Cultural Geography

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Getis, Introduction to Geography
based on 9th Edas modified by 12th Ed
Chapter 7
Cultural Geography

Components of Culture

Culture traits

Culture complex

Culture region

Culture Realms

  1. Anglo-American

  2.  European

  3.  Slavic

  4.  Latin-American

  5.  Islamic

  6.  Indic

  7.  Sino-Japanese

  8.  Sub-Saharan African

  9.  Southeast Asian

  10.  Insular Oceanic

  11.  Austral-European


Interaction of People and Environment

No Environmental Determinism


Cultural Landscape:  The cultural landscape, the earth’s surface as modified by human action, is the tangible, physical record of a given culture.  House types, transportation networks, parks, and cemeteries, and the size and distribution of settlements are among the indicators of the use that humans have made of the land.  As a rule, the more technologically advanced and complex the culture, the greater its impact on the environment, although preindustrial societies can and frequently do exert destructive pressures on the lands they occupy.

Subsystems of Culture

Anthropologist Leslie White suggested:

            Technological, sociological, and ideological subsystems of culture.

Biologist Julian Huxley identified three aspects of culture:

            Artifacts, sociofacts, and mentifacts.

Talcott Parsons

Functional Pre-Requisites   Resultant Structure or Subsystem


Procreation                  System of Social Structure

    Socialization                Cultural System

    Adaptation                   Economic System

    Collective Decision-Making   Political System


Technological Subsystem

Sociological Subsystem

Ideological Subsystem

Cultural integration.

Culture Change


            Primitive societies

                        Foraging, Scavenging, Hunting


            Agricultural Revolution ~10,000 BCE

            Traditional village societies

                        Herding and farming


            City societies (Civilizations)

                        Culture hearth

                                    Mesopotamia/Middle East—5500 BCE

                                    Egypt—3300 BCE

                                    Crete—2500 BCE

                                    Indus Valley—2300 BCE

                                    North China—2200 BCE

                                    Southeast Asia—1500 BCE

                                    Andean—1500 BCE


                                    West Africa—400 BCE

            Industrial Revolution—1750 CE in England

            North-South Division of Contemporary World

                        More Developed

                        Less Developed


            Spatial diffusion



                        Amalgamation theory (melting pot)


Competition theory.  An assertive assimilated minority group becomes a new elite


Cultural Diversity

Material Culture

The material basis of culture is covered in Chapter 5: The Geography of Natural Resources and  Chapter 10: Economic Geography.

Natural Resources

Level of Technology

Economic System

Political System is discussed in Chapter 9:  Political Geography


Language Spread and Change

Standard and Variant Languages

            Standard language



            Lingua franca

Language and Culture

            Topnymy:  the study of place names.  It is a revealing tool of historical cultural geography, because place-names become a part of the cultural landscape that remains long after the name givers have passed from the scene.


 Excerpted from President Barak Obama's Inaugural Speech, January 20, 2009

"We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. "

The US Census Bureau does not keep accurate statistics on religious affiliations because the US Congress in the past has held that collecting such statistics might violate the U.S. Constitutional principle of "separation of church and state."  Several non-governmental organizations do attempt to come up with statistics on religion. (  
has an extensive WEB site on religion.

Major Religions of the World
Ranked by Number of Adherents

 (Sizes shown are approximate estimates, and are here mainly for the purpose of ordering the groups, not providing a definitive number. This list is sociological/statistical in perspective.)
  1. Christianity: 2.1 billion
  2. Islam: 1.5 billion
  3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
  4. Hinduism: 900 million
  5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
  6. Buddhism: 376 million
  7. primal-indigenous: 300 million
  8. African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
  9. Sikhism: 23 million
  10. Juche: 19 million
  11. Spiritism: 15 million
  12. Judaism: 14 million
  13. Baha'i: 7 million
  14. Jainism: 4.2 million
  15. Shinto: 4 million

Religion in the United States.

The settlers who founded the thirteen British colonies that became the United States were Christians.  A small Jewish community existed by the time of the American Revolution.  Deists and Unitarians played an important role during the formative period of the American Republic.  The first Amendment of the United State Constitution includes two provisions regarding religion:  the free exercise clause that all (and no) religion may practice their beliefs freely without government interference and that government may not establish an official religion or favor one religion over another (or no religion).  The US was the first country in the world to prohibit an official religion on the national level.  Several states did have official religions at the beginning of our national history.

The diversity of religious belief, first within the Christian community and now in a much broader community of religions, has grown over time.  President Obama is the first President to state clearly in an Inaugural Address that:  "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers."

Top Ten Largest Religions in the United States, 1990
(self-identification, NSRI)

Religion Estimated
Adult Pop.
% of Adult Pop.
Christianity 151,225,000 86.2%
Nonreligious 13,116,000 7.5%
Judaism 3,137,000 1.8%
Agnostic 1,186,000 0.7%
Islam 527,000 * 0.5%
Unitarian Universalist 502,000 0.3%
Buddhism 401,000 * 0.4%
Hinduism 227,000 * 0.2%
Native American Religion 47,000 0.03%
Scientologist 45,000 0.03%

* Islam, Buddhist, Hindu figures in table have been adjusted upwards by Kosmin to account for possible undercount.

86% of Americans considered themselves Christian in 1990.  Christianity is, however, not a single monolithic religion, it is divided into several major branches.  Historically, Christianity is divided into Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, and Protestant Christians.  The Protestants are themselves divided into many denominations such as Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians.  Below is a list of major Christian and Jewish denominations from

Largest denominational families in U.S., 2001
(self-identification, ARIS)

Denomination 1990 Est.
Adult Pop.
2001 Est.
Adult Pop.
2004 Est.
Total Pop.
Est. % of U.S. Pop.,
% Change
1990 - 2001
Catholic 46,004,000 50,873,000 71,796,719 24.5% +11%
Baptist 33,964,000 33,830,000 47,744,049 16.3% 0%
Methodist/Wesleyan 14,174,000 14,150,000 19,969,799 6.8% 0%
Lutheran 9,110,000 9,580,000 13,520,189 4.6% +5%
Presbyterian 4,985,000 5,596,000 7,897,597 2.7% +12%
Pentecostal/Charismatic 3,191,000 4,407,000 6,219,569 2.1% +38%
Episcopalian/Anglican 3,042,000 3,451,000 4,870,373 1.7% +13%
Judaism 3,137,000 2,831,000 3,995,371 1.3% -10%
Latter-day Saints/Mormon 2,487,000 2,697,000 3,806,258 1.3% +8%
Churches of Christ 1,769,000 2,593,000 3,659,483 1.2% +47%
United Church of Christ
599,000 1,378,000 1,944,762 0.7%
Jehovah's Witnesses 1,381,000 1,331,000 1,878,431 0.6% -4%
Assemblies of God 660,000 1,106,000 1,560,890 0.5% +68%



Classification and Distribution of Religions

Religious may be classified into categories.  Christianity derived historically from Judaism.  We often talk about the Judeo-Christian heritage.  With the growth of Islam in the United States in recent decades, the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share  and venerate Abraham as the foundation of their religious traditions, has led to the categorization of these three religions as the Abrahamic religions.  All three are monotheistic religions and share a belief in a common Creator-God. (See for further information on this concept.  But there are also differences between these three religions.  Christianity and Islam are universalizing religions; whereas Judaism is basically an Ethnic religion.  Your text, Getis, uses the classification system descibed below.

Universalizing religions:  faiths that claim applicability to all humans and that seek to transmit their beliefs to all lands through missionary work and conversion.




            Ethnic religions


                        Indian Hinduism

                        Japanese Shinto

Tribal (or traditional) religions “ are special forms of ethnic religions distinguished by their small size, their unique identity with localized culture groups not yet fully absorbed into modern society, and their close ties to nature.

Animism is the name given to their belief that life exists in all objects, from rocks and trees to lakes and mountains, or that such objects are the abode of the dead, of spirits, and of gods. 

Shamanism is a form of tribal religion that involves community acceptance of a shaman, who, through special powers, can intercede and interpret the spirit world.

A Brief Description of The Principal Religions

The following links provide a brief description of the beliefs of these different religions.

Judaism ( )

Christianity (

Islam (

Hinduism (

Buddhism (

East Asian Ethnic Religions
    Confucianism (
    Taoism (
    Shintoism (



"Recognition of an ethnic community may be based on language, religion, national origin, unique customs, or an ill-defined concept of 'race.' . . . Ethnic groups try to preserve their special shared ancestry and cultural heritage through the collective retention" of their common cultural traits.

Ethnocentrism is the view that one's ethnic group is superior to all others.

Many ethnic groups are territorially segregated.

Gender and Culture

 "Gender refers to socially created--not biologically based--distinctions between femininity and masculinity."

"Hunting and gathering cultures observed a general egalitarianism; each sex had a respected, productive, co-equal role in the kinship group."

In hoe agriculture . . . , women became responsible for most of the actual fieldwork, while still retaining their traditional duties in child rearing, food preparation, and the like; their economic role and status remained equivalent to males."  Hoe agriculture is still practiced in much of Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

"Plow agriculture tended to subordinate the role of women and diminish their level of equality.  Women might have hoes, but men plowed, and female participation in farm work was drastically reduced.  This is the case today in Latin America and, increasingly, in sub-Saharan Africa.  As women's agricultural productive role declines, they were afforded less domestic authority, less control over their own lives, and few if any property rights independent of their male family members."

"Western industrial--"developed"--society emerged directly from the agricultural tradition of the subordinate female, who was not considered an important element in the economically active population, no matter how arduous or essential the domestic tasks assigned."

The Victorian ideal of womanhood fostered in 19th century America and much of Western Europe a strong rationale for both social and economic discrimination against working women.  Only during the later 20th century did this subordinate role of women begin to change in a few countries.   

Other Aspects of Cultural Diversity


Architectural styles




This page was visited  Hit Counter times during the Spring Semester 2009

Updated January 22, 2009
Copyright Dr. Harold Damerow
Senior Professor of Government and History
Union County College
Cranford, NJ 07016