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Mirek Dymitrow


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


  • 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’.


  • Human Geography


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




  • ISSN: 0435-3684