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Volume 57 / Social Sciences

GEOGRAPHY: WESTERN SOUTH AMERICA


DANIEL W. GADE, Professor of Geography, The University of Vermont


ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSERVATION ISSUES have taken center stage this biennium as the stars of geographical published works on Andean countries. Urbanization as a spatial and ecological process has received less attention from geographers during the 1990s than in previous decades. On the other hand, regions of tropical forest, which all five western South American countries possess, have attracted much interest in recent years. Good work in biogeography, including the study of vegetation, and on past physical landscapes and processes is also more common.

Four monographs that analyze primary data also suggest the range of subject matter within contemporary geography. Newson presents archival-based conclusions on colonial Ecuadoran population decline (item bi 97009900). Radcliffe and Westwood offer a post-structuralism glimpse at governmental development in contemporary Ecuador (item bi 97009824) . Tracy produced an illuminating dissertation on agricultural terraces (item bi 97009872). Foremost among this chapter’s contributions is Zimmerer's excellent field-based study, organized within a political-ecological framework, of peasant crop diversity (item bi 98007221).

Much of the best Andeanist work mentioned here has been produced by North American and European, rather than Latin American, scholars. However, that gap continues to narrow. Four fine studies from South Americans focus on the Colombian Caribbean (item bi 96000740); premodern land transportation in Colombia (item bi 96000245); the cultural landscape of Azuay (item bi 96000742); and the historical geography of settlement in Piura (bi 96022476).

Two serials merit mention as prime outlets for works on Andean geography. Since its debut 17 years ago, the quarterly Mountain Research and Development has published many articles on the physical and/or human aspects of the Andean highlands. Though edited in North America, a Swiss government agency funds this journal. Also underwritten from Europe is the Bulletin de l'Institut francais d'Etudes andines, an important source of new knowledge on western South America thanks to its steady publication, in Spanish and French, of primary research results. Much of this research has been sponsored by ORSTOM, a French agency. Through the combined efforts of ORSTOM and the Bulletin, the French currently lead the way in the production of innovative Andean geographic studies.


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