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Volume 63 / Social Sciences

GEOGRAPHY: THE SOUTHERN CONE


CÉSAR N. CAVIEDES, Professor of Geography, University of Florida, Gainesville

IN THE FIELD OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS and its intersection with Geography, Mercosur dominates the discourse, which includes heated discussions between proponents and opponents of that unique trade pact. The opinions about this issue are varied and often contradictory (items #bi2007004752#, #bi2007004751#, #bi2007004750#, #bi2004001633#, #bi2007004755#, #bi2007004754#, #bi2005004477#, #bi2007004855#, and #bi2007004960#), revealing the lingering reservations held by the countries of the Southern Cone about the trade domination agendas of their neighbors.

Growing social segregation in urban environments exacerbated by the profusion of gated communities and the impact of globalization on traditional activities or its detrimental effects on fragile environments have replaced "sustainable development" as the dominating paradigms, especially among environmental scientists. This predilection is attested to by numerous articles and books written on these themes by national and European scholars, particularly in Argentina and Chile (items #bi2005005035#, #bi2007004908#, and #bi2003004072#). Inversely, the contributions of North American scholars on these and other subjects are almost nil, reflecting a continued lack of interest for this part of South America during the last two decades.

The quality of the production reveals more than ever the differences in scientific depth and methodological training existing among the countries of the region. Among the contributions from professional geographers, a high degree of methodological and thematic sophistication is demonstrated by Chilean geographers who seize on relatively novel research techniques and disciplinary approaches adopted from European or Anglo-American researchers (item #bi2007004906#). By contrast, the publications of their Argentine counterparts are all but conventional and lacking in originality. Furthermore, thematic repetitions in papers and reproduction of articles in different national and international periodicals suggest that this custom has been prompted by "publish or perish" policies imposed by university administrators. It is no wonder that the best works on topics with a geographical spin are those authored by social scientists from foreign institutions (items #bi2007004850# and #bi2007004901#).

For the first time, there is a large representation of books from Paraguay, albeit none from geographers since the discipline in that country still lacks depth. Among the best works are a contemporary travelogue written by a British rover (item #bi2007004961#) and a helpful volume for understanding the tensions that abound in the border area of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina (item #bi2007004962#).

Among the Uruguayan entries a volume analyzing the varied human and natural elements included in the depiction of the country by William Henry Hudson's The Purple Land (1885) deserves special mention for its enlightening interpretation of landscapes of the past (item #bi2007004985#). It is an exemplary case of authors from different fields joining efforts to produce a historical geography of high quality.


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