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Investigaciones geográficas

On-line version ISSN 2448-7279Print version ISSN 0188-4611


URQUIJO TORRES, Pedro Sergio  and  BOCCO VERDINELLI, Gerardo. Geographic thougth in Latin America: A retrospective and general balance. Invest. Geog [online]. 2016, n.90, pp.155-175. ISSN 2448-7279.

In this paper we report results of a thorough historiographic review of published geographic research and on the activity of geography departments and research centers in Latin America. The main focus was on the recognition of transnational subjects and global processes and patterns. We argue that this type of retrospective analyses allows the understanding of the what and the what for of Latin America (LAG) Geography. First, we describe the current situation of LAG as a social science. Second, we explain the nature of LA social processes that, in the 90s, triggered geographic change and subsequent theoretical reflection on this change in LAG and in other related social sciences. To this end, we describe how the major traditions in geographic research have influenced LAG thinking. To conclude, we suggest the major achievements and tasks that we think characterize the current situation of LAG.

The Mexican philosopher Leopoldo Zea (1986) postulated that Latin American integration would occur through educational systems rather than regional economic projects. As far as Geography is concerned, this postulate would suggest that to achieve integration, the discipline should first become stronger at the national level, without rejecting external influences, and by focusing on subjects embedded in large scope research agendas, or in LA societal concerns. In addition, the links between LA geographic institutions should also become stronger, and emerging common appraisals should be presented in international scientific meetings. These shared perspectives should be the result of common multinational research and educational projects, including postgraduate mobility programs. The participation in thematic networks, either geographic ones, or closely related but where a geographic perspective is present, would be helpful to create common disciplinary visions.

Since the end of the 90s and the beginning of 2000s the number of papers and books on LAG, on both, theory and practice as shown in this paper, has increased significantly. However, the impact of this contribution is not strong, considering the number of citations to these works and especially comparing with the production in some European countries or the U.S. LA geographers seem to be more concerned with the results of applied research than with a more theoretical geographical insight. Scientific empirisim and the promotion of a LAG rooted in the practical experience of scholars is a heavy burdden difficult to overcome.

A strong LAG would represent a step forward for national efforts: it may allow the exchange of conceptual view-points and methodologies among persons who also share a common historic and cultural background. From an applied perspective the role of LAG, as is the case of other social scientists, should focus on public-policy decision making, particularly on territorial and environmental issues, especially at the local and multi-scale levels. The scope must be to mitigate inequality, violence and environmental degradation, and to propose different territorial visions. To this end, interdisciplinarity or disciplinary hybridization is advisable, provided the effort is based on a strong disciplinary background

Keywords : Geographic thought; Latin America; Historiography.

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