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Volume 65 / Social Sciences


KENT MATHEWSON, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University
J÷RN SEEMANN, Assistant Professor, Departamento de GeociÍncias, Universidade Regional do Cariri, Brazil

PUBLICATIONS DURING THIS BIENNIUM on the geography of Latin America as a whole, or works that do not neatly fit into one of the regional groupings, fall into a number of categories. Urban and economic themes continue to be a staple in the literature, though no single theoretical perspective can be said to be dominant. With the shortcomings or outright failure of neoliberal programs being increasingly demonstrated, advocacy as well as critique of this strain of development thought and practice is somewhat paradoxically less intense. Yet, geographers or those writing from a geographical standpoint—and this is an increasingly larger cohort among economists and development specialists—have seemingly not taken measure of the next wave, whether it be contemporary forms of populism or some variation of the globalization-is-good-and-inevitable ("world is flat") camp (items #bi2009001308# and #bi2009002964#). Since at least the mid-1960s, questions of development have occupied a central place in the Latin Americanist geography literature. This is not likely to change in the coming decade, though some axes and poles of the debates have shifted considerably over time. Emphasis on issues such as grassroots participation and social movements (items #bi2009001306#, #bi2009001307#, #bi2009001235#, and #bi2009003198#), sustainability (item #bi2009002957#), environmental efficacy (items #bi2009001243# and #bi2009002958#), human and indigenous rights (item #bi2009002960#) continues to have equal if not greater voice than strictly economic weights and measures.

Space- and place-related studies in neighboring areas such as anthropology, literature and architecture deal with identity, public space, and literary representations and have become increasingly fashionable (items #bi2009001348#, #bi2009001334#, #bi2009001244#, #bi2009002959#, and #bi2006000518#).

As with most of geography's subdisciplinary fields that formerly were constituted as largely synchronic, analytical, and quantitative enterprises, population and migration studies have undergone a significant shift toward more cultural, historical, and critical orientations. Perhaps the most active arena at present within this domain is the topic of transnationalism. A term borrowed from political economy referring to multinational corporations, it has been adapted to refer to the circuits of migration, often tracked at the individual level. Accordingly, there has been a shift away from positivist models of population and migration to more humanistic perspectives centered on questions of identity and mobility (items #bi2008002765# and #bi2009001312#).

The expansive category "environment," continues to command the attention of many geographers. While most Latin Americanist work is pitched at scales less than the realm as a whole, there are exceptions. Until recently, neither historical geographers nor environmental historians have attempted hemispheric wide surveys. This is beginning to change (items #bi2008004372# and #bi2007002349#). One of the historical environmental topics enjoying increased attention is hazards and disasters (item #bi2009001326#). The relationship between historical geography and environmental history is also under inspection (item #bi2007002328#) The interstices of these two subfields has provided fertile grounds for work reaching well beyond academic audiences (item #bi2009002985#). Research and writing falling into the domain of environmental historical geography, pioneered by Carl Sauer and his associates and students in the Berkeley school, promises to continue to be one of Latin Americanist geography's most productive sites.

The history of geography pertaining to Latin America is another increasingly active area of research and publication. New studies of perennially important figures such as Sauer and Alexander von Humboldt continue to appear. Sauer's work is also being introduced to a new generation of Latin American geographers (item #bi2009001320#). Translation and publication of his writings into Portuguese and Spanish are being carried out by geographers in Brazil, Mexico, and Panama. Humboldt's (previously unpublished) journals of his New World travels (mostly written in French) are being translated into German and published in Germany (item #bi2009001344#). Studies of geographic exploration, as part of the larger enterprise of Hispanic colonial science, engage both historians and literary scholars (items #bi2009001315# and #bi2009002956#). This is part of a much larger current within contemporary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences wherein geographic knowledge and concepts (place, space, landscape) have gained new wide appreciation and application. Latin Americanist geography and geographical themes is one of the more tapped sources.

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