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Areal differentiation |Perspectives in Human Geography | Human Geography UPSC |Geography optional notes

Areal Differentiation (AD)
  • Areal differentiation is a concept of human geography in which more emphasis is placed on the study of the specificity/uniqueness of a geographical area rather than on the standardization of geographical phenomena for making geographical models.
  • The concept of Areal differentiation (AD) later evolved into regional geography.

Why is the study of Areal Differentiation(AD) important in geography?
  • Since environment, topography, culture, language, human activities, human needs, etc. are not the same everywhere on earth, it is not prudent or appropriate to make standard models/theories for the study/development of all geographical areas. Therefore, it is necessary to study separately for different geographical areas.
  • For example, a plain area development/study model may not be suitable for a hilly area development/study model. The development strategy of the plains can be made only after proper study of the plains.
  • The main purpose of developing the concept of Areal Differentiation (AD) was to give importance to regional geography and also not to standardize geographical thought/study.
The first technical word " Areal Differentiation" was mentioned by Hartshorne in his book " Nature of geography (1939)".  

As per Richard Hartshorne regarding Areal Differentiation(AD), 
  • Geography is the science of studying Areal Differentiation (AD).
  • In Areal Differentiation (AD), emphasis is given to the division of Earth's surface into several homogeneous regions based on the uniformity of different spatial variables.
  • Division of the earth's surface is done because each geographical area has its own uniqueness which is different from other geographical areas.
  • The study of the uniqueness and variances (from other homogeneous regions) of these homogeneous regions is called Areal Differentiation(AD).
Three principles are used in areal differentiation. 
  • On the basis of the uniqueness and uniformity of the geographical area, a geographical area is divided. For example, on the basis of relief variables, we can divide the surface of the earth into plains, mountains, plateaus, etc.
  • On the basis of the geographical features of the area, we find out the generic principle of geographical characteristics of the region.
  • Field studies include the study of various geographical phenomena and parameters. When we compare the parameters (parameters) of one place with another place, we compare the parameters (parameters) with proximity, we do not compare the parameters (parameters) exactly the same as we do in maths. For example, if we are comparing the rainfall variable; Location "A" receives 90 mm of rainfall annually and Location "B" receives 100 mm of rainfall annually, then we will consider both the places as the same rainfall region.

The following are the main characteristics of Areal differentiation(AD):

  • Areal differentiation(AD) supports the study of a regional approach in geography.
  • Areal differentiation helps in finding a suitable development plan at the regional level by giving importance to the study of geographical phenomena at the regional level.
  • For example, each region should have its own development model and it will be based on the need and availability of resources in that area. All this is possible through the study of Areal differentiation in geography.
Criticism of Areal Differentiation(AD): 
  • Areal differentiation emphasizes the study of the region, but the boundaries of the region are not fixed. Demarcation of the boundaries of the area is a problem.
  • In the era of globalization, boundaries have lost their meaning, as no real boundaries of region exist.
  • The boundaries of language, belief, and cultural region keep changing with time.
  • Women empowerment is difficult to do, as every sector has different beliefs about women.
  • Schaefer criticized both regional differentiation (AD) and exceptionalism in geography. He argued that regional differentiation (AD) has made geography a complex subject. He supported the system view of geography. A common model should be developed in geography so that it can be applied everywhere.

Despite criticism study of areal differentiation is very important in geography. The reasons for the study are the following: 
  • Areal differentiation is against the generalization of the model, hence it gives more importance to the regional approach. 
  • It is useful for solving and making development models at the regional levels, such as: 
    • Hill area development 
    • Tribal area development 
    • Coastal area development 
    • Backward area development 
  • In India, nowadays we are planning to develop 100 smart cities, the same model cant be applied in all smart cities because each city has there own importance. Examples:
    • Varanasi smart city: it is a religious city, so importance should be given to: 
      •  Ganga Ghat development 
      • Classical Music development 
      • Varanasi Sari industries 
      • Temple, Streat cleanliness 
      • Communication, connectivity Security of foreign tourists, etc 
    • Kanpur smart city: In is an industrial center city, importance should be given to: 
      • Textile & leather industries 
      • Hight transport facilities are needed to easy movement of goods 
      • Need water conservation for the textile & leather industry 
      • Water treatment plants are needed to avoid water pollution from the textile and leather industry. 
  • Areal differentiation can help to reduce the social disparity through regional planning

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Try to solve the following questions:

  • “Areal differentiation has provided the theoretical justification for studying ‘ regions’ and ‘regional geography’. Comment. (UPSC 2018,20 marks) 
  • Areal differentiation forms the core theme in Geography. Explain. (UPSC 2016,10 marks) 
  • Critically examine perspectives on the areal differentiation, the changing perspective on the concept of areal differentiation (UPSC 2014, 15 marks)
  • Write short notes on Areal Differentiation.
  • What is the significance of Areal Differentiation in the present world?
  • How Areal Differentiation can solve the problem of growing regional disparity in India.

Answer the following multiple-choice questions on Areal differentiation:

1. Study of similarity and dissimilarity among the physical and cultural features on the earth's surface is called?
a) Areal differentiation
b) Regional Synthesis
c) Environmental Determinism
d) Stop and Go determinism

Answer. a) Areal differentiation

2. Who coined the term areal differentiation?
a) Fred K. Schaefer 
b) J L Berry
c) Richard Hartshorne
d) Carl Ritter

Answer. c) Richard Hartshorne

3. Who was the father of modern human geography?
a) Fred K. Schaefer 
b) J L Berry
c) Richard Hartshorne
d) Carl Ritter

Answer. d) d) Carl Ritter

4. Who said, "Geography is concerned with the description and explanation of the areal differentiation of the earth's surface"?
a) Richard Hartshorne
b) Galileo
c) Erathosthenese
d) Herodotus

Answer. a) Richard Hartshorne

5. Who said that "Areal differentiation(AD) has made geography a complex subject"
a) Fred K. Schaefer 
b) J L Berry
c) Richard Hartshorne
d) Carl Ritter

Answer. a) Fred K. Schaefer 

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