What Do Geographers Study When They Look at a Region's Culture?
Cultural geography is a subfield of geography concerned with the relationship between people and the regions in which they live. This can include both a study of the effects of humans on a region of the Earth as well as the effects of the region on the humans who inhabit it. The cultural elements that a geographer studies are numerous.
1 Cultural Diffusion
One important aspect of culture that geographers must keep in mind is the process of cultural change and diffusion. Cultures are not the same throughout all time. They change across both long and short time spans. Sometimes these changes are brought about by physical proximity. Other times, these changes are brought about by significant world events or advances in technology. Regardless, part of the task of the cultural geographer is to note changes in culture through time.
2 Language and Linguistic Flow
Language is one of the defining properties of culture. It both shapes culture and is shaped by it. A cultural geographer may look at the linguistic patterns of a region to learn about the region's history and culture. For example, some dialects, accents and other linguistic elements may travel throughout a region and a span of time. In other cases, they may be confined to a specific place or time. For example, even though most of the inhabitants of the United States speak English, the English spoken in the American South differs from the English spoken in the North in both accent and some regional vocabulary. A cultural geographer may be interested in the regional distribution and flow of such linguistic differences.
3 Religious Beliefs
Religion is another important aspect of a region's culture. Cultural geographers may study the religions of a region to ascertain how the people of the region of interact with their surroundings. For example, in ancient Mesopotamia, one of the most powerful gods was Ea, who was associated with fertility and water. The distribution and relative popularity of religions around the world also give geographers a look at how customs and beliefs can travel throughout time and place.
4 Architectural Insights
The way in which people construct buildings in their regions gives cultural geographers a picture of how a group of people is tied to the land. For example, the variety of American Indian cultures constructed building types specific to their climates and landscapes. Furthermore, many modern metropolitan areas such as downtown Manhattan in New York are constructed on a strong layer of bedrock.
5 Cuisine and Agriculture
Cuisine constitutes a significant aspect of culture. Additionally, it is partially defined by the agricultural resources of a region. Hence, cultural geographers may take a close look at a region's cuisine, which in turn gives them clues about a people's ties to their land. The cultural aspects of cuisine can, in turn, lend important insights into the economic makeup of a region; if a certain food or way of making food is popular outside of its native geographic region, that region may find some economic prosperity in exporting its goods or traditions.