Approaches to Human Geography II.

Approaches to Human Geography II. (lh2n9737) – Course Handbook

Zoltán Ginelli (Gyimesi)

Eötvös Loránd University, Department of Social and Economic Geography

2014/15. spring semester for Erasmus students


Aim of the course:

The aim of this lecture is to familiarize students with current approaches in mainstream Anglo-American human geography. This will include a series of lectures and discussions providing a broad overview of the history and evolution of the discipline, with an account of emerging philosophies, theories, methods and practices of different geographical traditions, and a concise guide through the key authors and the most contested concepts (space, place, landscape, scale, region, state etc.) in human geography. In light of this account, we will explore the different ways of knowing and doing geographical research, and will provide a critical account of various geographical endeavours.

A special focus will be given to:

–      The changing historical geographies of geographical knowledge: the epistemic sites of knowledge production, the spatiality of research practice and methodologies, the dynamics of knowledge circulation, and the international contextualization of Anglo-American hegemony.

–      The connection between ontology and epistemology, theory and practice. The utility and limits of, and the conflicting differences between specific ways of knowing, related theories and forms of knowledge.

–      The situated nature and social embeddedness of geographical knowledge, and the various connections between human geography and wider social, cultural, economic and political agendas. The relation of different forms of knowledge to different cultures and social groups. The social role of scientific knowledge, and the social environment and culture of geography as a discipline.

–      The connection of scientific knowledge to power and ideology. The ‘crisis’ of representation and its role in constructing the geographies of social difference. Conflict situations and conceptual ruptures in the discipline. Science policy, activism and academia, and the ideological role of education.


Course Schedule

Tuesday 4:00–5:30 PM

Kőnig Room 0.311 (South Building)

1. week: 17 February Technical guide and introduction to the approaches to human geography
2. week: 24 February Historical outline and science studies
3. week: 3 March Colonial and imperial geographies
4. week: 10 March Postcolonialist geographies
5. week: 17 March Positivist and empiricist geographies
6. week: 24 March Behaviorist and humanistic geographies
7. week: 31 March Radical and Marxist geographies
8. week: 7 April spring break: 1 April (Wed) – 7 April (Tue)
9. week: 14 April Feminism and the geographies of gender
10. week: 21 April Postmodern and poststructuralist geographies
11. week: 28 April Conference leave
12. week: 5 May Actor-network theory
13. week: 12 May Conclusive remarks and course assessment


Acquired skills and forms of assessment:

Students will be given diverse opportunities to develop their oral and academic writing skills. As the lecture will be highly interactive, they will be expected to participate actively in classroom discussions, and be required to write a hand-in essay on a specific, chosen topic at the end of the semester. The lecture will provide the following skills and competencies to students: structuring an academic text, using academic referencing standards, conducting individual research on a concrete subject, conceptualizing and writing up arguments, producing a critical analysis on contemporary literature. There will be constant mentoring of students’ work, with a work schedule and periodic feedback opportunities. Primary literature will mainly consist of widely used and high quality university textbooks. Compulsory literature will be provided, with further readings and advice in lectures related both to the subject matter in general and to students’ chosen topics. The lecture will close with a briefing on how to apply the acquired skills, and an anonymous feedback questionnaire for course evaluation.


Essay Assignment 

Formal requirements:

  • A 6-page essay on a chosen topic. Warning: you must write exactly 6 pages.
  • Format: Arial, 12 pt, 1,5 line spacing, justified text alignment.
  • Headings: use only one-level headings, Arial, 12 pt, Bold, spacing: 18 px (top), 12 px (bottom).
  • Use at least 6 references.

Hint: try to use every basic material available, e.g. textbooks, Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Key Series.

  • Apply proper referencing in text and reference format in your bibliography (see APA format).
  • DEADLINE: 31 May 24:00 PM (only through email)

Essays not attaining these formal requirements will not be accepted.


Choose from the following essay assignments:

  1. Choose an approach and try to describe it thoroughly.
  2. Choose two approaches and try to compare them (similarities and differences).
  3. Choose a debate or ’hot topic,’ and try to give an overview of the main arguments according to at least two different approaches.


The essay should answer the following questions:

  • Who are the main proponents of the approach?
    • Origins: names, biographies, identities, institutions.
  • What was the social and historical context of the approach?
  • What are the main philosophical assumptions behind it all?
    • Try to define the most important terms and concepts of the approach(es).

Example: Marxist geographies focus on the social production of space.

Example: behaviorist geographies study the perceptual, cognitive and mental aspects of space, such as spatial imagination and memory.

  • The basic tenets: ontology, epistemology?
    • Ontology: refers to the things that exist. Define the main entities, processes and objects of enquiry.

Example: a Marxist ontology focuses on class, class struggle and processes of production.

Example: a humanistic ontology focuses on the human individual, on values, culture and subjective experience (being-in-the-world, life-world etc.).

  • Epistemology: refers to the philosophical method used to gain knowledge of the ontological entities. Define the language and perspective of enquiry, referring to its main ideological background.

Example: a Marxist epistemology is materialist, and uses dialectics to unravel the political economic antagonisms in the relations of production.

Example: a humanistic epistemology is idealist, and uses fenomenology and hermeneutics to understand the everyday experience of human beings.

  • What are its main theories?
    • A theory is an abstract generalization or statement based on empirical data.
    • Look for theories that have been charateristically developed and applied by specific approaches. Describe the theories defining their specific concepts and processes.

Example: positivist geographical approaches developed rigorous spatial laws on different patterns of phenomena, e.g. the Christaller modell served as a mathematical and geometrical explanation for the hexagonical patterns of the settlement system.

Example: Marxist urban geographers explained gentrification as middle-class revanchism against working class neighbourhoods in the context of the cycles of uneven development.

  • What are its main methodologies?
    • The methodological framework or tools of understanding they use in research.

Example: poststructuralist geographers use discourse analysis to identify and analyze the language of discourses produced by different social groups and institutions.

Example: positivist geographers frequently use quantitative methods to objectively map the spatial structure of social processes.

  • What are its main practices?

This could mean several things:

  • What do they actually do in practice?
  • What are they aiming to achieve in practice and everyday life?

Example: feminist geographers struggle for the emancipation of women and people of different gender.

  • Where do they do research, and what type of knowledge or data they produce? E.g. fieldwork, laboratory work, statistical data, programming, interviews.

Example: behaviorist geographers use the practice of mental mapping to understand the spatial behavior and travel of people.

Hint: you don’t have to include every important person and aspect in your essay, but the main points of an approach and the most important proponents should be mentioned.


Reading list


Aitken, S., Valentine, G. (eds.)(2006): Approaches to Human Geography. SAGE.


Agnew, J.A., Livingstone, D.N., Rogers, A. (eds.)(1996): Human Geography: An Essential Anthology. Wiley-Blackwell.

Agnew, J.A., Duncan, J.S. (eds.)(2012): The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Human Geography. Wiley-Blackwell.

Castree, N., Rogers, A., Sherman, D. (eds.)(2005): Questioning Geography: Fundamental Debates. Wiley-Blackwell.

Cloke, P.J., Crang, P., Goodwin, M. (eds.)(2005): Introducing Human Geographies. 2nd Edition. Hodder Education.

Cloke, P.J., Philo, C., Sadler, D. (1991): Approaching Human Geography: An Introduction to Contemporary Theoretical Debates. SAGE.

Cloke, P.J., Johnston, R.J. (eds.)(2005): Spaces of Geographical Thought: Deconstructing Human Geography’s Binaries. Society and Space Series.

Cresswell, T. (2012): Geographic Thought: A Critical Introduction. Wiley-Blackwell.

Gregory, D., Johnston, R.J., Pratt, G., Watts, M., Whatmore, S. (eds.)(2009): The Dictionary of Human Geography. 5th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.

Holt-Jensen, A. (2009): Geography: History and Concepts: A Student’s Guide. 4th Edition. SAGE.

Johnston, R.J. (1986): Philosophy and Human Geography: An Introduction to Contemporary Approaches. 2nd Edition. Edward Arnold.

Johnston, R.J., Sidaway, J. (2004): Geography and Geographers: Anglo-American Human Geography since 1945. 6th Edition. Hodder Education.

Livingstone, D.N. (1992): The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise. Wiley-Blackwell.

Livingstone, D.N., Agnew, J. (eds.)(2011): The SAGE Handbook of Geographical Knowledge. SAGE.

Nayak, A., Jeffrey, A. (2011): Geographic Thought: An Introduction to Ideas in Human Geography. Prentice Hall.

Peet, R. (1998): Modern Geographical Thought. Wiley-Blackwell.

Strohmayer, U., Benko, G. (eds.)(2004): Human Geography: A history for the 21th Century. Edward Arnold.

Unwin, T. (1992): The Place of Geography. Prentice Hall.

  1. Key Series:

Clifford, N., Holloway, S.L., Rice, S.P., Valentine, G. (eds.)(2008): Key Concepts in Geography. 2nd Edition. SAGE.

Hubbard, P., Kitchin, R., Valentine, G. (eds.)(2008): Key Texts in Human Geography. SAGE.

Hubbard, P., Kitchin, R., Valentine, G. (eds.)(2010): Key Thinkers on Space and Place. 2nd Edition. SAGE.

Clifford, N., French, S., Valentine, G. (eds.)(2010): Key Methods in Geography. SAGE.

Wylie, J. (2007): Landscape. Key Ideas in Geography Series. Routledge.

Herod, A. (2010): Scale. Key Ideas in Geography Series. Routledge.

  1. Journals:

Progress in Human Geography


Annals of the Association of American Geographers

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Environment and Planning A-B-C-D

Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography

Geografiska Annaler A-B

Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie