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

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Mirek Dymitrow
Rene Brauer
Publicerad i Geografiska Annaler. Series B. Human Geography
Volym 100
Nummer/häfte 3
Sidor 195–219
ISSN 0435-3684
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Institutionen för ekonomi och samhälle, Kulturgeografi
Sidor 195–219
Språk en
Länkar https://doi.org/10.1080/04353684.20...
Ämnesord rural, urban, concept retention, knowledge production, extra-scientific factors, geographers
Ämneskategorier Socialpsykologi, Vetenskapsteori, Kulturgeografi


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 twelve 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”.

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