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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M. Las regiones culturales y sus usos: la interpretación de paisaje e identidad. In: Cortes, E. M. & Castaneda, R. Regiones culturales Culturas regionales. Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes; 2004:67-100.

Author(s) from Durham


The idea of cultural regions and regional cultures has a long pedigree in several disciplines and traditions, and in different national contexts. Indeed the variation of customs and habits across the face of the world seems one of the most basic elements experiencing the world. It is an impulse to curiosity, to travel, a source of misunderstanding and translation and sometimes conflict and hostility. Here I want to explore three consequences or issues thrown up by thinking of cultures as spatially patterning the world. The first is that of defining which culture occupies which territory. Typically we think of place and culture as bound together – each shaping the other, but I want to argue that our notion of these ‘regions’ and territories is at least as inflected by how the specific ways that have been used to interpret the world as by cultural patterns. In other words how do we define the ‘region’ or territory, and, relatedly, how do we define the culture. Second, this spatial patterning raises issues of scale. Thus we might at one level talk of ‘Latin American’ culture to refer to the shared histories of conquest, resistance and mixed Indian and Iberian heritage. At another level strong political claims are made by states to claim to legitimacy through the notion that one people form one state. In a problematic relationship to this then are accounts that see regional cultures within – and especially problematically – across nation state borders. These we might say are thus respectively epistemological and ontological issues with thinking about regions and cultures. The third point I want to make is more of a consequence of how we think about regional cultures. It is to think then about how these ideas are represented, popularised and instantiated in society. So here I am going to chart particular preservation efforts through especially open air museums. How they move from the realm of academic studies of folklore, ethnology, cultural geography into popular culture, political institutions and so forth. Of course it is not quite as simple as this since I will try and show that academic interest often derives from precisely popular sentiment and the cultural zeitgeist as much as intellectual curiosity.

Department of Geography