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Critical Studies of Nature

  • By: Alex Loftus
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The different ways in which people understand nature have been at the heart of struggles over what kind of discipline geography ought to be. Recent years have seen the emergence of a range of critical approaches to the study of nature that seek to critique and change it. Nevertheless, conceptually, nature remains notoriously difficult to define, and as will become clear, definitions often reveal much more about an overall political position—and a view about what geography ought to be—than they do about plants, animals, landscapes, and the many things we think of as nature.

In its earliest manifestations, geography was defined by an emphasis on the manner in which natural environments shaped and determined human societies. Here, nature assumed a determining role over the social: Differing ...

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