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Volume 55 / Social Sciences


CLINTON R. EDWARDS, Professor of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

SELECTIONS FOR THIS BIENNIUM include more than the usual number of commentaries on past and current geographical writings on Latin America, with extensive bibliographies. This is due in part to the several chapters in Benchmark 1990 (Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers, Vol. 17/18, 1992) devoted to themes such as ecology, population, commerce, economic development, health, and historical and cultural geography. Various assessments are also available in a special issue of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers (Vol. 82, No. 3, Sept. 1992) which has a useful introduction by Karl W. Butzer (item bi 93001692) and summaries of topics of interest to students of precolumbian and conquest times. In a very thorough and useful summary, James J. Parsons traces geographical studies concerning Latin America and the Caribbean from early colonial times to the present (item bi 93005500). Briefer but also useful is William V. Davidson's review of literature on aboriginal and peasant communities (item bi 94003960).

Urban geography remains a strong focus, with the late Jorge E. Hardoy continuing his significant contributions to the history and historical geography of Latin American cities (items bi 94004679 and bi 93016732). Urban studies have undergone an interesting transformation over recent years. Earlier works emphasizing rural-urban migration and resultant economic and social problems have been replaced largely by commentary on the suburbanization of "barrios." Populations of the primate cities have burgeoned to the point that decentralization is being considered as just about the only solution to urban problems (item bi 94002814). As in several previous biennia, by far the most entries have to do with the environment. More and more, scholars and others are questioning the advisability of unplanned or inappropriately planned development. Adverse environmental consequences have become all too evident, ranging from the continued rapid disappearance of rainforests through air and water pollution to devastating effects on indigenous peoples.

According to César Caviedes, research by North Americans on physical geography and natural hazards has declined, but there has been an increase of studies by Latin American and European scholars (item bi 94003941). The recent behavior of "El Niño" and associated phenomena have come under more intense study, and one important result has been better predictability.

Historical geography continues as a strong interest, with contributions on perennial subjects such as Columbus (items bi 93016163 and bi 93004696), the contributions of Alexander von Humboldt, and vexing questions about early mapping of the New World.

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