PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2013, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (9): 1307-1315.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2013.09.001

• Special Column: Space-time Behavior and Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Beyond binaries: Reflections on hybrid geographies

KWAN Mei-Po   

  1. Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Urbana, IL 61801-3637, USA
  • Received:2013-07-01 Revised:2013-08-01 Online:2013-09-25 Published:2013-09-25

Abstract: In the last century, geography as a discipline has witnessed a rift between spatial-analytical geographies and social-cultural geographies, resulting in lasting effect on the discipline. In this article, I explore how the social-theory/spatial-analysis split in geography arose. I argue that, instead of insisting on a unitary identity for the discipline, forging productive relations between different traditions, specialties and subfields seems to be a more viable strategy for enhancing the status of geography. I consider some possibilities for reconnecting social- cultural and spatial-analytical geographies by revisiting the relations between epistemology and method in geography. I suggest that there can be both positivist and non-positivist use of quantitative/GIS-based spatial analysis and qualitative methods, which makes the mixed-use of the two methods possible. Then I examine the notion of hybridity and its potential for redressing this polarizing tendency in the discipline, and summarize the existing practice of hybrid geographies. There are at least three common practices towards hybrid geographies. The most common hybrid practices are those that use quantitative or GIS methods to address issues informed by critical geographies. Another type seeks to cross the boundary between geo-spatial technologies and a qualitative understanding of the lived experiences of individuals in various cultural contexts. And the third type attempts to integrate critical social theory and spatial analytical methods. As a conclusion, I offer some thoughts on the possibility of a "post-social-theory, post-spatial-analysis" future for geography. This means a future in which social- cultural geographies and spatial-analytical geographies are no longer represented as the conflicting poles. And I point out that the major challenge for geography as a discipline is how to cherish the diversity and richness of perspectives while enhancing its status in the academic community and society.

Key words: hybrid geographies, social-cultural geographies, spatial-analytical geographies