Skip to Main Content

Human Geography

This guide highlights the resources for Human Geography, the study of human settlements in their places.

A short definition for Cultural Geography

The study of the relationship between culture and place. In broad terms, cultural geography examines the cultural values, practices, discursive and material expressions and artefacts of people, the cultural diversity and plurality of society, and how cultures are distributed over space, how places and identities are produced, how people make sense of places and build senses of place, and how people produce and communicate knowledge and meaning. Cultural geography has long been a core component of the discipline of geography, though how it has been conceived, its conceptual tools, and the approach to empirical research has changed quite markedly over time.

In the late 19th century, cultural geography sought to compare and contrast different cultures around the world and their relationship to natural environments. This approach has its roots in the anthropogeography of Friedrich Ratzel and, in common with anthropology, it aimed to understand cultural practices, social organizations, and indigenous knowledges, but gave emphasis to people’s connections with and use of place and nature (see landschaft). This form of cultural geography was adopted, extended, and promoted in North American geography in the early 20th century, especially through the Berkeley School and Carl Sauer. They were particularly interested in how people adapted to environments, but more particularly how people shaped the landscape through agriculture, engineering, and building, and how the landscape was reflective of the people who produced it.

While this form of cultural geography is still practised, it was challenged in the 1980s by new thinking that created what has been termed ‘new cultural geography’, which led to a broader cultural turn in the discipline. During this period, cultural geographers started to engage with new theoretical ideas within social theory, including humanism, structuralism, post-structuralism, postmodernism, and post-colonialism, recasting cultural geography in a number of significant ways. Most crucially, culture itself was conceived as a fluid, flexible, and dynamic process that actively constructs society, rather than simply reflecting it.

From the perspective of new cultural geography, landscape was not simply a material artefact that reflected culture in straightforward ways, but was laden with symbolic meaning that needed to be decoded with respect to social and historical context, using new techniques such as iconography. Similarly, it was contended that other cultural practices, artefacts, and representations needed to be theorized and analysed in much more contextual, contingent, and relational ways, sensitive to the workings of difference and power. Here, new cultural geographers argued that cultural identities are not essentialized and teleological, but rather need to be understood as constitutive of complex power geometries giving rise to all kinds of hydridity and diversity (see essentialism; teleology).

As a result, since the 1980s cultural geography has developed to examine the broad range of ways in which culture evolves and makes a difference to everyday life and places. Studies have examined the cultural politics of different social groups with respect to issues such as disability, ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, and how the processes and practices of othering, colonialism, imperialism, nationalism, and religion shape the lives of people in different locales and contexts fostering senses of belonging and exclusion. Others have looked at how culture is reflected and mediated through representations such as art, photography, music, film, and mass media, and material cultures such as fashion, food, heritage, and memorials/monuments, as well as the practices of creating knowledge and communicating through language. More recently still, a move towards non-representational theory has developed the focus beyond representations. Through the cultural turn, there has also been a move to explore how culture intersects with other forms of geographical inquiry such as the economic and political, arguing that these domains are deeply inflected and shaped by cultural processes (see cultural economy). Consequently, cultural geography is one of the most vibrant fields in human geography today.

Rogers, A., Castree, N., & Kitchin, R. (2013). "Cultural geography." In A Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 Jan. 2022

In the Library's collections

Previously, there was no specific subject heading for Cultural Geography. When you tried that term, "cultural geography", as a subject search, the online catalog refered you to Human Geography. However, you can now use the subject search "cultural geography" to find books published after 2007. "Cultural landscapes" is another, relatively new subject heading. If you do a keyword search for "cultural geography" you get all the rest of the stuff! The first 30 are the most relevant in the keyword search.

Most of Cultural Geography is shelved in the GF's located on Berry Level 4.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

Journal articles & titles

Articles and other writings about Cultural Geography can be found in many publications. Our collection includes several journals which look at Cultural Geography. Below is a short list of some of the journal titles we have in our Library's collection. Or you can use the search box at the top of the page to find relevant articles.

Internet resource(s)

Keeping up with the journal literature

Want an easy way to keep up with the journal literature for all facets of Geography? And you use a mobile device? You can install the BrowZine app and create a custom Bookshelf of your favorite journal titles. Then you will get the Table of Contents (ToCs) of your favorite journals automatically delivered to you when they become available. Once you have the ToC's you can download and read the articles you want.

You can get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Don't own or use a mobile device? You can still use BrowZine! It's now available in a web version. You can get to it here. The web version works the same way as the app version. Find the journals you like, create a custom Bookshelf, get ToCs and read the articles you want.