Cultural Geography is a series of intellectual and politicized engagements with the world. Cultural Geography is one of many styles of thought in human geographies that is not fixed within any particular time or space.
The academic field of cultural geography has been on a long path of unfolding intellectual thought and reshaping of academic idea’s. For most cultural geographers there are 5 clearly distinctive strands or themes across the discipline. These are not likely to be the only ones but seem to make sense when considering the contemporary Cultural Geographic Thought. The five strands or themes of Cultural Geography are as follows:
Culture as a distribution of things Includes everyday personal items we see around us regularly such as furniture, clothes and household items, as well as larger scale items, such as more public artefacts like buildings and transport networks such as railway line distribution and roads and monuments. This pattern of material artefacts can tell us a lot about the social, economic and political dynamics and dimensions of Cultures. A central concern of Cultural Geography
Culture as a way of life – The most democratising and recurring aspect within Anglo/American/Australasian Cultural Geography by far. There has often been a profoundly relativist appreciation for the diversity in and through place, space and temporality.
A consistent theme is the assortment of practices that constitute people and place, life and landscape. The values, beliefs, meanings, languages, and practices that make up people way of life – these are however, mobile and mutable but still, have remained a centrality in Cultural Geography and Spatial Sociology (amongst countless other human geographies).
Culture as meaning – Understanding the meanings that people attach to places and to landscapes is no minor matter. For example, battles are raged on daily basis in order to control religious sites; city streets can become filled with people protesting the loss of space in the public sphere and loss fuel politics over design and location of war memorial sites.
Culture as doing – For some, such as Marxists, the perspective usually sees culture and cultural geography as something that is done. Recently, work has moved away from this Philosophical Anthropology and towards more general notions of life that can reinstate the Epicurean materiality, more often than not under the general heading of performance. This attempts to reinstate the worlds diverse richness which is often embedded in discourse and conventional academic accounts as a ‘given’ everyday life. When actually really thought abo,ut the world really is very overwhelming in its richness, causing more phenomenological and differing epistemologies. This is in order to understand action and affect – This geography tends to be overly hyperactive and almost comes over as ‘theatrical’.
Culture as power – In many significant ways this strand or theme of culture as power often stands out in comparison to the other four previously mentioned strands or themes, due to the fact that power is implicit in each of them, for example – meaning is contested. Even though power itself is not often subject to cultural geographical analysis, it is critiques of power that are usually of prominence in cultural geographical analysis, study and research
A predominant idea in Cultural Geography is, unsurprisingly, ‘thinking spatially about culture, and thinking culturally about Space’.
Over space and time ideas and understandings of power have shifted away from models based on the power of one group over others, but more towards the those involving the power to do things.
As Anderson et al (2003) point out that it is not only domination that power relations are based on in the modern world, but also ‘seduction, influence, persuasion, capacity, ability, manipulation, consent, compromise, subversion, control and so on.’
Geographical study and research on social stratification or ‘class’ seems to have been supplemented and also weakened by the geographical analyses of power relations built on political ideologies, gender, lifestyle, nature, race, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity and so on.
Analysis and critique of power remain of central importance to cultural geography as space is bound up in the constitution of justice, inequalities and oppression.
By pointing to the sites of oppression and resistance geographers have revealed the differing scales at which power relations operate and how space and spatiality’s are manipulated by both the powerful and the marginalised – In turn, geographers have become increasingly preoccupied with studying and researching the geographies of; Marxism; Feminism; Development and International Relations / Studies; Queer Theory; Postcolonialism; and the like. The main reason for the shift towards these ‘geographies’ is in order to better identify and understand the ways in which space, place and nature are implicated in, as well as, constitutive of unjust, unequal and uneven power relations. And of course with the aim of making suggestions of ways in which these relations can be addressed, contested and redressed.