Maps of Meaning: An Introduction to Cultural Geography

Maps of Meaning: An Introduction to Cultural Geography

Maps of Meaning: An Introduction to Cultural Geography

Maps of Meaning: An Introduction to Cultural Geography

Synopsis

This innovative book marks a significant departure from tradition anlayses of the evolution of cultural landscapes and the interpretation of past environments. Maps of Meaning proposes a new agenda for cultural geography, one set squarely in the context of contemporary social and cultural theory.

Notions of place and space are explored through the study of elite and popular cultures, gender and sexuality, race, language and ideology. Questioning the ways in which we invest the world with meaning, the book is an introduction to both culture's geographies and the geography of culture.

Excerpt

The intellectual scene is changing fast. Concepts of place, space and landscape have become central to some of the most exciting developments across the whole field of the humanities and the social sciences. Where historians and anthropologists once studied individual actors and isolated communities, they now seek to place people in a shifting web of interdependencies which often stretches across the globe. Where economists and sociologists once constructed spaceless models of economies and societies, they now seek to account for the uneven development of capitalism and to make sense of the complex character of social life as it unfolds over space. Where political scientists once studied states as unitary actors or empty abstractions, they now seek to examine their territorial structures and to chart their changing involvements in inter-state systems. Philosophers and intellectual historians are alert as never before to the significance of ‘local knowledge’ and to the wider contexts in which their arguments move. And where human geographers once borrowed wholesale from other disciplines, they are now—as part and parcel of these changes—making major contributions in their own right.

Contours aims to introduce students to these extraordinary changes: in effect, to map the new intellectual landscape and help them locate their own studies within its shifting boundaries. We have tried to identify the most important issues, which are often the most interesting as well, to clarify what is at stake in the debates that surround them (without oversimplifying the arguments), and to illustrate what they mean in practical terms. In our experience most introductions leave the latest developments until last. These books mark a significant departure. They are written from the research frontier; they don’t duck the difficult questions and neither do they reserve them for some future discussion. These are testing times for the humanities and the social sciences on both sides of the Atlantic, and we don’t think there is anything to be gained by reticence of this kind. The ideas with which we are concerned in these books are of vital importance for anyone standing on the threshold of the twenty-first century. Living in multi-

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