Chapter 1: Cultural Geography (an introduction)

(greek term) “to describe the earth”

2 branches of geography
(1) Physical Geography – dealing with natural, physical environment
(2) Human Geography – dealing with the relationships between people their distribution on the earth, and activities

3 subfields of human geography
(1) Cultural Geography
(2) Population Geography
(3) Urban Geography

Cultural Geography
(sub-field of human geography) the study of spatial variations among cultural groups and the spatial functioning of a society

Population Geography
the study of the ways in which spatial variations in the distribution , compositon, migration, and growth of populations are related to the nature of places

Urban Geography
the study of areas which have a high concentration of people, buildings, and infrastructure

any state or process known through the senses rather than by intution or reasoning

2 subfields of physical geography
(1) oceanography
(2) coastal geography

the study of seas and oceans (plate tectonics, marine ecosystems, ocean currents, and geology of the ocean floor)

coastal geography
study of the dynamic interface between the ocean and the land

learned collective behaviors that form a way of life common to a group of people

DEFINED IN THIS WAY, culture involves a means of communicating these learned beliefs, memories, prceptions, traditions,a nd attitudes to serve to shape behavior.

3 perspective of cultural geography
(1) “social science” perspective
(2) “humanistic geography” perspective
(3) “power and ideology approach” perspective

social science perspective
– uses a scientific approach
– tends to minimize diversity to facilitate generalizations/theories
*SENSE of SPACE (abstract location)


humanistic geography perspective
– uses a humanistic approach to understand the uniques of each region
* SENSE of PLACE (unique character of individual regions or places)


power and ideology approach perspective
– underscores the idea that cultures are rarely homogeneous within
– resulting social heirarchies are maintained, reinforced, and challenged through many means


5 themes of cultural geography
(1) culture region
(2) cultural diffusion
(3) cultural ecology
(4) cultural interaction
(5) cultural landscape

culture region
a geographical unit based on characteristics and functions of culture

formal (culture) region
a cultural region inhabited by people who have one or more cultural traits in common

border zones
area where different regions meet and sometimes overlap

a concept based on the tendency of both formal and functional culture regions to consist of a core or node, in which defining traits are purest or functions are headquartered, and a periphery that is tributary and displays fewer of the defining traits

functional (culture) region
a cultural area that functions as a unit politically, socially, or economically

(exs) city, independent state, precinct, church diocese/parish, trade area, farm, federal reserve bank

a central point in a functional (culture) region where functions are coordinated and directed

(exs) city halls, national capitals, precinct voting places, parish churches, factories, and banks

vernacular (culture) region
a cultural region percieved to exist by its inhabitants; based in the collective spatial perception of the population at large

the movement of people, ideas, innovations, or things from one location outward to other locations where these items are not initally found

cultural diffusion
the spread of elements of culture from the point of origin over an area

relocation diffusion
the spread of an innovation or other elements of culture that occurs with the bodily relocation (migration) of the individual or group responsible for the innovation

expansion diffusion
the spread of innovations within an area in a snowballing process so that the total number of knowers or users becomes greater and the area of occurrence grows

3 types of expansion diffusion
(1) hierarchial diffusion
(2) contagious diffusion
(3) stimulus diffusion

hierarchial diffusion
a type of expansion diffusion in which innovations spread from one important person to another or from one urban center to another, temporarily bypassing other persons or rural areas

(ex) sushi

contagious diffusion
a type of expansion diffusion in which cultural innovation spreads like a wave in the manner of a contagious disease throughout soace without regard to heirarchies

stimulus diffusion
a type of expansion diffusion in which a specific trait fails to spread but the underlying idea or concept is accepted

time-distance decay
the decrease in acceptance of cultural innovation with increasing time and distance from its origin

permeable barrier
a barrier that permits some aspects of an innovation to diffuse through it but weakens and retards continued spread; an innovation can be modified in passing through a permeable barrier

absorbing barrier
a barrier that completely halts diffusion of innovations and blocks the spread of cultural elements

the large scale movement of people between different regions of the world

study of complex relationships among living organisms and their physical environment

cultural ecology
– (broadly) the study of relationships between the physical environment and culture
– (narrowly) the study of cultures as an adaptive system that facilitates human adoption to nature and environmental change

4 schools of thought on cultural ecology
(1) environmental determinism
(2) possibilism
(3) environmental perception
(4) human as modifers of the earth

environmental determinism
(school of thought) the belief that cultures are directly or indirectly shaped by the physical environment

(school of thought) based on the belief that humans, rather than the physical environment, are the primary active force; that any environment offers a number of different possible ways for a culture to develop; and that choices among these possibilities are guided by cultural heritage

environment perception
(school of thought) belief that culture depends more on what people percieve the environment to be than on the actual character of the environment; perception, in turn, is colored by the teachings of culture

cultural interaction
the relationship of various elements within a culture; recognizes that …
(1) the immediate causes of some cultural phenomena are other cultural phenomena
(2) a change in one elements of culture requires an accommodating change in others

a term used to connote the objective, quantitative, theoretical, model-based, economics-oriented type of geography that seeks to understand spatial systems and networks through application of the principle of social science

a term used to connote the subjective, idiographic, humanistic, culturally oriented type of geography that seeks to understand the unique character of individual regions and places, rejecting the principles of science as flawed and unknowingly biased

cultural landscape
the artifical landscape; the visibile human imprint on the land

symbolic landscapes
landscapes that express the values, beliefs, and meanings of a particular culture
(ex) urban skyline of cincinnati

3 aspects of landscape
(1) settlement forms
(2) land-division pattrens
(3) architectural styles

settlement forms
(type of cultural landscape) the spatial arrangement of buildings, roads, towns, and other features that people construct while inhabiting an are

nucleation form
(category of settlement forms) relatively dense settlement form

dispersed form
type of settlement form in which people live relatively distant from one another

land-division pattrens
(type of cultural landscape) the spatial pattrens of different land uses

architectural style
(type of cultural landscape) the exterior and interior designs and layouts of cultural/physical landscape