Reply To: Human geography

  • Encyclios

    April 24, 2023 at 9:53 AM

    Human geography and other disciplines

    In the past, human geography was oriented more toward the natural sciences than toward the social sciences: although direct relations with scholars in geology, botany or pedology were held by specialists in the physical environment, every good geographer felt obliged to follow the progress of those sciences. Today, the reports focus rather on ecology.

    Classical French-inspired geography generally proceeded hand in hand with historical studies; this parallelism has not disappeared, despite some momentary disagreements, and historical geography still constitutes a terrain cultivated by scholars of both disciplines, who apportion it differently in different countries. With regard to economics, regional science has embraced the legacy of location theory, and researchers of various backgrounds meet in it. With ethnology there have long been casual relations, in the course of field research in Third World countries.

    The most difficult relations were with sociology: its scholars had lost interest in the social morphology of Durkheim’s school, and urban ecology inspired by the Chicago School remained very much on the margins compared to the central strands of social thought. In the 1960s, a new interest in space was felt among scholars of urban sociology, especially Marxist-inspired scholars such as Henri Lefebvre, but the discovery of the spatial dimension of social phenomena by sociologists has only occurred in recent times.

    Torsten Hägerstrand’s ‘geography of diffusion’ had already resonated in sociology: his analysis of the spatio-temporal trajectories of individuals, conducted on different scales (day, year, lifespan), highlighted the more or less vast scope in which human existences take place and the way they intertwine, diverge and combine. There is no point in studying social facts without attending to these basic dimensions of collective life: where a society begins, where it ends, by what level of interaction it is characterized. At the same time, on the side of sociology, the importance of ecological substrate issues has been discovered. Anthony Giddens is the sociologist who has done most to incorporate the consideration of space into the methods of his own discipline and to bring the latter closer to geography.In this respect the social sciences have achieved a hitherto unknown degree of cohesion.Continuous contact with philologists, historians of ideas and scholars of cultural phenomena is indispensable for a humanistic deepening of our discipline.

    The image of human geography has fluctuated in collective opinion, deteriorating during the period when its devotees were unable to deal effectively with the problems of the modern world. Today it appears to have improved within the framework of the humanities, and even the general public has begun to become aware of the profound modernization that has taken place over the past three decades.