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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

GEOGRAPHY: WESTERN SOUTH AMERICA


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


MORE SO THAN FOR BRAZIL or the Southern Cone, geographical research on the Andean countries is a multifaceted and international enterprise. Themes and subjects are uncommonly diverse. Since credentialed geographers still constitute a small professional group, scientists or nonscientists in cognate fields in each Andean country execute many studies of geographical definition. As a programmatic carrera, geography is institutionalized in relatively few universities. Bolivia's first academic program in geography was not put into place until the mid-1990s. Outside the university framework, the Centro Panamericano de Estudios e Investigaciones Geográficas (CEPEIGE) in Quito, 25 years old in 1998, has helped to fill a training gap for students from Andean and other countries. Western South America also attracts many foreign geographers from Western Europe and North America who contribute data and transnational perspectives on themes that nationals ignore. Events that bring these two constituencies together, such as the sustainable development symposium in 1998 in Quito, heighten awareness of transnational commonalties (item #bi2002005008#).

As terrorism receded in the 1990s, Peru once again has become the most popular country for geographical research in western South America. Several thematic patterns emerge from analysis of the hundreds of publications reviewed since HLAS 57. Environmental geography remains a compelling theme for investigation. Field research on domestic economy and household strategies using interview schedules in eastern Peru (item #bi2002005038#), eastern Ecuador (item #bi2002005033#) and northwestern Ecuador (item #bi 00005964#) provide a sound basis for understanding how conservation works or fails to work. Noteworthy too is the Danish initiative to integrate local biodiversity into the human presence. Biogeographical syntheses of special note are Young and Leon's monograph on the humid montane forest of eastern Peru (item #bi2002005047#); Luteyn and associates on the paramo of the northern high Andes (item #bi2002005009#); and Bonavia on llamas and alpacas (item #bi 98002177#).

The adaptational studies of Denevan (item #bi2002005009#), Gade (1999), and Zimmerer (items #bi2002005009# and #bi2002005009#), as well as the jewel of regional perception prepared by Price (item #bi2002005009#), demonstrate that the cultural-historical geography of the Berkeley tradition still thrives in this part of Latin America. The developmentalist agenda, though reoriented since the dogmatic 1970s, still draws some geographers concerned with directing socioeconomic change. Rapid urbanization continues in this five-country region, and geographers add their perspectives on cities and their manifold problems. The meaning of territory is starting to enter the literature, especially in Colombia. The few publications in economic geography, particularly primary production, reflect a larger disciplinary neglect that one day will surely change. The relative paucity of publications right now on natural hazards research in the Andean countries can best be described as latent, awaiting the inevitable next big disaster.


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