Research Paper on Human Geography
My background is primarily in political science. Throughout the 5 years of my undergraduate I was able to gain a better grasp on some of the methods that come with doing research. I like to think that my interest in Political Geography was what brought me to this program. I found that during my bachelors, it was the study of human patterns across all levels (state, local, national, global) that interested me the most. It is only in the last year that I learned what Geographical Information Science was, and I am still finding my place in the field but recognize some of the same patterns I saw in political science.
As I get further into GIS, I have found that the discipline I lean towards the most is human geography. Human geography encompasses a wide range of different topics focusing on society and the patterns that they make. “The main divisions within human geography reflect a concern with different types of human activities or ways of living,” (National Geographic, n.d.). This definition from National Geographic is fairly vague, but I feel that it is the responsibility of the individual to find the areas of Geography what interests them the most. Below I have added, in no particular order, four topics in geography that I plan to use in narrowing my focus. All of these topics focus on the effect that humans have on their surroundings, and how the patterns they create changes the way they live.
Feminist thought has changed global studies of geography as a whole. There are entire works dedicated to the explanation of feminist contributions in the geographical subfields of economic, political, cultural, historical, environmental, etc. “Feminist geography is primarily concerned with the real experiences of individuals and groups in their own localities,” (Laliberte et al., 2010, p.1). This discipline takes into consideration the deeply rooted patriarchal, masculinist, and imperialist view of the world. Feminist geographers emphasize that all types of data collection must recognize the relationships between the research and the researcher. To get further into this type of geography, it is necessary to illustrate the gender diversity in geographical studies (Bondi, 1990, p.439).
Following what is considered a cultural turn or the 'culturalization' of modern research, an interest in culture and the geography it falls under has been ingrained in human geography. “The concept of culture coexist in cultural geography in the wake of an interest in life and living: culture as assembled effect, culture as mediated experience, and culture as forms-of-life,” (Anderson, 2020, p.608). Culture cannot be reviewed simply as a concept, and instead geographers must use their research to weave it into the field and something that must be studied.
Social geography and cultural geography tend to look at the same aspects of human nature. Although they may overlap, they have their own specific characteristics. More specifically, social geography refers to cities and their society. “Cities are centres of innovations and technical change...in a modern economy serve as the control points of the economic system and its political organization,” (Bourne & Ley, 1993, p.3). Cities serve as social and geographical “prisms” for the societies in which they have evolved.
As I mentioned in the introduction of this essay, my background is in Politics. More specifically, I am interested in geopolitics. I believe that the geopolitical layout of injustice in the United States is something that must be represented. Much of political geography is rooted in philosophical ideas, which contribute to its application in human geography. P. Beramendi’s 2012 work “The Political Geography of Inequality” suggests that “the extent to which the geography of income shapes politics as a conflict between regions or countrywide income classes is, in turn, mediated by two other factors: the degree of regional economic specialization, and the level of mobility of workers and dependents,” (Beramendi, 2012, p. 236). Political geography often merges into economic geography, but it is important to keep the distinction between the two.
A specific research idea that I plan to look more into, following my meeting with Dr. Keys-Mathews, is Covid response that led to shifting voting patterns in urban and rural areas of Georgia. I want to look at how GA public officials' response to COVID-19 during 2020 changed the voting patterns in the state of Georgia, an historically red state. It was suggested to me that I also have a comparable state in my research, potentially one of the Carolinas. The 2008 J. Bass article “Posted Redux: Campaign Signs, Race, and Political Participation in Mississippi” is a reference I will use while looking into geopolitical patterns in the state of Georgia. It is work like this that I will potentially use to build my thesis. Currently I am working on a research project for Dr. Sim regarding the spatial patterning of protest during 2020. With her permission, I might also have the option to pursue that topic as my thesis.
I find that the areas I am least interested in, are the much more technical areas, or the ones that demand a prior understanding of the software being used. It is not that GIS software is incredibly complicated, I just have minimal experience creating maps, reviewing spatial data, etc.
In conclusion, I know that I have a long way to go in terms of my understanding of GIS. Although I lean more towards Political Geography based on my background, I am very open to other types of geography. I have a fleeting amount of time to truly understand the type of geography I want to study, but without a doubt I know that it will fall under the category of human geography.