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Lecture on Culture and Geography

Culture has been defined as "a skill; a luxury; an elite's prestige commodity; asimple aesthetic appreciation; (or) solely a folkloric epiphenomenon."

The definition of culture I use includes every aspect of life:"know-how, technical knowledge, customs of food and dress, religion, mentality, values, language, symbols, socio-political and economic behavior, indigenous methods of taking decisions and exercising power, methods of production and economic relations, and so on."(Verhelst, T 1990 No Life Without Roots London: Zed Books p.17)

Culture: a shared set of meanings that are lived through the material and symbolic practices of everyday life.

Cultural Geography: how space, place and the landscape shape culture at the same time that culture shapes space, place and the landscape.

Environmental determinism

Can culture be mapped?

Religion: belief system and a set of practices that recognize the existence of a power higher than humans.


What problems of scale appear in these maps of religion?

Diffusion of religions

Diffusion of Buddhism

Diffusion of Christianity

Cultural trait: a single aspect of the complex of routine practices that constitute a particular cultural group.

Diffusion of Hip-Hop

Cultural complex: combination of traits characteristic of a particular group.

Cultural region: the areas within which a particular cultural system prevails.

Cultural system: a collection of interacting elements that taken together shape a group's collective identity.

Cultural landscape: a characteristic and tangible outcome of the complex interactions between a human group and a natural environment.

Ordinary landscapes: the everyday landscapes that people create in the course of their lives.

Landscape as text:

the idea that landscapes can be read and written by groups and individuals.

Three images of Los Angeles on p.242 of your textbook: Which is the best map of L.A.?
It all depends . . .

Why are the three maps so different?

Humanistic approach: places the individual -- especially individual values, meaning systems, intensions, and conscious acts -- at the center of analysis.

Sense of place: feelings evoked among people as a result of the experiences and memories that they associate with a place, and to the symbolism that they attach to it.

Proxemics: the study of the social the cultural meanings that people give to personal space.