evolved into the interaction of humans with the physical and ecological world. This more holistic study is concerned with sustainability and seeks to better understand the present landscape and plan the future".