Geopolitics: Human Geography

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Geopolitics is a component of human geography. To understand geopolitics we must first understand what is human geography. This is easier said than done, precisely because geography is a diverse and contested discipline—in fact, the easiest, and increasingly accurate, definition is that human geography is what human geographers do: accurate, but not very helpful.

Geography is a peculiar discipline in that it does not lay intellectual claim to any particular subject matter. Political scientists study politics, sociologists study society, etc. However, a university geography department is likely to house an eclectic bunch of academics studying anything from glaciers and global climate change, to globalization, urbanization, or identity politics. The shared trait is the perspective used to analyze the topic, and not the topic itself. Geographers examine the world through a geographic or spatial perspective, offering new insight in related disciplines. For example, a political geographer may study elections or wars (as would a political scientist or scholar of international relations) but argue that full understanding is only available from a geographic perspective.

So what is a geographic perspective? In the modern history of the discipline, dominant views of what the particular perspective should be have come and gone. In the middle of the twentieth century there was an emphasis upon geography as a description and synthesis of the physical and social aspects of a region. Later, many geographers adopted a mathematical understanding of spatial relationships, such as the geographic location of cities and their interaction. Today, human geography is not dominated by one particular vision but many theoretical perspectives, from neo-classical economics through Marxism, feminism, and into post-colonialism, and different forms of postmodernism. Furthermore, it would also be hard to think of a social or physical issue that is not being addressed by contemporary geography...
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