What is cultural geography

Christian Albrechts University in Kiel

Spaces and places are important to us. Although these meanings are subjective (i.e. not 'objective'), they are not a purely private matter. They are embedded in a collective inventory of commonly shared patterns of meaning and practices. If we refer to our environment in our actions, then we refer to this level of meaning rather than to the 'objective' reality. Places, spaces, things become real for us by giving them meaning.

This level of the attribution of meaning, which to a certain extent lies above 'objective' things and spaces, forms the starting point of cultural geography. In this sense, culture is all-encompassing and cannot be an object of study alongside others. A cultural-geographic approach is characterized less by its special object - in fact, everything can become an object of investigation in cultural geography - but rather by its special perspective, which is based on the meanings and everyday practices in which spaces, places and things are integrated.


You don't have culture, you make culture

There is no archive of cultural patterns of meaning. Culture exists only to the extent that it is practiced and 'embodied', produced and reproduced.

Culture is always in flux

Meanings are not fixed once and for all. As culture is produced and re-produced, it is constantly changing.

Culture is political

Meanings are controversial and contested. Many space-related conflicts are not just about competition for use but also about the 'sovereignty of interpretation' over a space or place.


Cultural geography is about how we experience spatiality in our everyday practices by means of culturally coded meanings and how we negotiate these spatial assignments with and against each other.

Read more: Research projects in the cultural geography group