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Humanism approach in geography | Humanistic school of thought in Geography

Humanism approach to geography

William Kirk was the first geographer who advocated the Humanistic school of thought in Geography in 1951. However, it was Chinese American geographer, Mr. Y.F. Tuan who provided a real shape of Humanism approach to geography, which is why Y.F. Tuan is considered the father of the humanistic school of thought in Geography.

The following are the main points on Humanism geography:

The humanist school of thought in geography was developed against the quantitative revolution in geography, the positivist approach, and the local analysis approach; Because these approaches neglected humanistic values and the role of religion, ethics, values, personal knowledge, etc. in geography.

As per the Humanistic school of thought, we can not be objectified or quantified human feelings, values, and culture, so they can not be represented in statistical tools such as maps, lines, graphs, etc. Human is not a machine, and they can improve their life through participatory observation, discussions, thinking, and acting.

As per the humanistic school of thought, geography is the study of the earth as the home of the human being;  the main focus should be the study of peoples' reactions to the environment rather than the study of the earth.

As per Tuan, humanistic geography is based on four main principles :
  • Human awareness
  • Human work as an agency
  • Human consciousness
  • Human creativity
Humans are aware of their environment, they know the weather, climate, soil, water availability, and other local phenomena. The perfection of awareness of the environment may vary from person to person, but more or less they are aware of the environment.

Humans work as an agency, they human take prudent decisions based on their knowledge.

Human sentiment towards the motherland or family is one type of human consciousness. It is very helpful to understand the feeling of people, human consciousness also varies from human to human. It drives toward the actual meaning of humanities.

Human has creativity, they can change the environment through innovation, and it is also supported by possibilism, for example, Dubai city is developed in the desert because of human innovation. Agriculture is also done in rainshadow and deserted areas through human innovation.
Humans and environments have a very complex relationship. Y F Tuan tried to explain this complex relation by using five themes. The following are five themes-
  • Geographical knowledge
  • Territory and place
  • Crowding and privacy
  • Livelihood and economics
  • Religion

Geographical knowledge: 
Each people and animal have their own mental map based on their geographical knowledge of the environment; they take decision in daily life based on a mental map.
Geographical knowledge is very much necessary for each organism for survival.
For example,
The Mental map of tribal people helps to locate herbs, collect food and timber, and find water.
Animals in the forest have a mental map, they returned home after day-long grazing.
Animals know where to hide while raining.
Animals or men fear to go some particular place as they know it is dangerous to go.
Migratory bird such as Siberian cranes has a mental map that helps them to find the route to migrate.
Territory and place:
Some animals like dogs and tigers defend their territory against intruders. Some animal such as man becomes sentimental to their birthplace( we all do), and people are attached to/her birthplace not because of economic reason but because of sentiment.
Crowding and privacy:
Some people feel more secure in a crowded area, for example, recently in Hong Kong,  large crowded protesters protested in the airport of Hong Kong as they fear suppression from the Chinese government, and they feel more secure protesting on CCTV areas in the airport.
Crowding creates more tension in the geographical region.
Privacy also affects the thinking process, alone and stress-free people are more innovative than stressed full people.
Livelihood and economics:
Humans do some economic and social activities to sustain life. The main purpose of human activities is for livelihood and social prospects.
Humanism geography differentiates the difference between life-supporting activities and life-destruction activities. For example, agriculture is life-supporting activity while making the atomic bomb is life destruction activity while both activities provide a livelihood. 
Religion is the way to bind people strongly through belief, faith, and religious activities. Humanistic geography advocates the awareness of different desires of human coherence in the line of religion.
In India,  the meat business is done by generally Muslim and Jains are generally traders.

Criticism of the humanistic school of thought in geography 
  • The humanistic approach in geography does not consider human as Rational person, however, human is also Rational person.
  • It considered humanism as separate geography and supported to study of physical geography and human geography separately, in reality, the same is not true, man and the environment are interrelated.  
  • This method is more subjective in nature like social science.
  • We do not know if the humanistic explanation is true because can not be objectified.
  • The humanistic school of thought in geography makes geography a more complex and subjective subject.
Try to solve the following questions.
  •  Provide a brief outline of the ideas related to the “sense of place” as propounded by YI-FU Tuan and Relph in the humanistic geography that emerged in the 1970s. (UPSC 2018, 15 marks)
  • Present the critical analysis of human & welfare approach in human geography(UPSC 2003,15 marks)

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