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The development of humanistic

Humanistic geography

David Seamon Though humanistic geography became an

Kansas State University, USA explicit subfield of the discipline only in the
Adam Lundberg 1970s, there were several earlier geographers
Stockholm Royal Institute of Art, Sweden who, at least implicitly, pointed toward humanis-
tic approaches, methods, and themes. Examples
Most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s, human- include Alexander von Humbolts interest in
istic geography is a conceptual perspective how landscape painting could contribute to
claiming that a comprehensive understanding of the publics awareness of the earths natural
humanenvironment relationships must consider regions; Johannes Gabriel Grans efforts to
individual and group experiences and meanings develop an experientially grounded cartogra-
of space, place, landscape, region, mobility, and phy that could map sensory and perceptual
related geographic phenomena. Partly propelled aspects of natural and human-made landscapes;
by 1960s research in behavioral geography and and Paul Vidal de la Blaches field studies of
environmental perception, humanistic geogra- genre de vie, a term encompassing the idea
phy incorporated a wide range of philosophical that the way of life of a region reflected
approaches that included phenomenology, exis- its inhabitants psychological, social, and eco-
tentialism, idealism, pragmatism, grounded nomic identities imprinted on the landscape.
k theory, and symbolic interactionism (Ley Though not a geographer, another signifi- k
and Samuels 1978). Geographers most com- cant representative was French historian Eric
monly associated with humanistic geography Dardel, who examined geographicality (gographic-
included Edmunds Bunkse, Anne Buttimer, it), the experiential linkages that supported
James Duncan, J. Nicholas Entrikin, David human worlds environmentally and geograph-
Ley, David Lowenthal, Douglas C.D. Pocock, ically, including ties to places, landscapes, and
J. Douglas Porteous, Edward Relph, Graham regions.
Rowles, Robert David Sack, Marwyn Samuels, In spite of these early researchers efforts, it
David Seamon, Yi-Fu Tuan, and John Western. was not until the mid-twentieth century that
The first geographer to describe humanistic geographical thinking pointed toward a formal
geography formally as a disciplinary subfield was explication of humanistic geography. In a 1947
Yi-Fu Tuan (1976). He defined the approach as article in the Annals of the Association of American
the geographic study of human beings expe- Geographers, J.K. Wright called for geographers
riences and understandings of space, place, and to include a humanistic perspective in their
the natural world. studies. He advocated a subfield of geographical

The International Encyclopedia of Geography.

Edited by Douglas Richardson, Noel Castree, Mike M. Goodchild, Audrey Kobayashi, Weidong Liu, and Richard A. Marston.
2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
DOI: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0412

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research that would study peoples subjective Why humanistic geography?

geographical understandings and values. He
labeled this field of inquiry geosophy, which
There are at least two reasons for the label of
he defined as the examination of geographical
humanistic geography rather than experien-
knowledge in all manner of human forms. In
tial geography, lived geography, existential
a 1952 article in the Indian Geographical Journal,
William Kirk, working independently from geography, or some similar term. First, the
Wright, extended his call for study of geograph- 1970s marked a time when psychology and
ical knowledge by developing the concept of sociology had already drawn on the human-
behavioral environment, which Kirk defined as the istic label to identify new subfields in their
environment not as it is known objectively but disciplines. Unsettled by the behaviorist and
as it is perceived and understood by individuals Freudian perspectives that dominated psychol-
and groups. Wright and Kirks efforts were ogy, Abraham Maslow advocated an alternative
significant for humanistic geography because approach he called humanistic psychology,
both thinkers realized that geographers needed which emphasized free will, creativity, human
to expand their research horizon to incorporate potential, and self-exploration. Similarly, soci-
human consciousness and cognition, since the ologist Peter Berger called for a humanistic
ways in which individuals and groups structure approach in his discipline, suggesting that the
and make sense of their world play a primary societal dimensions of human life could be more
role in how they act in and make use of that thoroughly examined not primarily via social
world. structures, networks, and institutions but via the
k experiences, actions, and understandings of the k
In the 1960s, Wright and Kirks ideas would
help spawn a new disciplinary subfield of behav- individuals and groups involved.
ioral geography and environmental perception, which A second reason for the label humanistic
largely focused on the cognitive dimensions geography related to links with humanism,
of environmental behavior. In the 1970s, the a philosophical, ideological, and ethical per-
development of humanistic geography greatly spective with a complex intellectual history
benefited from this behavioral research, which often incorporating conflicting understandings
had shifted the study focus from measurable (Relph 1981). Most broadly, humanism refers
aggregate analyses of spatial and environmental to a belief in the unity of humankind and in
behaviors to individuals environmental images, human beings potential to improve their own
attitudes, preferences, and worldviews. Though lives and worlds, making careful, critical use of
much of this research remained quantitative and accurate intellectual knowledge and relevant life
focused on the consciously grounded dimen- experiences. Humanist hallmarks include reason,
sions of geographical actions, experiences, and tolerance, individual responsibility, and under-
meanings, this work was crucial for the devel- standing and action grounded in mature personal
opment of humanistic geography because it experience. Humanist originated from the
helped to justify the study of human beings fifteenth-century Italian umanista, a scholar of
lived relationships with the places, spaces, and classical Greek and Latin literature. Originally,
environments comprising their geographic these scholars used humanism to spotlight
worlds. the core of the Italian Renaissance, which, in

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seeking to revive classical learning, emphasized In relation to environmental and ecological

that human beings themselves, rather than divine deterioration, humanistic geographers argued
power, play an instrumental role in who they that, because humans are earths most conscious
are and what they become. Over the centuries, and environmentally exploitive beings, their
many different modes of humanism arose, often efforts at betterment must extend beyond the
contradictory philosophically and ideologically. human world to protecting and strengthening
In the twentieth century, humanism continued the welfare of other sentient beings as well as
to incorporate a wide range of meanings, though ecosystems, places, landscapes, natural regions,
one can argue that its primary philosophical and and the planet as a living whole.
ethical tenets included: (i) the emancipatory
potential of human reason; (ii) the significance
of free, open inquiry; (iii) the understanding of Key themes in humanistic geography
things and events mostly as they offer value for
human beings and human life; and (iv) the wish Broadly, one can identify four central conceptual
to make life better for all people, particularly the and methodological themes relating to human-
less able or less fortunate. istic geography as it developed in the 1970s and
As it developed in the 1970s, humanistic geog- 1980s.
raphy generally hewed to these central humanist
tenets but reinterpreted them in innovative 1. Humanistic geographers understood human
ways that assimilated shifting philosophical and life and experience to be a dynamic, mul-
k practical concerns, including earths ecological tivalent structure that incorporates bodily, k
crisis. Humanistic geographers accepted the sensory, emotional, attitudinal, cognitive,
constructive possibilities of human reason but and transpersonal dimensions. Humanistic
contended that intellectual knowledge grounded researchers argued that a comprehensive
only in scientific method too often misin- human geography must describe these many
terpreted phenomena and reduced them to dimensions; understand what they con-
inaccurate, piecemeal counterfeits. Humanis- tribute to environmental experience, action,
tic geographers appreciated the possibilities of and meaning; and seek out integrated
earnest, open-ended inquiry but looked toward frameworks identifying how these many
conceptual perspectives like phenomenology dimensions relate and interact in support-
and hermeneutics that respected the phenomena ive and undermining ways. For example,
being studied and provided descriptive and Edward Relph (1976) delineated a spectrum
interpretive methods whereby researchers could of spatial experience that ranged from the
more accurately and comprehensively locate instinctive, bodily, and immediate to the
and understand those phenomena. Like social cerebral, ideal, and intangible. He probed
scientists, humanistic geographers were keen to how the experience of space differs from
use their knowledge to contribute to human the experience of place and contended that
betterment, but they emphasized that any prac- space becomes place when it gathers human
tical plans or policies should be grounded in the meanings, actions, and identity environ-
experiences, needs, and wishes of affected parties mentally and temporally. Similarly, Yi-Fu
rather than unilaterally dictated by outside gov- Tuan (1974) delineated a conceptual struc-
ernmental or corporate decisions and demands. ture of environmental attitudes and values

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by consolidating similarities and differences and actions as accurately and as thoroughly as

in the ways that human beings respond to possible.
their geographical worlds physiologically, 3. Many humanistic geographers argued that,
psychologically, socially, and culturally. He as much as possible, the evidence, general
concluded that every person is, simultane- principles, and understandings of humanistic
ously, a biological being, a social being, and geography should arise from self-knowledge
a unique individual. He demonstrated how grounded in researchers firsthand expe-
environmental perceptions, attitudes, and riences. Research should work toward a
values arise from and contribute to all three forthright engagement with the experiences
aspects of human being. of others, whether those others are peo-
2. Humanistic geographers emphasized that ple, places, landscapes, elements of nature,
much of human experience is opaque, aspects of the human-made environment,
ineffable, or beyond taken-for-granted or other sentient beings. Humanistic geog-
awareness. To identify and describe these raphers called into question conventional
less accessible aspects of human life, human- empirical research that defined the topic
istic geographers largely turned away from of research in objectivist fashion as a thing
conventional scientific method that required or situation separate from and unrelated
tangible, measurable phenomena expli- to the life or experience of the researcher.
cated and correlated mathematically and Humanistic geographers argued that, by
statistically. Instead, humanistic geographers understanding the significance of environ-
k turned toward ontological perspectives mental and geographical experiences in k
that accepted a much wider range of their own lives, individuals might act more
experience and presence. They drew on responsibly and generously toward other
epistemological perspectives that sought human beings and toward the places and
to be open to phenomena and to accept environments that one inhabits or knows
all aspects of their constitution. The aim (Tuan 1976). In this regard, Edward Relph
was an empathetic, wider-ranging mode (1981) advocated for an environmental humil-
of discovery whereby the phenomenon ity a way of engaging with the world
was given time and space to present itself. whereby things, places, landscapes, people,
The emphasis was on methodologies and other living beings are all respected
of engagement that allowed researchers just for being what they are and, therefore,
to encounter and understand the worlds are thoughtfully cared for and intentionally
and experiences of their subjects carefully, protected.
accurately, and comprehensively. In work- 4. Broadly, humanistic geographers grounded
ing toward a more intimate encounter their work in two complementary research
with the phenomenon under study, some models, the first of which can be identified
humanistic geographers used directed intu- as explications of experience; and the second,
ition and self-reflective explication; others as interpretations of social worlds. Explications
carefully studied real-world situations, for of experience were most often associated
example, a specific urban neighborhood with place studies and represented by
or a small number of individuals asked to such geographers as Anne Buttimer, Dou-
describe their environmental experiences glas C.D. Pocock, Edward Relph, David

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Seamon, and Yi-Fu Tuan. Much of this construction arising from purposeful actions
work was grounded in phenomenology of people-in-place. Place was interpreted as a
and, for its place interpretations, drew negotiated reality via which people facilitated
on a wide range of descriptive sources places, which in turn facilitated the lives of
that included first-person experience, people associated with those places. In the 1980s
philosophical argument, archival reports, and 1990s, this social-constructionist approach
accounts from imaginative literature, and to place became one significant bridge to post-
experiential evidence from photography, structuralist thinking and the new cultural
film, and other artistic media. Typically, this geography (Adams, Hoelscher, and Till 2001;
work emphasized lived commonalities in Cloke, Philo, and Sadler 1991).
relation to environmental and place experi-
ence, though these humanistic researchers
also asked how those commonalities varied Humanistic geography, 19701978
in terms of individual and group differ-
ences. In the 1980s and 1990s, this work Though interest in humanistic geography still
would be criticized as essentialist claiming holds sway today, the most significant work was
generalizable, universal structures such as accomplished in the period 19701978. During
place and home and largely ignoring this time, humanistic geographers produced
lived variations grounded in social, cultural, important substantive research and explored
and historical factors (Cresswell 2013; see broader conceptual and methodological con-
criticisms below). cerns. Though humanistic research incorporated
k k
a wide range of philosophical traditions, phe-
The second research model for human- nomenology was most often used because it
istic geography interpretations of social emphasized the elucidation of everyday human
worlds was represented by the work of such experience and could be readily applied to
geographers as James Duncan, David Ley, Mar- taken-for-granted geographic phenomena such
wyn Samuels, Susan Smith, Graham Rowles, as place, home, lived space, and environmental
and John Western. This work incorporated a experience. The first explicit discussion of phe-
wider range of philosophical traditions than nomenology and geography was a 1970 article
experiential explication and included pragma- in the Canadian Geographer by Edward Relph,
tism, grounded theory, symbolic interactionism, who gave examples of how the phenomenolog-
poststructuralism, and Marxist perspectives. Typ- ical approach was appropriate for probing the
ically, this research was grounded empirically in relationships between human beings and their
a specific place or social situation for example, natural and fabricated environments. A year later
David Leys work on inner-city subcultures, in the same journal, Yi-Fu Tuan also considered
housing, and gentrification; John Westerns the geographical value of phenomenology and
documentation of the impact of apartheid on concluded that the perspective was potentially
Cape Town, South Africa; or Graham Rowless helpful because it considered neither the world
research on the everyday environmental and nor human beings in the abstract but, rather,
place experiences of American elderly popula- emphasized human-being-in-the-world as it
tions. These researchers interpreted place and incorporated environmental, geographical, and
related geographical phenomena as a social place aspects.

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The next productive year in humanistic In the same Annals issue, Yi-Fu Tuan (1976)
research was 1974, marked by four significant provided the first formal conceptualization of
works. First, David Ley published The Black Inner humanistic geography, which he described as
City as Frontier Outpost, an ethnographic study a branch of the discipline that leads to a more
examining an African American neighborhood thorough understanding of the human condition
in Philadelphia. Second, Anne Buttimer pub- in relation to environmental and geographic
lished Values in Geography, a work that considered concerns.
how taken-for-granted personal and professional The most significant humanistic work in
understandings and values ground scholarly 1976 was Edward Relphs Place and Placeless-
knowledge, often in ways of which researchers ness (Relph 1976), a phenomenological study
were not self-consciously aware. Yi-Fu Tuan that interpreted place experience in terms of
published two notable works in 1974, the first insideness and outsidness. Relph argued that
of which was an article in Progress in Human the most intimate experience of place could
Geography in which Tuan described two different be described by existential insideness, the lived
modes of place: public symbols, places of promi- situation in which a place is experienced and
nence, like New York Citys Time Square, that understood without self-conscious awareness
yield their meaning to the eye; and fields of care, yet is permeated with cognitive, sensory, and
places like a well-liked tavern or neighborhood affective meaning usually unnoticed unless the
only known through prolonged experience place is changed in some way for example,
and typically undistinguished architecturally or ones home and neighborhood is destroyed by
k visually. Tuans second significant work in 1974 storm. Also in this work, Relph formulated k
was Topophilia (Tuan 1974), which delineated an the concept of placelessness, which he defined
outline for a phenomenology of environmental as the fragmentation and elimination of distinct
and place experience. This book became one of places in the world. Of all the 1970s work in
the best known humanistic-geographic works humanistic geography, Place and Placelessness
for researchers outside the discipline, partly perhaps had the most lasting impact because
because Tuan introduced the term topophilia, it provided a lucid, applicable presentation of
referring to attachment to and love of place. why places are important in human life, what
The year 1976 marked a number of signifi- their constitution is experientially, and how
cant advances in humanistic research, including they have been undermined in modernist and
an explicit formulation of the subfield and postmodernist times.
two penetrating works that further clarified The year 1978 marked the high point of
the relationship between humanistic geogra- humanistic research in that David Ley and
phy and phenomenology. In a special June Marwyn Samuels (1978) published Humanistic
issue of the Annals of the Association of Ameri- Geography: Prospects and Problems, an edited
can Geographers devoted to the philosophy of collection illustrating the broad conceptual and
geography, two important articles appeared, the thematic range that humanist perspectives could
first of which, by Anne Buttimer, examined provide geography. In their introduction, the
how the phenomenological concept of life- editors argued that the humanistic tradition was
world the taken-for-granted world of everyday important for geographers because it offered one
living might offer insights for research on conceptual and applied pathway for reconciling
place, social space, and timespace rhythms. such dualisms as objectivity and subjectivity;

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materialism and idealism; agency and structure; Most generally, however, the perspective of
and knowledge and wisdom. Chapters focused humanistic geography largely fell from sight or
on such diverse topics as existential geography, metamorphosed into the new cultural geog-
alternative cartographies, a humanized economic raphy molded from poststructuralist, feminist,
geography, links between imaginative literature and critical perspectives. In this regard, many
and geography, words for places, landscapes as human geographers shifted their attention to
experienced by tourists, and the phenomenolog- the cutting-edge work of philosophers Michel
ical studies of the natural world produced by the Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze,
eminent late eighteenth-century German poet Flix Guattari, Bruno Latour, and other post-
and dramatist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In structuralist, critical, and relationalist theorists
spite of their eclecticism, the 20 chapters of the (Cresswell 2013). One example of how human-
volume effectively contributed to the editors istic themes shifted in the new millennium is
main aim: to reconcile the science and art of Textures of Place (Adams, Hoelscher, and Till
geography (Ley and Samuels 1978, 10). 2001), an edited collection dedicated to Yi-Fu
After 1978 and into the 2000s, important Tuan and the humanistic tradition. Overall,
humanistic work continued to appear, including the volumes 27 chapters demonstrated how an
David Seamons A Geography of the Lifeworld engagement with critical social theory worked to
(1979); Anne Buttimer and David Seamons transform earlier humanistic understandings of
Human Experience of Space and Place (1980); place, environmental experience, and geograph-
Douglas C.D. Pococks Humanistic Geography ical meaning. The editors of the volume called
k and Literature (1981); Edward Relphs Rational for a reconsideration of humanistic geography k
Landscapes and Humanistic Geography (Relph in the context of revised assumptions about
1981); Yi-Fu Tuans Segmented Worlds and Self human subjectivity, the transparency of language,
(1982); David Seamon and Robert Mugerauers and the use of descriptive categories based upon
Dwelling, Place and Environment (1985); Edward Western traditions of understanding (Adams,
Relphs The Modern Urban Landscape (1987); Hoelscher, and Till 2001, xvii).
J. Douglas Porteouss Planned to Death (1989);
J. Nicholas Entrikins The Betweenness of Place
(1991); Robert David Sacks Place, Consumption Criticisms of humanistic geography
and Modernity (1992); Anne Buttimers Geography
and the Human Spirit (1993); David Seamons Beginning in the 1980s, humanistic research
Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing (1993); Paul faced increasing criticism from quantitative-
Rodaways Sensuous Geographies (1994); Yi-Fu analytic geographers, on the one hand, and
Tuans Cosmos and Hearth (1996); Robert David Marxist, feminist, and poststructural geogra-
Sacks Homo Geographicus (1997); David Seamon phers, on the other hand (Cloke, Philo, and
and Arthur Zajoncs Goethes Way of Science Sadler 1991; Cresswell 2013). Quantitative
(1998); Anne Buttimers Sustainable Landscapes geographers largely criticized humanistic work
and Lifeways (2001); Robert David Sacks A Geo- in relation to research method: In turning away
graphical Guide to the Real and the Good (2003); from deductive theory, predefined concepts, and
Edmunds Bunkses Geography and the Art of Life measurable validation, how could humanistic
(2004); and Yi-Fu Tuans Humanist Geography geographers be certain that their interpretive
(2012). conclusions were accurate, comprehensive, and

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trustworthy? In response, humanistic geog- criticized humanistic geography because they

raphers emphasized that their approach was saw it as voluntarist in that it uncritically inter-
generally inductive in that it drew on the rich- preted social life as a function of intentional,
ness and complexity of human situations and willed plans and actions of individuals. The
events to locate generalizable descriptions and Marxist claim was that humanistic thinking gave
theories. Humanistic geographers pointed out too much weight to autonomous human agency
that the conclusions of any humanistic study at the expense of entrenched, transparent social
were no more or no less than interpretive pos- structures and power relations. Marxist critics
sibilities open to the public scrutiny of other pointed out that humanistic geographers gave
interested parties. Humanistic geographers little attention to the underlying economic and
emphasized that their interpretive sources were political dynamics shaping places and peoples
wide-ranging and included field notes, focus everyday lives.
groups, autobiographical descriptions, accounts Humanistic geographers responded to the
from participant observation, and material texts essentialist, authoritative, and masculinist charges
like photographs, films, buildings, landscapes, by arguing that, in fact, humanistic work
imaginative literature, and archival documents. recognized human differences and sought con-
One methodological device used by humanistic ceptual and methodological ways for thoroughly
geographers to better assure accuracy and trust- engaging with the uniqueness of individuals
worthiness was triangulation, whereby researchers and groups. They pointed to studies that used
drew on multiple modes of evidence-gathering participant observation and other qualitative
k methods to identify different lived perspectives methods to understand particular geographical k
and to corroborate different information sources. situations for example, David Leys work
The criticisms of feminist, Marxist, and post- on how African Americans negotiated their
structural geographers emphasized conceptual, lives in the place context of Philadelphias
ideological, and ethical concerns. Feminist geog- inner city. In regard to the Marxist charge that
raphers claimed that humanistic research was they neglected the role of societal structures
essentialist in uncritically assuming an unchang- in constraining human freedom, humanistic
ing, universal human condition that ignored geographers responded that their perspective
individual and group diversity, including gender, could examine phenomena such as power,
social, cultural, and economic differences. These exclusion, resistance, and conflict, though lit-
feminist geographers argued that humanistic tle work was done in this direction, partly
work was authoritative in that it appeared to priv- perhaps because most humanistic geographers
ilege the interpretive powers of scholarly experts instinctively favored freedom, creativity, and
who arbitrarily claimed the status to identify and personal and group autonomy. Humanistic
describe the geographical situations of more geographers accepted the Marxist claim that
ordinary people. Feminist critics contended structural conditions are critical for understand
that humanistic work presupposed an implicit human action but, equally important, they
masculinist bias that assumed academically trained argued, was the role of peoples values, beliefs,
men (mostly) could understand all others situa- worldviews, intentions, and taken-for-granted
tions for example, the experiences of women, ways of coping with the world. Humanistic
the less able, gays and lesbians, ethnic and racial geographers focusing on interpretations of
communities, and so forth. Marxist geographers social worlds probed the structural constraints

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of places and social worlds directly but gave Humanistic geographers responded to these
equal weight to human agents being aware poststructural criticisms by suggesting that, even
of and being able to change their lifeways as globalization eroded some places, it strength-
in relation to limiting social and economic ened other places and contributed to new kinds
structures. of places. Humanistic geographers pointed out
Poststructural geographers questioned human- that, even with the growing importance of digital
istic work in yet other ways. Some poststructural communication, hyperspace, and virtual reali-
critics claimed that humanistic geographers ties, real places retain their importance because
ethically favored place, insideness, and rooted- people are bodily beings who always unavoidably
ness over non-place, outsideness, and mobility; live a life in some physical place. This inescapable
place itself was assumed to be centered, static, embodiment-in-place was often ignored by the
bounded, and exclusionary. Instead, poststruc- poststructural critics who aimed for a more pro-
tural critics spoke of a progressive sense of gressive sense of place grounded in a dynamic,
place and focused on how places relate and ever-shifting network of intertwined, porous
respond to their wider social and environ- places. Humanistic geographers contended that a
mental contexts. For these critics, places held good portion of such dynamic exchange remains
their importance geographically, but the crucial grounded in the habitual regularity of emplaced
theoretical and practical aim was finding ways bodies. Humanistic geographers also emphasized
whereby places could better incorporate diver- that any dynamic interchange among places pre-
sity and partake in constructive interconnections supposes a robust integrity of each place itself;
k and exchanges with other places. Another group this robust integrity is at least partly founded in k
of poststructural critics questioned whether the habitual regularity of lived bodies inescapably
place even existed in the postmodern world, bound to physical place (Seamon 2013).
claiming that real-world places were becoming
marginal and obsolete because of trends toward
globalization, non-places, and hyperspace. Some Humanistic geography today
poststructural critics went so far as to suggest
that, in our proliferating hyper-real world of Though humanistic geography as an explicit
digital environments and virtual realities, the subfield largely disappeared by the early 1990s,
lived distinctions between real and imagined interest in humanistic themes continued inside
places should be critically called into question. and outside the discipline, particularly on the part
These critics challenged the rigid, unchanging of phenomenological philosophers concerned
stasis of physical places and environments that with the phenomenon of place. Humanistic
they claimed humanistic accounts encompassed. geographers interpretations of place in the
These critics spoke instead of provisional, shift- 1970s were largely subjectivist in that place was
ing connections and flows among people, spaces, understood as a cognitive or affective represen-
places, nation-states, information, worldviews, tation inside the human being and ontologically
and digital representations. Key themes were separate from the objective environment outside.
mobility, flux, hybridity, relativity, relation- As phenomenological philosophers Edward
ality, discontinuities, rhizomes, assemblages, Casey (2009) and Jeff Malpas (1999) probed
hyper-worlds, virtual places, and smooth and the topic in the 1990s and 2000s, they argued
striated spaces. that place is a primary ontological structure

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that encompasses both human experience and of how place and lived emplacement provide a
the physical world in which that experience foothold for grounding environmental respon-
unfolds. This argument that human being is sibilities and actions in relation to particular
always human-being-in-place highlighted an individuals, groups, and localities. A second
important new way of geographical thinking example is the research of literary scholar Anna
because it claimed that place is necessarily an Westersthl Stenport (2004), who drew largely
integral, inescapable contributor to human on Swedish writer August Strindbergs works
existence and life. This understanding meant relating to Paris and Stockholm to examine how
that places are not material environments the nineteenth-century city shaped imagina-
existentially apart from the people associated tive literature and how, in turn, that literature
with them but, rather, the holistic unit of shaped perceptions of the nineteenth-century
human-beings-experiencing-place. Sometimes city. A third example is ethnographer Urzula
called lived emplacement or embodied place, this Wozniaks examination (2009) of at-homeness
phenomenon was understood to be complex and placelessness in the context of current global
and dynamic, and to incorporate generative migration. Drawing on Ukrainian, Turkish,
processes via which a place and its experiences and Vietnamese examples, she used the con-
and meanings shift or remain the same (Seamon cept of community attachment to understand
2013). the contrasting degree of identification that
Partly because of Casey and Malpass writings, different immigrant groups feel for their place
researchers inside and outside geography brought of relocation; she demonstrated how mental
renewed scholarly attention to the lived qualities associations with immigrants original home
k k
of place and to other topics associated with the place play a significant role in their understand-
humanistic tradition. For example, geographers ing of and feelings toward their new place of
Soren Larsen and Jay Johnson (2012) worked residence.
to link a place-grounded ontology with affinity These studies and others exemplify a new
politics, and geographer Sara Johansson (2013) generation of researchers who continue to
developed a method of rhythm analysis to be interested in such humanistic topics as
understand how the lived body encompasses place experience, at-homeness, community
and is encompassed by the urban environment involvement and identity, out-of-placeness,
as experienced. Echoing earlier claims on lived environmental personhood, lived emplacement,
embodiment by French phenomenologist Mau- mobility and place, supportive or undermining
rice Merleau-Ponty, Johansson argued that the processes shaping place, and the lived similarities
bodily dimensions of environmental experience and differences between real places and virtual
are as meaningful and as important in under- places (Seamon 2013). All of this work remains
standing place as environmental cognition and grounded in a central humanistic aim: to bring
intellectual geographic knowledge. human beings in all of their complexity to
In research by non-geographers, one also the centre-stage of human geography (Cloke,
finds a continuing body of work involving a Philo, and Sadler 1991, 58).
humanistic approach to geographical and envi- Wbieg1010

ronmental topics. One example is philosopher SEE ALSO: Bodies; Cognition and spatial Wbieg0498

Ingrid Stefanovics efforts (2000) toward a phe- behavior; Emotional geographies; Feminist Wbieg1088

nomenology of sustainability via an examination political ecology; Home; Marxist geography; Wbieg0804


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Please note that the abstract and keywords will not be included in the printed book, but
are required for the online presentation of this book which will be published on Wiley
Online Library ( If the abstract and keywords are not
present below, please take this opportunity to add them now.
The abstract should be a short paragraph of between 150 200 words in length and there
should be 5 to 10 keywords

Abstract: First formalized by geographer Yi-Fu Tuan in 1976, humanistic geography refers to a
wide-ranging body of research emphasizing the importance of human experience and meaning in
understanding peoples relationship with places and geographical environments. Recognizing that
human involvement with the geographical world is complex and multidimensional, humanistic geog-
raphers interpret human action and awareness as they both sustain and are sustained by such geographic
phenomena as space, place, home, mobility, landscape, region, nature, and human-made environments.
Humanistic geography was most prominent in the 1970s and 1980s. Over time, it was largely super-
seded by more focused conceptual approaches, including phenomenological geography, existential
geography, feminist geography, poststructural geography, critical geography, and relationalist geogra-
phy. Today, there is a renewed interest in a humanistic approach to geographical topics, though much of
k this momentum arises from outside geography via phenomenological research that emphasizes lived k

Keywords: behavioral geography; environmental experience; existentialism; feminist geography;

humanism; humanistic geography; phenomenology; phenomenological geography; place; poststruc-
turalist geography