Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1976. Humanistic Geography. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 66 (2/June): 266- 276.

Synopsis

The main argument in Yi-Fu Tuan’s article “Humanistic Geography” is that Humanistic geography is “not primarily an earth science, yet it is a branch of geography because it reflects upon kinds of evidence that interest other branches of the discipline” (p. 266). Tuan argues that “HUMANISTIC geography reflects upon geographical phenomena with the ultimate purpose of achieving a better understanding of man and his condition” (p. 266).  In simple language, it has focused on people and their condition.

 Tuan argues that “Humanistic geography achieves an understanding of the human world by studying people’s relations with nature, their geographical behavior as well as their feelings and ideas in regard to space and place” (p. 266). This understanding can be achieved by studying the human experience, awareness, and knowledge focused on the activities and their products that are distinctive to the human species. In order to explain the geographic phenomena, Tuan has explored five themes of general interest to geographers: geographical knowledge, territory and place, crowding and privacy, livelihood and economics, and religion (p. 267). He says Humanistic geography is the “study of articulated geographical ideas” (p. 267) dealing with “humanistic interests…to the quality of the emotional bond to physical objects” (p. 269) and addresses crowding and privacy as mediated by culture, the role of knowledge as an influence on livelihood and economics, and influence of the religion of the human activity within the given territory/region. He further argues that the Humanistic geography is more concerned about the regional geography than the historical geography because according to him, “The identity of a place is its physical character, its history, and how people make of their past to foster regional consciousness” (p. 272-73). Moreover, Humanistic geography focuses on the knowledge and awareness a man possesses to analyze the risks and grasp the opportunities. “These include seeing the design and deliberation…assuming concordance between mind and behavior and paying excessive attention to beginnings when consciously held purpose guides action” (p. 273). Therefore, it can be inferred that the Humanistic geography builds on scientific knowledge.

Tuan further argues that “Humanistic geography is critical and reflective” because a humanist looks at this world of facts and asks, “What does it mean? What does it say about ourselves?” (p. 276).  But, at a deeper level, Humanistic geography helps to ignite in the people a consciousness of their own past experience. For Tuan, Humanistic geography is focused on people and on their condition.

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