World Regions in Global Context

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9780130224842: World Regions in Global Context

This book employs an explicitly global approach to world regional geography that examines the interconnections between people and places at different scales, and that brings to the introductory learner the most current and powerful ideas in geography. It features an emphasis on core regions, key cities, and distinctive landscapes that allows the authors to stress global connections while still maintaining a traditional focus on places at the local scale. Chapter topics cover a world of regions; the foundations of world regions; Europe; The Russian Federation, Central Asia, and the Transcaucasus; The Middle East and North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; East Asia; Southeast Asia; South Asia; Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific; and future regional geography. For individuals interested in world regional geography.

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About the Author:

Sallie A. Marston. Sallie 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, and serves as head of, the Department of Geography and Regional Development at the University of Arizona.

Paul L. Knox. Paul 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 in 1985 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. In 1989 he received a university award for teaching excellence. 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.

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

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first rime.

Excerpt from "Little Gidding"
in Four Quartets.
Copyright 1942 by T.S. Eliot
and renewed 1970 by Esme Valerie Eliot,
reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Inc.

Most people have an understanding of what their own lives are like and some knowledge of their own areas—their neighborhood, their city, their country. Yet, even as the countries .and regions of the world become interconnected, most of us still know very little about the lives of people in other societies or about the ways in which the lives of those people connect to our own.

The lines from T.S. Eliot's poem remind us that learning about new places helps us to see familiar places in fresh and unexpected ways. This book provides an introduction to world regional geography that will make exotic places, landscapes, g 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. Our 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.

Objective 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 technologies, especially information technologies like the Internet, biotechnology such as genetically engineered seeds, and transportation technologies such as high-speed rail systems. They also include geopolitical shifts such as the formation of the European Union and the Free Trade Area of the Americas; economic trends, such as the growth of transnational corporations and the globalization of consumer culture; and environmental changes associated with, increasing industrialization and global warming. The approach used in World Regions in Global Context provides access not only to the new ideas, concepts, and theories that address these 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 this 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. It follows that one of the chief organizing principles 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 concepts.

  • 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.
  • Linking 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 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; North America; Sub-Saharan Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; Latin America and the Caribbean; 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 comprises 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 twentieth 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 twentieth 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 twenty-first century these traditional divisions of the world into regions have been challenged by events, critics, and the latest phases of globalization. When the Soviet bloc disintegrated in 1989, some states reoriented toward western Europe and to the economic alliance of the European Community, whereas others remained closer to Russia or looked eastward to an identity with countries such as Afghanistan as part of central Asia. As we note in the relevant chapters, regionalizations have been criticized for being based on race or religion (for example, the Middle East and SubSaharan Africa), for being remnants of colonial thinking (for example, Latin America or Southeast Asia), or for being grounded only in physical proximity or environmental characteristics rather than on cultural or other human commonalities (for example, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands clustered in Oceania). We will also discuss a number of countries, such as Sudan, Cyprus, or Antarctica that do not fit easily into the traditional regions or that fit into more than one region. Some scholars and institutions have proposed a dramatic rethinking of world regions. They suggest, for example, that all Islamic or oil-producing countries be treated together, or that countries be grouped according to their level of economic development or integration into the global economy. For example, the World Bank commonly classifies nations into high-, middle-, and low-income countries, arid this book identifies many regions and countries according to their relation to the core or periphery of the world system.

Our own division of the world tries to take into account some of these changing ideas about world regions without deviating too radically from other texts or course outlines, and by trying to create a manageable number and coherent set of chapters. Each chapter includes our rationale for treating the places in the chapter as a distinct region and a review of the limitations and debates about defining each region. In addition, each chapter emphasizes the links of the region under discussion to other regions and to processes of globalization that might be changing the nature and coherence of world regions.

Chapter Organization

Two of the central challenges to writing a world regional geography text appropriate for the modern world involve balancing an emphasis on globalization and global processes with the traditional and important emphasis on individual places, and in striking a balance between broad regional generalizations and overly divisive country-by-country regional descriptions. The internal structure of each of the regional chapters is critically important to achieving this balance. In order to strike such a balance, we divide each regional chapter into six standard categories.

Physical and Environmental Context: We begin each of the chapters with a concise discussion of the physical and environmental context of the region, ending this section with an explanation of the region's environmental history. Our aim here is to demonstrate the links between people and nature . and how the environment is shaped by and shapes the region's inhabitants over time.

Region in the World: Consistent with our aim to highlight the enduring interdependence of the world's regions, we then provide a section that places each of the regions within the larger context of global history and geography.

Peoples of the Region: In this section we discuss, at various different scales, the people who live in the region.

Regional Change and Interdependence: This section outlines the contemporary role of the region in the global context. This material contrasts to the more historical material emphasized in the Region in the World section.

Core Regions and Key Cities: One of our approaches in the text is to demonstrate the ways in which core, periphery, and semiperiphery are unevenly distributed across geographical scales, in that a specific city or subregion in a peripheral region may share the characteristics of a core region. To illustrate this point we include a section on core regions and key cities that describes the politically and economically central subregions within each of the world regions we discuss.

Distinctive Regions and Landscapes: Our final section of each chapter, which is followed by the summary and conclusions, is devoted to exploring and understanding some of the distinctive regions and landscapes of each of the world's regions.

The organization of the book is pedagogically useful in several ways. First, the conceptual framework of the book is built on two opening chapters: Chapter I describes the basics of a regional perspective; Chapter 2 introduces the key concepts that are deployed throughout the remaining regional chapters, highlighting the importance of the globalization approach. Second, the concepts and conceptual framework that are laid out in Chapters 1 and 2 are explored and elaborated upon in the ten regional chapters that follow.

A third important aspect of the book is the distinctive ordering of the chapters. The sequencing of the chapters is a deliberate move to avoid privileging any one region over any other or to cluster the regions according to any economic or political categorization. Rather, because the key conceptual framework of the book is the globalization of the capitalist world-system, we begin with the European region (Chapter 3) because that is where contemporary capitalism and many of the impulses for the contemporary world map have their source. Following the initial appearance of this historically critical core region, however, we deliberately intersperse core, semiperipheral, and peripheral regions in order to signal the, interdependence of each.

The final chapter provides a coherent summary of the main points discussed and illustrated in the preceding chapters through an elaboration of the possible futures of the world's regions. This chapter returns students to the conceptual foundations of the book and provides them with a sense of what the future of the globe—and the places and regions within it—might be like.

Features

This book takes a decidedly different approach to understanding world regions, and the features we use help to underscore that difference. The book employs an innovative cartography program, four different boxed features (Geography Matters, Sens...

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