Anda di halaman 1dari 2

The study of the spatial distribution of physical and human phenomena as they relate toother spatially proximate and

causally linked phenomena in regions or other spatial units. Alongwith spatial analysis and landscape approaches, this is often seen as one of the three major approaches to understanding in human geography . It is indeed the oldest western tradition of geographical inquiry, tracing its beginnings to the Greeks Hecateus of Miletus and Strabo. Thegeographer, in Strabo\'s words, is \'the person who describes the parts of the Earth\'. Butdescription was never simply taking inventory of the various characteristics of different regions.The purpose was to understand those features of parts of the Earth that were of greatest politicaland military significance. This understanding was to wax and wane in relative importance downthe years. But it never completely faded away, even if revived under different circumstances andusing different concepts and language.The \'classic\' epoch of regional geography, to use Paul Claval\'s (1993, p. 15) phrase, wasreached in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when much of the conceptual debatein geography was devoted to the concept of the region. Such geographers as Paul Vidal de laBlache and Alfred Hettner were leading exponents of regional perspectives. An influentialmodern statement of geography as areal differentiation, drawing from the arguments of Hettner in particular, was made in Richard Hartshorne\'s The nature of geography (1939). This is usuallyseen as claiming that geography is about showing how unique regions reveal the covariation of phenomena that can only be understood through identifying regions. Hartshorne\'s repeated useof the term areal differentiation and his avowed indifference to the \'phenomena themselves\'could well lead to such an idiographic interpretation. The logic of the presentation, however,suggests that recognizing regions requires investigation of similarities as well as differences over space. Areal differentiation, therefore, is about establishing degrees of sameness as well asdifference between regions (Agnew, 1989). Hartshorne\'s critics (principally exponents of thespatial-analysis view of the field) accused him of seeing locations as unique and justifying atraditional regional geography in which \'areal differentiation dominated geography at theexpense of areal integration\' (Haggett, 1965). This led to the association of areal differentiationwith the particularity of regions at the expense of attention to more extensive geographical patterns and to the causes of such spatial distributions. Defining geography as a spatial sciencethus moved the field away from a central concern with regions as spatial clusters of linked phenomena.In the 1980s areal differentiation made something of a comeback as a central perspective for human geography. The revival is neither directly connected to older debates such as those between Hartshorne and his critics nor is it monolithic. Indeed, there are at least three specificintellectual positions in the revival, none of which uses the same concepts or vocabulary as theothers. The first derives from the streams of thought referred to collectively as humanistic geography. Their focus on the social construction of spaces, on place as the setting for humanaction, on sense of place and on the iconography of landscape has given rise to an interest in therelationship between specific geographical contexts or locales and social life in general (see, e.g.,Tuan, 1977; Entrikin, 1990; Feld and Basso, 1996). The second source of revival has come fromthe analysis of uneven development and the geography of layers of investment often associatedwith the idea of a changing spatial division of labour. Rejecting the model of a geographicallyundifferentiated capitalism, a number of geographers have attempted to infuse into Marxistgeography a concern for conjoining \'general processes\' with \'particular circumstances\' toexplain spatial variations in economic activities and well-being (e.g. Massey, 1984; Smith,1990). The third source of influence comes from attempts to create contextual theory in socialscience, in which the place or region is viewed as geographically mediating between humanagency and social structure and is thus implicated directly in the production of society (Agnew,1987). Versions of structuration theory and time-geography have been particularly influential indefining this strand of revival in the tradition of areal differentiation (see Giddens, 1984).The third strand could be seen as potentially integrative of the other two, in that it is at the sametime concerned with both the subjective experience and the objective determinants of

regions.But there are important philosophical differences between the three directions that limit the possibility of synthesis between them. (Although, for a recent magnificent attempt at engagingwith all three simultaneously, see Sack, 1997.) The first direction tends to privilege the humansubjective experience of place whereas the other two view the division of space in terms of objective socio-spatial processes with, for the third direction, sense of place arising out of theconditions created by such processes. The second and third part company over the second\'sinsistence on associating general processes with the abstract and local contingencies with theconcrete (Smith, 1987). The third rejects the conflation of the general with the abstract and thelocal with the concrete (see abstraction), preferring to see places and regions as contexts in whichno single geographical scale is necessarily dominant a priori in their production.Persisting dilemmas continue to limit convergence between the elements of the revival. One isthe tension between analytical and narrative modes of thought and presentation (Sayer, 1989).Another has been the general lack of attention to the multi-scalar nature of the processes producing areal differentiation, with a given phenomenon (e.g. new jobs, unemployment, or votes for a political party) showing a different geographical level of aggregation in different time periods because of the shifting balance of local and extra-local influences (see scale) (Agnew,1996; Swyngedouw, 1997). This is a particular problem for those locality studies that remaintransfixed by the local. The final and most challenging dilemma remains that of how to achieveneat boundary delimitation when the territoriality of social groups is dynamic and flows of people, goods, and investment change the character of regions and places from one era to another (e.g. McDowell, 1997). (See also chorography.) (JAA