Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 1999, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (4): 365-372.doi: 10.11821/xb199904009

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Humanism, the Rise of Postmodernism and the Development of New Regional Geography in the West

Laurence J. C. Ma   

  1. Department of Geography and Planning, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio 44325USA
  • Received:1999-02-08 Online:1999-07-15 Published:1999-07-15

Abstract: In the last four decades, human geography in the West has experienced major changes in both theoretical and empirical orientations. These changes began with the appearance of the quantitative revolution in the late 1950s and the 1960s which greatly enhanced the position of theory in geographic scholarship. Adopting logical positivism as its theoretical foundation, early quantitative geographers clearly displayed epistemological arrogance who considered views of knowledge other than their own as either invalid or insignificant. However, by the late 1960s, both the revolutionaries and the bystanders had become disillusioned about the revolution’s future as it had failed to achieve what it had set out to do earlier: the development of geographic laws and metatheories. This set the stage for the emergence of a host of competing schools of thought in human geography, ranging from behavioralism, Marxism and humanism. Postmodernism made its appearance in American human geography in 1984. It rejects any narrow epistemological stance that sees the complex world through only one predetermined lens. It argues that no metatheory is capable of accounting for the complex reality, and it does not favor any one type of represented world over others. It emphasizes the importance of difference, heteorogeneity, context and human agency, which have since found their way in a new regional geography centered on the study of localities. Local conditions in China since the 1978 reforms have varied greatly, with places in different regions acquiring unque place identities. Such a condition is suitable for the use of postmodern perspectives for place based studies.

Key words: humanism, postmodernism, new regional geography, locality studies

CLC Number: 

  • K901