Postmodernism and Geography Research Paper


It is well known that the concept of postmodernism exists in most branches of science and art. However, one can hardly evaluate the impact and importance of that concept. This paper will examine the influence of post-modern way of thinking on the geography as well as advantages and disadvantages of the concept itself in order to evaluate its significance.


To examine the impact of postmodernism on the geography this term should be defined first. It is the complicated term that appeared in academic studies in 80’s. However, one hardly can find when exactly it appeared. The term becomes even harder to define because it is used in the wide variety of disciplines like art, music, architecture, technology, fashion, communication, sociology, literature and film.

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There is no one strict definition but there are many theories that are bonded to the specific time and place. So in fact the definition depends on the context heavily.

From the other hand Knox and Marston (2004) claim that postmodernity ‘is a view of the world that emphasizes openness to a range of perspectives in social inquiry, artistic expression, and political empowerment.’

It is also interesting to examine the critics of postmodernism. According to some opinions postmodernism relate only to hear and now frames and has nothing to offer outside that frames (Muller, 2001). The postmodern thinkers are considered to be out of sense of critique and do not judge anything. They only make linkages and their thinking is limited to that. Another critics state that it is impossible to understand the postmodern world and much easier to understand modern world. In fact it is caused by the multiple choices opportunity of the postmodern world while there are just a few choices in the modern world.

Geography and postmodernism

Postmodernism is the way of thinking that came from the modern way of thinking. The post-modern way of thinking in geography is not and exception from that rule. From the point of view of postmodernism the geography is viewed differently from the modern way. In fact, it was the reaction of the modern way of thinking in geography, however, in its extreme form it didn’t convinced many geographers.

At the same time, post-modern way of thinking taught geographers a lot. Probably the most important thing geographers learned is that observations are organized and coloured, selected and steered depending on the observer’s ideas and expectations. In other words modernist approach focused on the material aspects of geography while postmodernism focused on the meaning of geography (Wusten, 1996).

It is interesting to note that the shift described above became one of the reasons of the rise of cultural geography. The rise of postmodernist and shift to the meaning of Geography lead to the fast rising interest to the daily life in the Western culture and as the result Cultural Geography was rising.

The science of cultural geography concentrates on the impact that different cultures have on geography. It introduces many new issues like identity, subculture, language, sexuality, gender or race in the process of study.

Those geographers are mainly interested in the way different people use space, or, in other words, what is the meaning of the space people use for them in different cultures. Moreover, since we all are the users of the space the meaning of space can be different for different people since we all look at it and use it in a different way (Soja, 1996).

The results of that approach can be seen the characterization of modern space. It was characterized through standardization, spatial specialization and concise rationality large-scale and position separation (Wusten).

Theory of postmodern space

According to the modernistic logic of thinking reality leads to ideology. As the result it can cause imaginative spaces were imagination leads to reality (like utopia). At the same time in the postmodernist approach it always returns to special and material. Space, in fact, is “socially constructed worlds that are simultaneously material and representational” (
Edward W. Soja, referring to and extending the view of Foucault and Henri Lefebvre developed the epistemological approach to space.

There are tree main concepts:

  • Space is never given – meaning that it is not an “empty box” that is filled in;
  • Space is always created by culture;
  • Space is the part of the global net and each space depend on each other
    In his book “ The trialectics of being” he introduces the notion of spatiality meaning socially produced space.

Spatiality is a substantiated and recognizable social product, part of a ‘second nature’ [i.e. the transformed and socially concretised spatiality [[socially produced space]] arising from the application of purposeful human labour] which incorporates as it [i.e. socially produced space] socializes and transforms both physical and psychological spaces. This seems to amount to the notion that social space produces more social space, which, apart from being circular, is no help whatsoever in understanding the social processes involved (Soja, 2001).


Post-modern approach is the result of development of the modernistic thinking and is likely to the evolution in the field. The application of that approach to geography lead to the necessity to revalue the traditional approach to space and its influence of society and vise versa.

As the result of that shift in thinking shift in views occurred leading to the shift from ‘material geography’ to the ‘meaning of geography’. As the result the cultural geography developed. The essential task of the cultural geography is to establish correlation between human activities and space. It also take into account many factors that are not examined by the conventional geography and for this reason broads the scope of knowledge drastically.

Knox, P. and S. Marston, Places and regions in global context: Human Geography, Pearson Education Inc., New Jersey, 2004
Pater, B. de, H. van der Wusten, Het geografische huis. De opbouw van een wetenschap. Coutinho, Muiderberg, 1996
Soja, E., Postmodern Geographies. The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory, Verso, London, 2001
Soja, E., Thirdspace. Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined spaced, Blackwell Publishers Inc, Malden, 1996

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