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An Overview of Cultural Geography

The Basics of Cultural Geography

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Geographers at Work
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Cultural geography is one of the two major branches of geography (versus physical geography) and is often called human geography. Cultural geography is the study of the many cultural aspects found throughout the world and how they relate to the spaces and places where they originate and then travel as people continually move across various areas.

Some of the main cultural phenomena studied in cultural geography include language, religion, different economic and governmental structures, art, music, and other cultural aspects that explain how and/or why people function as they do in the areas in which they live. Globalization is also becoming increasingly important to this field as it is allowing these specific aspects of culture to easily travel across the globe.

Cultural landscapes are also important because they link culture to the physical environments in which people live. This is vital because it can either limit or nurture the development of various aspects of culture. For instance, people living in a rural area are often more culturally tied to the natural environment around them than those living in a large metropolitan area. This is generally the focus of the "Man-Land Tradition" in the Four Traditions of geography and studies human impact on nature, the impact of nature on humans, and people’s perception of the environment.

Cultural geography developed out of the University of California, Berkeley and was led by Carl Sauer. He used landscapes as the defining unit of geographic study and said that cultures develop because of the landscape but also help to develop the landscape as well. In addition, his work and the cultural geography of today is highly qualitative rather than quantitative - a main tenant of physical geography.

Today, cultural geography is still practiced and more specialized fields within it such as feminist geography, children's geography, tourism studies, urban geography, the geography of sexuality and space, and political geography have developed to further aid in the study of cultural practices and human activities as they relate spatially to the world.

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