Place, Subjectivity, and the Humanist Tradition
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The modern discipline of geography has straddled the physical and social sciences, with phenomenological questions involving personal experience often entering into conflict with the positivistic quest to amass and analyze objective data. The positivistic trend reached its apogee in the years after World War II with the “quantitative revolution,” a development that tended to marginalize cultural considerations and humanistic methods.1 The concept of place was considered to be too nebulous and subjective to merit serious consideration. Beginning, in the late 1970s, with the work of Yi-Fu Tuan and Edward Relph, however, the proponents of humanistic geography reacted against this state of affairs, sending out a call for a “return to place,” with particular emphasis on the individual experience of place.2 To some extent, they revived the tradition of earlier humanistically inclined modes of geography, like the regional geography of Paul Vidal de la Blache and the cultural geography of Carl O. Sauer, which were committed to the description of identifiable places and the exploration of the ways of life associated with them. The new generation of humanistic geographers, however, has been less concerned with documenting specific regions and explaining differences between them than with exploring the subjective experience of place as an object of study in its own right, with place typically understood to be a “universal and transhistorical part of the human condition” (Cresswell, 20).
KeywordsHuman Subjectivity Epistemological Problem Cultural Geography Humanist Tradition Conceivable Place
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