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Mirek Dymitrow

Postdoctoral fellow

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Meaningful yet useless? Factors behind the retention of questionable concepts in human geography

Author

  • Mirek Dymitrow
  • René Brauer

Summary, in English

The concepts ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ have long been criticized by geographers for their lack of analytical and explanatory power, yet have remained a vital source for conceptual guidance in human geography. Realizing that the continued use of questionable concepts inadvertently runs the risk of compromising communication, misdirecting resources and downgrading social theory, the current status of ‘rural/urban’ creates a paradoxical epiphenomenon of progress-making in geography. We disentangle this paradox in two dimensions. Firstly, we show how a conflation between meaning and utility is what renders us desensitized to the problem. Secondly, we outline 12 extra-scientific factors likely to actuate the binary’s persistent retention. We finally sketch a sensuous template set out to minimize its undesired impact. We concede that the confusion surrounding ‘rural/urban’ in human geography cannot be understood unless the influence of extra-scientific factors is fully taken into account, revealing the concepts’ vestigiality. This, we argue, is the only way forward if we truly want to embrace the rationale of the scientific approach. The principal contribution of our paper is laying the groundwork for this particularly underresearched dimension of ‘rural/urban’ amidst an exceptionally rich conceptual literature on what ‘rural/urban’ ‘are’ or ‘mean’.

Publishing year

2018-07-03

Language

English

Pages

195-219

Publication/Series

Geografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography

Volume

100

Issue

3

Document type

Journal article

Publisher

Wiley-Blackwell

Topic

  • Human Geography

Keywords

  • concept retention
  • extra-scientific factors
  • geographers
  • knowledge production
  • rural
  • urban

Status

Published

ISBN/ISSN/Other

  • ISSN: 0435-3684