2014 - 2015

  Geographical Thought and Methodology  
Prof. DR IZHAK SCHNELLYad Avner - Geography012 Wed1600-1800 Sem  1
University credit hours:  2.0

Course description
The class is an introductory course for MA students. It is aimed at supplying students with a panoramic perspective on the discipline while emphasizing its changing character and redefining the discipline's definition and paradigms. The first part of the course sets the foundations for understanding the discipline while the main part reviews the main approaches applied in modern geography. In dealing with each approach, the historical context of its appearance is stressed, the main theoretical and methodological foundations are analyzed and a brief critique is offered. The course ends with the conclusion that geography as a discipline is constantly changing thanks to competing, co-existing paradigms, thus making it essential for scholars to be aware of the discipline's repertoires of institutionalized approaches.

The curriculum:
Week 1: Introduction
The philosophical argument concerning the nature of science is presented while focusing on the shift in the image of scientific knowledge from the reconstruction of the outer world to the social construction of beliefs and the postmodern dilemma created by the loss of scientific truth. The Kuhn model is stress as an introduction to Buttimer's argument concerning the interpretative dimensions of geographic thought. The changing definitions of the discipline from the end of the 1900s to current attempts to redefine the discipline are discussed.
Week 2: The historical context
The history of geographic thought from the Greek era up to the early 1920's is briefly described as a set of transformations led by the changing praxis of geographic knowledge. Beyond the early foundations, the role of geography in supporting national and colonial ideologies is emphasized. Special attention is paid to understanding the role of Israeli geography in nation-building.
Week 3: Modern developments
The history of academic geography is described as waves of attempts for differentiation and integration. Three main periods of integration are described: the regional geographic paradigm associated with the environmental deterministic approach, the era of logical positivism in geography and the attempts of structuration theory and realism to reintegrate the discipline. Two eras of differentiation are analyzed: The first, from the environmental deterministic approach to Possibilism and cultural geography (1920s) and the second, from logical positivism to Marxism and humanistic geography (1970s).
Week 4: Logical positivism
In discussing the principles of logical positivism we emphasize the historical context of the paradigmatic transition in geographic thought, the basic assumptions of positivist science and its methodological foundations.
Week 5: Logical positivism in geography
The application of logical positivism in geography is discussed. We describe the legacy of the Newtonian theory and its transformation into location theory. The application of these principles in gravity models, central place theory and land-use patterns are reviewed. In addition, attempts to develop a general spatial system theory are reviewed.
Week 6: Paradigmatic shifts in geography
The growing criticism of the positivist approach in geography is discussed from three complementary perspectives: From inside positivist thought; from a Marxist perspective and from a humanistic perspective. The rest of the meeting is devoted to discussing the historical conditions and practices that led to the emergence of Marxist and Humanist approaches in geographic thought during the 1970s.
Week 7: Marxist geography
The main tenets of Marxist and neo-Marxist approaches are discussed with an emphasis on Harvey's contribution to geography. Also stressed are the main principles of Marxist modes of explanation and developments in Marxist thought, mainly structural approaches.
Week 8: Marxist geography
The main contributions of Marxist works to geographical knowledge are discussed while focusing on the formation of inequalities on different spatial scales from the global through the regional and national to the urban. Also stressed is the socio-spatial dialectic in the restructuring of global and urban space according to the main stages of capitalist restructuring. Toward the end of the meeting criticism of Marxist thought is summarized.
Week 9: Humanistic geography.
The contribution of humanistic geography to the discipline is discussed while focusing on the introduction of three concepts – experiential space; landscape and sense of place – to the discipline.
Week 10: Humanistic geography
Special focus is devoted to the methodological foundations of humanistic geography in relation to the traditions of cultural geography, existential phenomenology and hermeneutics. Basic principles of phenomenological reduction, the existential worldview and the hermeneutic circle are presented. Toward the end of the meeting, the main critiques of humanistic geography are summarized.
Week 11: New attempts at reintegrating the discipline
Giddens' structurationalist theory is presented as the framework from which to present the principles of the geography of everyday life, starting with Hagerstrand's time geography and continuing through Lefevre's concepts of the production of space and Thrift's none-representational theory.
Week 12: Realism
The conceptual and methodological principles of the realist approach as articulated by scholars like Bashkar and Sayer are presented as a second attempt to reintegrate the discipline.
Week 13: Postmodernism
Postmodernism is presented as an attempt to split from the grand theory tradition. The conceptual and methodological principles introduced by post modernism are critically discussed. In addition, some ideas of Soja's Los Angeles School analysis regarding the structural characteristics of space in the post-modern era are discussed.
Week 14: Conclusions
Some reflections on the way the discipline is changing, the role of praxis in channeling developments in geographic thought and present and future trends are presented.

1. Aitken, S., and Valentine, G. (2006) Approaches to Human Geography, Sage, New York.
2. Cloke, P., Philo, C., and Sadler, D. (1991) Approaching Human Geography, Paul Chapman, London.
3. Hemple, C. G. (1966) Philosophy of Natural Science, Prentice Hall, New York.
4. Kuhn, T. S. (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
5. Buttimer, A. (1993) Geography and the Human Spirit, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
6. Schnell, I. (2004) Israeli Geographers in Search of National Identity, Professional Geographers. 56(4), 560-573.

Attendance in 80% of classes
Contribution to discussions: 10%.
Preparation of short methodological critiques during the semester of 3 articles, each written from a different perspective: 20%.
Take-home examination (three days): 70%.

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