Global regions in the critical geography of globalization

Authored by: John Agnew

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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World regions such as those used in area studies – Europe, Africa, East Asia, and so on – have been understood by geographers and other scholars in either one of three different ways, none of which, I will argue, is adequate either historically or contemporaneously. The first is as essentially physical-cultural units of the earth that have relatively internal homogeneity with respect to climate, geology, culture, etc., and these characteristics fundamentally condition or determine what we typically think of as political, cultural, and economic life. The second is as narrative constructions invented to make geopolitical sense of the world but that reflect the political dominance of some places, such as the ‘West’ or Europe over ‘the Rest’. The third is as geopolitical regions that are rooted in the historical dominance of different regional ‘powers’ within wider regions, such as the United States (US) in the Americas, Russia in Eurasia, and China in East Asia. If the first of these understandings still dominates much school teaching of so-called world-regional geography in the US (and to a lesser extent elsewhere), the second two have become characteristic (both explicitly and implicitly) of more advanced studies in cultural and political geography, respectively.

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