Cultural geography and its impact on the world

Cultural geography is an important element of geography and is commonly referred to as human geography. It is the study of culture all around the world, where it originates and how it diffuses through the migration of people. Dating back to ancient geographers such as Ptolemy, cultural geography acted as an alternative to environmental determinism. Environmental determinism argues that ‘both general features and regional variations of human cultures and societies are determined by the physical and biological forms that make up the earth's many natural landscapes.’ In other words, humans are impacted and affected by the environment they live in. Geographers see cultures developing from the landscape they are in whilst simultaneously shaping the environment. This very interaction, the effect one has on the other, creates the cultural landscape. It is interesting to look at how cultural landscapes link to the physical environment. The ‘Man-Land Tradition’ studies the effect of the landscape on humans and vice versa. For example, in metropolitan areas, it argues that people are less culturally tied to the environment compared to those situated in rural areas. While cultural geography is still practised, it was challenged in the 1980s by new thinking. This led to a broader ‘cultural turn’. Cultural geographers began to involve social theories such as humanism and structuralism. The important change was that culture was identified as a dynamic process that actively builds society. Culture is an intricate and unique part of our world, reflecting different aspects of communities and thus it should be protected and preserved. Over the last couple of decades, countries have started to become more integrated and interdependent, this has had a significant impact on culture itself, its movement and its diversity. Western ideology has spread throughout the world. Although this started in the 15th century through explorers, continuing in the 17th century due to imperialists, this has accelerated in the 21st century through globalisation. Consequently, this has had negative impacts on other cultures as it can be argued that it has led to cultural erosion. This involves loss of language, traditional food, music, clothes and social relations. This is because large companies bring new services and products into a country that often reflect and impose western ideals, replacing traditional services and products. Previously a Korowai tribe in Papua, Indonesia, consisting of 3000 people lived with no contact with the outside world. They were primarily hunter-gatherers who fished in the Becking River. However, in 1974 they were introduced to the outside world via an expedition led by Peter Van Arsdale which meant life dramatically changed for them. The Barcelona football kit became ubiquitous replacing the traditional loincloth, and their conventional lifestyle was abandoned for sedentary village life. So here in lies an issue, in the ever-increasing world we live in, bonded by economic ties and the migration of people, how should we protect and preserve culture. ​

By Florence & Maddy

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