World Regions in Global Context: Peoples, Places, and Environments (2nd Edition)

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9780131449756: World Regions in Global Context: Peoples, Places, and Environments (2nd Edition)

For courses in World Regional Geography. For courses in World Regional Geography. World Regions in Global Context employs an explicitly global approach to world regional geography that emphasizes global connections, the stories behind the maps, and presents explicit discussions of how these forces and processes play themselves out in individual places. The book makes the most current and powerful ideas in geography accessible to the introductory student. Marston, Knox, and Liverman feature an emphasis on core regions, key cities, and distinctive landscapes that allows the them to stress global connections while still maintaining the course's traditional focus on places at the local scale.

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About the Author:

Sallie A. Marston received her Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has been a faculty member at the University of Arizona since 1986. Her teaching focuses on the historical, social, and cultural aspects of American urbanization, with particular emphasis on race, class, gender, and ethnicity issues. She received the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award in 1989. She is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters and serves on the editorial board of several scientific journals. In 1994/1995 she served as interim director of Women's Studies and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women. She is currently a professor in the Department of Geography and Regional Development at the University of Arizona.

Paul L. Knox received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Sheffield, England. After teaching in the United Kingdom for several years, he moved to the United States to take a position as professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech. His teaching centers on urban and regional development, with an emphasis on comparative study. He has written several books on aspects of economic geography, social geography, and urbanization. He serves on the editorial board of several scientific journals and is co-editor on a series of books on world cities. In 1996 he was appointed to the position of University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, where he currently serves as Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and International Director of the Metropolitan Institute.

Diana M. Liverman received her Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California, Los Angeles, and also studied at the University of Toronto, Canada, and University College Longon, England. Born in Accra, Ghana, she is currently the director of Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute, where she also holds Oxford University's first established Chair of Environmental Science. Previously, she was professor of geography and regional development and the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona; in 1993 she received a teaching award from Pennsylvania State University. Her teaching focuses on global environmental issues and on Latin America, and she is an editor of the Journal of Latin American Geography. Diana has served on several national and international advisory committees dealing with enviornmental issues and has written recent journal articles and book chapters on such topics as natural disasters, climate change, and environmental policy in Mexico.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

It is not down in any map; true places never are.
Excerpt from Moby Dick; or The Whale Published by Harper & Brothers, New York. Copyright 1851 by Herman Melville.

This line from Herman Melville's classic American novel, Moby Dick, suggests that while places can be identified on a map—located using longitude and latitude coordinates—one can never truly understand a place simply by knowing its geographic location. Places and regions come to life as we learn about them and develop a relationship—sprititual, physical, emotional, psychological—to them. Moby Dick is the story of a voyage of discovery; this book is as well. World Regions in Global Context provides an introduction to world regional geography that will make exotic places, landscapes, and environments accessible and will reveal the familiar in new ways. To study world regional geography, to put it simply, is to study the dynamic and complex relationships between people and the worlds they inhabit. This book gives students the basic geographical tools and concepts needed to understand the complexity of regions and to appreciate the interconnections between their own lives and those of people in different parts of the world.

Objectives and Approach

This book has two primary objectives. The first is to provide a body of knowledge about how natural, social, economic, political, and cultural phenomena come together to produce distinctive territories with distinctive landscapes and cultural attributes: that is, world regions. The second is to emphasize that although there is diversity among world regions, it is important for us to understand the increasing interdependencies that exist among and between regions in order to build any real understanding of the modern world.

In an attempt to achieve these objectives, we have taken a fresh approach to world geography, reflecting the major changes that have recently been impressed on the global, regional, and local landscapes. These changes include the global spread of new information technologies such as the World Wide Web, which brings distant people and places to our computer screens; the rise of terrorism and the global geopolitical and geoeconomic impacts that have resulted; and the global spread of new social movements that are pressing for reforms on a whole range of issues from sustainability to human rights. The approach used in World Regions in Global Context provides access not only to the new ideas, concepts, and theories that address these changes and many other changes but also to the fundamentals of geography: the principles, concepts, theoretical frameworks, and basic knowledge that are necessary to build a geographic understanding of today's world.

A distinctive feature of our approach is that it employs the concept of geographic scale and emphasizes the interdependence of places and processes at different scales. In overall terms, this approach is designed to provide an understanding of relationships between the global and the local and the outcomes of these relationships. Moreover, we are not only interested in understanding the internal dynamics of a world region, we are also interested in that region's relationship to other regions around the globe. One of the chief organizing principles of our approach is how globalization frames the social and cultural construction of particular places and regions at various scales.

This approach allows us to emphasize a number of important themes.

  • Globalization and the links between global and local—Throughout the book, we stress the increasing interconnectedness of different parts of the world through common processes of economic, environmental, political, and cultural change. We approach the processes of globalization through a world-systems framework based on ideas about geographic cores, peripheries, and semiperipheries. A world economy has in fact been in existence for several centuries, and it has been reorganized several times. Each time it has been reorganized, there have been major changes not only in world geography but also in the character and fortunes of individual regions. In this book, we look not only at world regions as they exist in modern times but also at how each region has contributed to world history and has been affected by the role that it has played. This approach also helps us to point to the links between the global and the local. Recently there has been a pronounced change in both the pace and the nature of globalization. There has been an intensification of global connectedness, a major reorganization of the world economy, and a radical change in our relationships to other people and other places.
  • The unevenness of political and economic development—We also explicitly recognize the underlying diversity of the world. While there are a range of processes that are likely to be common to most regions—urbanization, industrialization, and population distribution—the way these processes are manifested will vary from region to region and even within regions. In short, there are important variations within places and regions at every scale: For example, social well-being varies and there can be affluent enclaves in poor regions and pockets of poverty in rich regions.
  • The connection between society and nature—Inherent to the basic geographic concepts of landscape, place, and region are the interactions between people and the natural environment that shape landscapes and give places and regions their distinctive characteristics. In this book, we explore the nature-society and human-environment relationships that assist in our understanding of regional geography. We emphasize that human adaptation to Earth's physical environments has gone far beyond responses to natural constraints to produce significant modifications of environments and landscapes and widespread environmental degradation and pollution.
  • The links among and between regions—While the book explores a set of coherent world regions, we also make it clear that regions are not isolated areal units but exist in complex relationships to other regions. The world, in short, is an integrated whole, and the concept of regions allows us to break it up into more manageable units. Yet, it is often the case that some regions have stronger and more long-standing connections to other regions or that some subareas of a region—certain key cities or industrial areas—may actually be more connected to outside regions than to their own. This emphasis on the links among and between regions enables us to demonstrate the interdependence of the world and how that interdependence is unevenly produced.

The Geography of World Regions

In this text we have divided the world into ten major regions—Europe; The Russian Federation, Central Asia, and the Transcaucasus; the United States and Canada; Sub-Saharan Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; Latin America; East Asia; Southeast Asia; South Asia; and Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. There is no standard way of dividing the world into regions. Textbooks, international organizations, and regional studies groups within universities have chosen a variety of ways to divide up and make sense of the world. Although we review the distinctive characteristics of every region at the beginning of each chapter, the changing and sometimes controversial process of defining world regions merits some discussion here.

Early Greek geographers divided their known world into Europe, Africa, and Asia, with the boundaries defined by the Straits of Gibraltar (dividing Africa and Europe), the Red Sea (dividing Africa and Asia), and the Bosporus Strait (dividing Europe and Asia). As Europeans began to explore the world, new regions were associated with major landmasses or continents, with the Americas usually split into North and South America, and Australia and Antarctica added as the sixth and seventh continents. These divisions lumped together many different landscapes and cultures (especially in Asia) but served, in the minds of Europeans, to differentiate "us" from "them," and to provide a framework for organizing colonial exploration and administration. The colonial period produced many new nations and boundaries and transformed cultures and landscapes in ways that produced more homogeneous regions. For example, 400 years of Spanish and Portuguese colonization of the region that stretches from Mexico to Argentina created a region of shared languages, religion, and political institutions that became known as Latin America. British colonization of what now constitutes Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal interacted with local culture to produce a region frequently known as South Asia. In the Middle East and North Africa, the persistence of Muslim religion and tradition gave these regions an identity that separated them from Asia and from Africa south of the Sahara.

In the 20th century, new configurations of political power and economic alliances produced some reconfigurations of world regions. The most notable was the large block of Asia and eastern Europe associated with the socialist politics of the former Soviet Union centered on Russia, together with eastern European countries ranging from East Germany to Bulgaria.

In response to global conflicts and economic opportunities in the second half of the 20th century, governments and universities established programs and centers that focused on specific world areas and their languages. For example, in the United States, the Department of Education established university centers that focused on apparently coherent regions such as Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific, Europe, Africa, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and East, South, and Southeast Asia.

At the beginning of the 21st century, these traditional divisions of the world into regions have been challenged by events, critics, an...

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