Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 73 ›› Issue (2): 261-275.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201802005

• Transportation and Tourism Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Rethinking imaginative geographies research in human geography: An analysis based on the perspective of "Traveling Theory"

WENG Shixiu1,2()   

  1. 1. School of Geography and Planning of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2. Center for Tourism Planning & Research of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China;
  • Received:2017-03-13 Online:2018-02-11 Published:2018-02-11
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41201139


The concept of imaginative geographies demonstrates a strong analytical power for geopolitics and postcolonial geographical issues in daily life. The present study adopts the theoretical view of "Traveling Theory" proposed by Edward Said to develop a comprehensive analysis covering the origin and evolution of imaginative geographies research in human geography. This study holds that the real start of the attention of human geography academia on the concept of imaginative geographies was found in the early 1990s. Under the contextual pressure of Marxist geography, the concept of imaginative geographies was adopted in geography and gradually developed into a core concept in studies of the North-South relations as well as ethnic and racial issues. The topics involved in the previous research include global issues and international relations, nation-states and nationalism, the social and cultural issues, and the daily lives. These studies reveal the basic logic of imaginative geographies: By dividing space into "our places" and "other places", "we" imagine and construct the differentiation of "we" and "others", and because of the desires, fantasies and fears to the others, "we" construct the imaginative geographies about the others; these imaginative geographies would be used and reconstructed in international relationship, the construction of nation-states and people's everyday lives. In these studies, the theory fully displays its explanatory and critical nature. Meanwhile it exposes the problem of institutionalization: imaginative geographies, as a critique of "discourse hegemony", has become discourse hegemony per se, which results in a possible loss of its due critical consciousness. Based on the analyses above, the present study further points out that as critical theories and empirical theories differ greatly in logics, due caution should be paid to the contexts in which a critical theory is introduced, and that critical investigations into the historical and contextual backgrounds should always be the fundamental principles in maintaining the critical consciousness. In addition, it reaches a profound conclusion: human geography in China should reflect the post-colonial academic problems it faces, examine the history and context of academic research, and maintain the due critical consciousness between westernization and indigenization.

Key words: imaginative geographies, traveling theory, postcolonial theory, institutionalization, critical consciousness