This chapter is intended to help you better understand the diversity of cultures across the globe. First, the chapter presents the various components of culture. Then each component is described in terms of its relevance to the AP Human Geography Exam. Each component is detailed with examples both domestic and international. This is followed by discussions on the spatial aspects of cultural identity, cultural change, adaptation, globalization, and conflicts based on cultural differences.
WHAT IS CULTURE?
Let’s be honest. Despite studying cultural geography for several years, the author personally doesn’t have a stock answer to this question. However, you’ve paid good money for this book, so you deserve something better than waffling. The human geography textbooks all give a definition that says something like this:
Culture is the shared experience, traits, and activities of a group of people who have a common heritage.
While a definition of culture technically exists, it’s too abstract in nature to be of any use. Therefore, instead of trying to tell you what culture is, we’ll give you the many components of the cultural landscape.
THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Almost everything we see and hear in the human landscape expresses some form of culture. Culture is complex, and trying to take it all in and make sense of it can be confusing. To get a better grip on culture, we first have to understand how it is found on the cultural landscape. We can see the cultural landscape in the form of signs and symbols in the world around us—which is a general way of saying that there are different ways customs are imprinted on the several components of culture. Here is a list of the components of culture (in the order in which we’ll discuss them in this chapter) to give you a simpler way of understanding culture in general and how it is expressed:
Film and Television
Each component of culture is expressed in a multitude of ways that signify and symbolize cultural influences. These historical influences can be as simple as the language used on a street sign or as complex as the cooking methods and spice mix in Louisiana Cajun food. To prepare you, this chapter will detail each relevant component of culture and provide examples that will help you answer cultural geography questions on the exam.
Reading the Cultural Landscape
In some ways, we can think about the cultural landscape as a form of text that can be read. We can read the signs and symbols that we see within the different components of culture and understand that place’s cultural background and heritage. This takes a keen eye to see, and it helps to know some history of the place to translate what you are seeing.
What we find is that some things are original to a single culture, but most things in the cultural landscape are the product of cultural synthesis, or syncretism—the blending together of two or more cultural influences.
An example of cultural synthesis is country music in the United States and Canada. It is often thought of as a product of American culture and is strongly tied to folk music traditions such as bluegrass. However, when we research the origins of country music, we find a culmination of influences from the Scots-Irish, the German, and African immigrants and slaves in the American South and Appalachia following the American Revolution. The mixture of musical sounds, vocabulary, rhythms, and instruments from these four culture groups came together to form a new style of music, as well as later developing into other American musical styles like jazz, the blues, and rock and roll.
The Components of Culture Explained
Whether something is original to a single culture or is the product of cultural synthesis, it is important to understand the underpinnings of the things we see in the cultural landscape. Combined, the many components come together to identify and define a single culture group, or nation.
Not all of these components are going to be questioned on the AP exam. For each relevant component, we will give you detailed geographical examples from Anglo-America and internationally to help broaden your perspective on the subject.
Different artistic forms are important signs of a cultural imprint on the landscape. However, art is not a subject that the AP Human Geography Exam tests. Be able to express art’s importance as an identifier of groups and source of local pride if asked a general question on cultural landscape.
Unlike art, architecture questions have appeared on the exam, so you need to be aware of a number of architectural styles. Housing types and religious buildings are especially relevant. These questions are most likely going to fall in the multiple-choice section of the exam and will have a picture or diagram to examine or decipher.
Within the built environment of the human landscape, we find a multitude of architectural forms that are the product of cultural influence. When new buildings are constructed, much news is made over innovative designs in modern and contemporary architecture. This is in contrast to the existing forms of traditional architecture, some of which has been used for centuries.
Modern Versus Contemporary Architecture
As in the art world, architects have a distinct modern period of architecture which differs from new, or shall we say contemporary, forms. Be specific when describing a home or building type. Modern means architecture developed during the 20th century that expresses geometric, ordered forms such as the 1950s homes of Frank Lloyd Wright (seen below) or the rectangular steel and glass skyscrapers built in the 1970s and 1980s.
In contrast, the contemporary architecture of the present is more organic, with the use of curvature. Postmodern is a category within contemporary that means that the design abandons use of blocky rectilinear shapes in favor of wavy, crystalline, or bending shapes in the form of the home or building. Contemporary architecture can also incorporate green energy technologies, recycled materials, or nontraditional materials like metal sheeting on the exterior. This is exemplified in the Frank Gehry design of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, or the Walt Disney Theater in Los Angeles (seen below).
Traditional architecture can express one of two patterns in building type. One form of traditional architecture seen in new commercial buildings incorporates the efficiency and simplicity of modern architecture into a standard building design with squared walls and utilizes traditional materials like stone, brick, steel, and glass. The other expression of traditional architecture is seen in housing based upon folk house designs from different regions of the country. New homes built today often incorporate more than one element of folk house design like a hybrid Swiss chalet–Williamsburg-style home covered in stucco, with a clay tile roof. Let’s go over the basic traditional housing style forms that could appear on the exam.
New England: Small one-story pitched roof Cape Cod style or the irregular roof Saltbox with one long pitched roof in front and a sort of low-angle roof in back (seen below).
Federalist or Georgian: Refers to the housing styles of the late 1700s and early 1800s in Anglo-America. These are often two- or three-story urban townhomes connected to one another. Architectural elements around windows and rooflines feature classical Greek and Roman designs and stone carvings. As stand-alone buildings, these are symmetrical homes with central doorways and equal numbers of windows on each side of the house (seen below).
The I-house: A loose form of Federalist and Georgian influence on the average family home in the United States and Canada. Simple rectangular I-houses have a central door with one window on each side of the home’s front and three symmetrical windows on the second floor (seen below). However, as the I-house style diffused westward, the rectangle shape and symmetry was lost. Later I-houses have the door moved to the side and have additions onto the back or side of the house. The I-house giveaways are the fireplaces on each end of the house and an even-pitched roof. The loss of form as the I-house moved across the Appalachian Mountains to the Midwest and across the Great Lakes to the Prairie Provinces is an example of relocation diffusion.
Religious Buildings and Places
Another area of architecture the AP Human Geography Exam tests is religious architecture. Here are the major world religious groups and their representative architectural forms for places of worship.
Christian: Traditional houses of worship tend to have a central steeple or two high bell towers in the front of the building. The steeple is typical of smaller churches, and bell towers are found in larger churches and cathedrals. Basilicas, like St. Peters in the Vatican or St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, have central domes similar to the U.S. Capitol building. Symbolically, older churches, cathedrals, and basilicas feature a cross-shaped floor plan.
Hindu: Temples and shrines tend to have a rectangular-shaped main body and feature one or more short towers of carved stone. The towers often feature stepped sides and display carvings of the heads and faces of deities. The most famous example of this design is the temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, India, is shown below.
Buddhist: Temples and shrines vary depending on which Buddhist tradition is followed in the region. In Nepal and Tibet, a temple can be a stupa, with a dome or tower featuring a pair of eyes. In East Asia, the tower-style pagoda has several levels, each of which features winged roofs extending outward. Temples and shrines in China and in Shinto Japan (a Buddhist offshoot) feature one- or two-story buildings with large, curved, winged roofs (seen below). Temples are often guarded by large lion statues, such as those at the Temple of the Sun and Moon in the Forbidden City of Beijing. Temples in Southeast Asia tend to have several towers with thin pointed spires that point outward at an angle (seen below).
Islamic: Mosques can take a variety of forms, though many have central domes. The giveaway feature of a mosque is one or more minarets, narrow towers that are pointed on top. Famous mosques include the Al-Kaaba Mosque in Mecca, the most holy place in Islam, an open-air mosque with a large black cube at its center (seen below).
The third most holy place in Islam is the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem that sits alongside the Dome of the Rock, an eight-sided mosque with a high central dome and thin spire on top featuring a crescent moon. Another large mosque is the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. A former Eastern Orthodox cathedral, it has a broad central dome and fours spires, one in each corner of the square-shaped building. Almost all mosques are built on an angle that places the main prayer area toward Mecca.
Judaic: There is not a common architectural design style to synagogues. The most holy place in Judaism is the Western Wall of the former Temple of Solomon, next to the Dome of the Rock. Known as the Wailing Wall, the old foundation walls feature large rectangular stone blocks where Jews pray and place written prayers in the cracks between the blocks.
When we think about language, we most often think about the common tongue of the country that we live in. In terms of official languages, the United States federal government has not designated one. Some states have English-only laws and provisions. These affect education standards and state government publications such as driver’s licensing exams, since much of the United States tends to be monolingual (knowing one language—English—only). Other states such as California accept that they have a large multilingual immigrant population and have made provisions (especially for public safety) to provide some services in multiple languages including Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
In Canada, there are two official languages: English and French. Therefore, Canada is bilingual. Another example of a multilingual society is the Netherlands. In school, students not only learn their native Dutch, but are also required to learn English, French, and some German. Likewise, it’s common in South Africa for citizens to be able to speak varying levels of English, Afrikaans (a Dutch derivative), and one or more African languages such as Xhosa, Sotho, or Zulu.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!
Depending upon where you are in a larger linguistic region, the way a common language is spoken can sound different, depending upon who is speaking it. In the global English linguistic region, dialect changes from nation to nation. Although the English spoken by English people and Australian people sounds similar, there is a distinct “strain” of English spoken in Australia with a variety of different word sounds and vocabulary. Even between the United States and Canada there are subtle differences, such as the strong Canadian “O” in the word about, pronounced “a-boat.” Within countries, dialect can change from region to region, such as the changes heard when traveling in the United States from New England to the American South.
Cheerio! Or Not!?
Even within Great Britain, varieties of dialect are shaped in part by national heritage. English spoken in England proper is quite different from English in the other nations or culture areas of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, or the Isle of Man. These variations are due in part to the degree of Celtic influence and the degree to which Anglo-Saxon invaders, who brought their Germanic language with them, settled in the region during the first millennium C.E. What some refer to as the King’s English or “posh” English is linguistically known as received pronunciation. Conversely, Cockney English is the language of the working-class areas of the East London docklands and surrounding neighborhoods, which sounds distinctly not posh. Cockney is also thought to be very influential in the formation of Australian English.
It’s the Dog’s Bollocks
Cockney rhyming slang is an odd but humorous use of code phrases to describe everyday situations. In slang, “going up the apples” means going up the stairs; stairs rhymes with pears, heard in the fruit markets as “apples and pears,” and thus, stairs is replaced with apples. This can be seen in the 2001 movie Ocean’s Eleven with the character Basher, played by Don Cheadle, who when confronted with a major problem cryptically tells the gang that “We’re in Barney!” And then has to explain, “Barney Rubble!?! Trouble!”
Pidgin, Creole, and Patois
Slang is similar to other heavily modified dialects of pidgin English. Pidgin languages are simplified forms of the language that use key vocabulary words and limited grammar. This is often heard in the spoken English of Hindustani Indian immigrants to Britain, Canada, and the United States.
Pidgin language forms can evolve into their own individual language groups over time. In Haiti, French Creole is spoken, which incorporates continental French with African dialectal sounds and vocabulary. In fact, many of the French overseas territories (departments outré mer, or DOM) have their own forms of patois, like the one spoken in the islands of Martinique or Reunion, formed by local or immigrant linguistic syntheses. Pidgin, Creole, and patois can all be thought of as syncretic language forms that integrate both colonial and indigenous language forms.
Eet Iz zee Lingua Franca, Monsieur
French itself has long been a language used to bridge the linguistic gap between people of different national heritage. So much so that the term lingua franca was coined to describe its utility as a bridge language. Why franca? France has long been a center for learning, literature, and diplomacy. There were also a number of French colonies around the world, and Great Britain has long had territorial claims in France, necessitating French literacy among British aristocrats, diplomats, and merchants.
Today English is accepted as the global lingua franca as different forms of popular culture media, the Internet, and the business world are dominated by the English language. A notable use is that English is the required language of all airline pilots and air traffic controllers around the world. This is done mainly for safety reasons, but is evidence of the United States and Britain’s international business dominance in the post–World War II era.
Major Language Families
Around the world, there are a small number of major language families represented by the early or prehistoric language roots. The largest members of these language families are as follows:
Indo-European (2.9 billion people)
Sino-Tibetan (1.3 billion people)
Niger-Congo (435 million people)
Afro-Asiatic (375 million people)
Austronesian (346 million people, from Southeastern Asia, Oceania, and Hawaii)
Dravidian (230 million people, from on and around the Indian subcontinent)
Altaic (165 million people, from Eastern Europe through Central and Eastern Asia)
Japanese (123 million people)
Tai-Kadai (81 million people)
Each language family can be broken into language groups. Some larger language families such as the Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan can be broken down into language subfamilies and then into smaller language groups. For example, the English language draws from the Indo-European family, Germanic subfamily, and Western Germanic group, along with German Dutch and Afrikaans. Hindi is also from the Indo-European family, but from the Indo-Iranian subfamily and Indian group along with Bengali and Nepali. The Indo-European concept is derived from linguistic analysis and genetic evidence of prehistoric migrations from the Indian subcontinent into Europe. These early immigrants brought their Indo-European root language with them, which then divided locally and evolved into the contemporary European languages of today.
Anatolian or Kurgan Theories
There are two competing theories regarding the origins of European language, each with its own hearth, or launching point. The Anatolian theory holds that this group of migrants from the Indian subcontinent and their language were for some time concentrated in the peninsula that makes up most of present-day Turkey, known historically as Asia Minor or Anatolia. From there, a large migration crossed the Hellespont into continental Europe and spread outward into what was possibly a relatively unpopulated region.
The Kurgan theory holds that the same group of migrants from the Indian subcontinent instead made their way into Central Asia, and then migrated across the Eurasian steppe into central and Western Europe, taking their language with them. Without significant archaeological discovery or possibly extensive genetic research, it will be difficult to prove whether either theory holds true. (See the map below.)
Europeans from India?
Genetic research shows that almost all Europeans are derived genetically from populations that in prehistoric times inhabited the Indian subcontinent. There are a number of hypotheses as to why this light-skinned population, similar to many light-skinned Aryan Indians, pulled up their roots and moved west. But we can tell that they did take their language and genes with them. Unusual genetic markers such as the Celtic trait for red hair are drawn from the Himalayan foothills of what is today northern India and Pakistan, where people with red hair can still be found. It’s some weird stuff!
Like language, music is a form of nonmaterial culture that has geographic roots and regional variation. You should know a few things about the geography of musical culture since it can show up on the AP exam.
Folkies and Pop Stars
Music that is original to a specific culture is categorized as folk music. Folk music traditions often incorporate instruments unique to that region or have orchestrations that are specific to that culture. Folk song lyrics often incorporate cultural stories and religious tradition, which can be described as folklore. It tends to be “unplugged” as well, without electronic instruments.
By contrast, popular culture generates a global flow of pop music that often has the effect of drowning out local folk music traditions from radio and other media. In the cases where you do hear electronic instrumentation in folk music, this indicates a form of acculturation in which folk traditions are accepting the influence of popular music.
Fiddlin’ and Pickin’
As was mentioned earlier in this chapter, American folk music and contemporary popularized country music have origins in Scots-Irish, German, and African culture. Folk traditions in Appalachia are often realized by the playing of the fiddle, a variant of the European violin, and the banjo—an instrument of African origin. The most popular folk music type in the region is bluegrass, which originated in Kentucky (known as the “Bluegrass State” after both the plant and the music). In bluegrass, fiddle and banjo are the lead instruments. There are a number of other folk styles across Appalachia; the region stretches from Mississippi to the Maritime provinces.
“We Got Both Kinds of Music: Country and Western!”
Bluegrass has heavily influenced contemporary country music, and more recently, so has rock and roll. The difference between bluegrass and country is that country music tends toward the guitar as the lead instrument. The guitar is linked back from country to Western music and from there, back to the Spanish Americans of colonial Mexico and the American Southwest. Besides Kentucky, there are the other hearths, or historic development cores, of country music.
Folk Music Forms and World Music
Many of the recordings sold today in the United States and Canada as World Music are actually products of folk musicians from other culture groups. Of these, one of the most popular groups is the top-selling Gypsy Kings. The band is from France, but their families had left Spain decades earlier due to persecution by the Franco-led fascist government of Gypsies, who are also known as Roma or Romani in Europe. The Gypsy Kings play from a variety of folk traditions and languages, including their native Roma to Spanish flamenco, as well as Basque and Catalan folk songs, which they have popularized.
Celtic folk music traditions are played anywhere Celts, Irish, Welsh, Scots, Manx (from the Isle of Man), (Spanish) Galicians, or (French) Bretons or their migrant descendents are found. Irish Celtic music has a particularly large following. The traditional music features a multitude of instruments including the fiddle, flute, tin whistle, harp, concertina accordion, bodhrán drum, and “Uilleann” or Irish pipes—the smaller cousin of the Scottish bagpipes. Today, it is common to hear Pan-Celtic music that draws from more than one Celtic region and utilizes other non-Celtic instruments like guitar, banjo, and bouzouki (a Greek mandolin).
Next time you listen to country or bluegrass, see if you can pick out the Celtic Scots-Irish folk musical influence.
Film and Television
Different forms of film and television are important signs of a cultural imprint on the land. However, film and TV, like art, are not subjects that the AP Human Geography Exam tests. You should be able to express film and television’s importance if asked a general question on cultural landscape. Also, understand that these media forms are major conduits for cultural globalization, which is discussed on this page.
Food is a material form of culture that varies regionally and is rooted in a number of geographic ways. Continental cuisine refers to the formal food traditions that emerged from mainland Europe in the 1800s. It is embodied in haute cuisine, French for “high cooking,” where traditionally a main meat course is served with a flour, cream, or wine-based sauce and side dishes of vegetables and potato. Some haute cuisine dishes favored in North America are duck à l’orange, filet mignon, and chocolate mousse as a dessert. This style of cooking can also include regional influences from folk traditions in France such as escargots (snails in garlic butter) from Provence in Southern France and coq au vin (rooster in red wine sauce) found in a number of regions—these are foods of the French farmer raised to a higher form.
And You Thought Arnold Schwarzenegger Was the Only Austrian in Malibu…
Nouvelle cuisine is the contemporary form of the continental styles mainly from France, Spain, and Italy. Although there is a strong nouvelle style in France, the lighter, fresh fare of California-style cuisine has become very popular worldwide. Gone are the heavy sauces in favor of healthier sauce applications with citrus juices, olive oil, or white wine atop a lighter variety of meats including salmon, chicken breast, or mahi mahi. These have been popularized by celebrity chefs such as the Austrian-born Californian Wolfgang Puck, who utilizes a number of Mediterranean agriculture products such as avocados, artichokes, olives, and citrus fruits in his dishes.
Wolfgang Puck is also seen as a proponent of fusion cuisine, in which more than one global tradition is incorporated in dishes. Japanese-American celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi in Honolulu is one of the leaders of the fusion movement that integrates dishes and flavors from Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Polynesia, and Europe. Hawaii’s location makes it a place of heavy immigration from these parts of the world, where cultural synthesis in food and other cultural components such as music takes place.
Folk Dishes From Around The World: Japanese Sushi
Of course, all of these forms are based on original forms of folk food dishes. Sushi is a simple but artistic form of folk food from Japan. The simplest sushi is sashimi, raw fish cut in a special manner to sever potentially harmful parasitic worms—did we just ruin the maguro for you? Sashimi on a small pat of rice is another simple folk form called nigiri. Sushi has also become stylized in the contemporary form with special rolls, makizushi or just maki: Inside seaweed wraps (nori) are sticky rice and a variety of ingredients like raw, smoked, or fried seafood and fresh vegetables. The condiment wasabi is also part of this folk food tradition; it’s pickled horseradish root, and it’s spicy!
I Thought Hummus Was Soil?
The Moroccan folk food tradition utilizes a number of regional ingredients from the Mediterranean and North Africa. Main dishes incorporate familiar meats such as chicken and lamb, since cattle are rare in North Africa and pork consumption is haraam, or banned by Islam. Permitted meats must be slaughtered under religious rules to be halal, or fit for consumption by Muslims. Meat is often served with couscous (a very small-grained pasta), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and root vegetables grown in the high Atlas Mountains. Food is flavored with a variety of spices including cinnamon, turmeric, and saffron and is often cooked in a traditional clay pot known as a tajine. Chickpeas can also be ground and mixed with a sesame seed paste called tahini, along with olive oil, salt, and lemon to make hummus, which is increasingly popular in Europe and Anglo-America as a dip served traditionally with toasted pita bread. (Don’t get it confused with humus, the organic material in soil.)
Different clothing styles are other signs of a cultural imprint on the landscape. However, clothing, like art, is not a subject that the AP Human Geography Exam tests students. Do be able to express clothing’s importance, if asked a general question on cultural landscape, since the way people dress is an important sign of their ethnicity. Note also that clothing, like film and TV, is a conduit for cultural globalization, discussed on this page.
Different types of social interaction are culturally constructed, meaning they were traditions devised by a specific culture group. Physical greetings are a basic example of culturally different social interaction. In the West, a handshake is a common physical greeting, whereas in Japan, the bow still holds as the primary formal greeting. The traditional New Zealand Maori physical greeting is the pressing together of the forehead and noses.
Formal, non-touching cheek kissing is another example. Kiss four times in Paris, France, upon greeting, twice on each side; in Serbia and the Netherlands, three times, right side first; twice in Spain, Austria, and Scandinavia; no kisses in Germany and the United Kingdom; and a variable number of kisses in Italy and Greece, where if you don’t know the local rules, it’s better to just extend a handshake.
Personal Space Violation?
Personal space also varies from country to country. If you like a large personal space bubble, you’ll feel uncomfortable in Peru, where it’s considered rude not to sit in an empty seat next to someone, even if they’re a stranger. Think about this the next time you select a seat at the movie theatre or on a bus.
Religions, also referred to as belief systems by some social scientists, are as numerous as languages. Like languages, specific religions are drawn from a number of larger global groups. Categorically, religions can be characterized by their expanse. Universalizing religions accept followers from all ethnicities worldwide; as opposed to ethnic religions, which are confined to members of a specific culture group. All organized religions have one or more books of scripture, said to be written of divine origin. They also have formal doctrine that governs religious practice, worship, and ethical behavior in society.
Religions and their component denominations can also be understood by their ability to compromise and change ideologically. Compromising religions are often cited for the ability to reform or integrate other beliefs into their doctrinal practices. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, are known to have little interest in compromising their beliefs or doctrine and strictly adhere to scriptural dictates.
Know Your World Religions
At the most basic level, there are three major traditions of belief systems, from oldest to most recent:
Animist Tradition: Various ethnic, tribal, and forms of nature worship
• Though geographically unrelated, these groups have common themes, worship practices, and morality tales, which define a right and ethical way to live.
• Animus means spirit in Latin. Animists share the common belief that items in nature can have spiritual being, including landforms, animals, and trees.
Hindu-Buddhist Tradition: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism
• The oldest universalizing religions began with Hinduism 5,000 years ago. These polytheistic (believing in more than one supreme god) denominations spread throughout Asia by the 1200s C.E.
• The commonalities are that there are many levels of existence, the highest being nirvana, where someone achieves total consciousness or enlightenment.
• One’s soul is reincarnated over and over into different forms. Karma, the balance between good and evil deeds in life, determines the outcome of reincarnation into a lower, similar, or higher form of existence in the next life.
Abrahamic Tradition: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
• Each of these religions has similar scriptural descriptions of the Earth’s genesis and the story of Abraham as a morality tale of respect for the will of God or Allah.
• Each is a monotheistic belief system with a singular supreme being. There can also be sub-deities such as saints, angels, and archangels.
• Significance is placed upon prophecy that predicts the coming or return of a messianic figure that defeats the forces of a satanic evil for souls of followers.
These traditions can be further broken down into major religious groups. Here is a quick and basic comparative guide to the world’s major religious groups, with diagrams of their diffusion patterns.
There are hundreds of animist belief systems. Here are two that are commonly described in human geography:
Who? The pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas and some descendants
When? From the last period of glaciation (18,000 years before present)
Where? Alaska to the Tierra del Fuego
Scripture: None. System based upon belief in a supreme or Great Spirit that oversees the universe. Instead, spiritual interpretation is provided by shamans, sometimes referred to as “medicine men” who are practitioners that lead worship and religious rites.
Doctrine: Depends upon tribal following. Prayers or appeals to sun, moon, animal spirits, and climatic features (wind and rain) are significant in most practices.
Denominations: Hundreds of different tribal interpretations
Historical Diffusion: By migration diffusion north to south through the Americas
Who? West African; Afro-Brazilian, and Afro-Caribbean descendents
When? From prehistory to present
Where? Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, and other states in the region; Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and other small communities in the region
Scripture: None. System based upon multiple deities that control different parts of the inhabited world. Like other animist groups, shamanism is part of the system of worship.
Doctrine: Depending upon the community. Common practices often attempt to bring worshippers in contact with deities and family ancestors in the spiritual world through different ceremonies, dance, and sacrificial practices.
Denominations: Distinct difference depending upon region and the degree of influence from parallel Christian worship by Voodoun followers.
Historical Diffusion: From West Africa relocation diffusion by forced migration under European-directed slavery to the Caribbean and coastal American mainland areas such as northern Brazil, Belize, and Louisiana.
Who? South Asians and some Southeast Asians
When? Earliest forms 7,500 years before present
Where? Mainly India; also today Bali in Indonesia, London, Manchester, and other parts of the former British Empire, with significant populations in Guyana, Trinidad, Fiji, Malaysia, and South Africa
Scripture: Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and other early Sanskrit religious texts
Doctrine: The main personal practice is to work continuously toward multiple reincarnations and eventually nirvana. Practice of temple-based worship and festivals to praise particular supreme gods, including humanistic forms Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, and animal forms Ganesha (elephant god) and Naga (serpent gods). Several doctrinal writings depict the historical moral traditions and practices.
Denominations: Different denominations are often based upon cults to deities. And based upon a hierarchical caste system, which is based upon the reincarnation principle, in which people are born into a particular social level where they remain for the rest of their lives.
Historical Diffusion: Expansion diffusion from the Hindu hearth in Northern India. Later relocation diffusion across the Bay of Bengal to Southeast Asia (consider the historical Hindu temple complex at Angkor Wat in Cambodia) and to Indonesia where a remnant population is found today on the island of Bali.
Who? A fundamentalist interpretation of Hinduism
When? Around 2,900 years before present
Where? Western India
Scripture: Several texts collectively known as Agamas. The most commonly cited is the Tattvartha Sutra.
Doctrine: At the core of religious practice is the complete respect for all other animal life, in that every living soul is potentially a divine god. Followers are strict vegetarians and often wear face masks to prevent the inhalation of insects.
Denominations: Three main groups exist that differ in practice and worship.
Historical Diffusion: Some Jain communities relocated to places such as Great Britain during the colonial period, 1830s to 1940s. Mohandas Gandhi’s mother was a devout Jain and her compassion for all life influenced her son’s civil rights and peace activism.
Who? An ideological following that rejected the caste system and other Hindu practices
When? About 2,500 years before present
Where? Hearth in the Gangetic Plain (Ganges river basin) of North Central India and spread throughout Asia (see map on the following page)
Scripture: Early Hindu texts combined with the Tipitaka (aka “Pali Canon”), part of which contains the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism
Doctrine: A main doctrinal difference with Hinduism is the belief that nirvana can be achieved in a single lifetime, with intensive study, meditation, and moral thought. This is through an understanding of the effects of suffering on human life and the following of a “Middle Way” or non-extremist pathway toward enlightenment. Buddhism also rejected the Hindu caste system as oppressive and not in line with Buddhists’ view of human suffering.
Denominations: Three distinct traditions: Tibetan (Vajrayana); Southeast Asian (Theravada); and East Asian (Mahayana), each broken into smaller regional and philosophical denominations. Tibetan Buddhists tend to be universalizing, accepting westerners into their community but uncompromising in their beliefs. Theravada tends to be far less universalizing and does not compromise their traditions; Mahayana Buddhism is both universalizing and compromising. This Eastern tradition incorporates a number of different philosophical forms such as Zen, Confucianism, Shinto, and Taoism.
Historical Diffusion: Several examples of Buddhism relocating across physical barriers: Tibetan Buddhism across the Himalayas and Tarim Basin desert to Siberia and Mongolia; Theravada from Sri Lanka across the Bay of Bengal to Southeast Asia; and Mahayana across the Himalayas to Eastern China.
Caste System in India
The Hindu scriptures describe a cosmology (a belief in the structure of universe) in which there are several levels of existence, from the lowest animal forms to human forms and then higher animal forms, which are considered sacred, such as cattle, elephants, and snakes. The levels are known as chakras. As a soul is reincarnated it can be elevated to a higher chakra, if the soul has a positive karmic balance. Karma is the balance between the good and evil deeds in one’s life.
Once someone is born into a caste, he remains there for the rest of his life, no matter how rich or poor he becomes. The lowest human forms, dalits, are considered less holy due to their distance from nirvana on the chakras, whereas the Brahmans, the highest human form, are considered the priesthood of Hindus due to their relatively close position to the enlightened. Here are the five levels, or varna, within the human chakra that define the caste system in Hinduism (from highest to lowest):
• The priestly caste. Brahmans are responsible for temples and leading religious worship.
• Some can be selected as high government officials. Others may eschew all material possessions to live as monks, who might live as hermits meditating or as ascetics who sit on sidewalks and perform prayers for those who provide their food donations.
• The aristocratic and warrior caste. Despite their political power, hereditary princes and kings still bow to the Brahmans.
• Many are landowners, government leaders, and wealthy businesspeople.
• The merchant and professional caste.
• These tend to be the doctors, lawyers, accountants, and middle-ranking officials in the government.
• Mohandas Gandhi was born into the vaisya caste and trained as a lawyer prior to his life as a human rights leader.
• The caste of tradespeople and farmers.
• The caste is broken up into several hundred sub-castes, or jati, including potters, glassworkers, and jewelers.
• The “untouchables,” a name derived for their low position in the system and considered unholy by higher castes. Dalits were often segregated from other Hindu housing areas and social networks.
• Dalit sub-castes were divided among trades and duties in the community such as leather work (cattle are sacred, and only the lowest-caste humans could handle their flesh) and cleaning of train stations and sewers.
• Elected in 1997, Indian President K. R. Narayanan was born into the dalit caste, and he has been a symbol of affirmative action for the untouchables.
Since India gained independence in 1947, its government has initiated a number of efforts to eliminate the caste structure in Indian society. There have been several programs to elevate the social and political standing of the lower castes, including compulsory elementary education, and opening public trade schools, high schools, and universities to large numbers of lower-caste members who had been discriminated against in the past.
Caste difference in Indian cities have become minimal, while it is still recognizable in rural India. Among many Indian families, marriage is still one area in which there is an emphasis on caste, as most traditional parents desire their children to marry within their caste.
Who? Larger groups including European Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardic Jews from North Africa, and the Middle East and Native Israelis known as Sabra.
When? Over 5,700 years before present. January 1, 2017, was during the year 5777 on the Hebrew calendar.
Where? Hearth in Israel, peripheral communities in Europe, United States, and Canada, particularly the metropolitan area around New York City and other urban areas worldwide, such as London, Antwerp, Paris, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Cleveland
Scripture: Torah (includes several books also used in the Christian old Testament) and Talmud
Doctrine: Varies between groups. Shared between all are the atonement for sins annually during Yom Kippur
Denominations: Hassidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionism
Historical Diffusion: The Jewish Diaspora begins in 70 C.E. with the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, where Jews were forced out to other parts of the Empire. The post-WWII era following the Nazi Holocaust marks the beginning of the Jews’ movement to Israel from Europe. Conflicts in the 1950s and 1960s caused migrations from North Africa and the Middle East to Israel.
Who? Originates in the Roman Empire but not recognized officially until the 4th century C.E.
When? Following begins around 30 C.E.; begins expansion outside the Mediterranean in the 6th century.
Where? Europe, the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Philippines, Austronesia
Scripture: Bible, divided into an Old Testament, a modification of the Torah and sharing major dictates such as the Ten Commandments; and a New Testament, which depicts the messianic life of Jesus of Nazareth and includes the writings of his disciples and early followers
Doctrine: Varies depending on the denomination. Typically involves communion practices and baptisms.
Denominations: Eastern Orthodox, Armenian, Antiochian, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Roman Catholic, Protestant; each can be subdivided into further denominations.
Historical Diffusion: From the Mediterranean hearth, Christianity diffused hierarchically to large cities such as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Marseilles. From there missionaries spread the religion to other towns and cities where it diffused to smaller communities. These patterns of diffusion become recognizable through the hierarchy of the Holy See, archbishoprics, bishoprics, and local parishes.
Who? Originates with the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula along the Red Sea, particularly Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah
When? Early 600s C.E.
Where? Today the Islamic realm spans from Mauritania in West Africa, east to Indonesia and the Philippine Island of Mindanao; north to Chechnya, Kazakhstan, and Xinjiang in Western China; and south to Tanzania
Scripture: Koran (Quran), the scriptures received by Muhammad
Doctrine: Haddith, the recorded sayings of Muhammad. All sects emphasize at least five pillars of Islam, if not more.
Denominations: Sunni (85 percent) and Shia (15 percent) sects with a number of denominations within, such as the Ismaili Shiite and Wahabi Sunni. Differences between the two major sects are based upon the emphasis by Shiites on the necessity for Imams (religious leaders) to have a direct blood line back to Muhammad.
Historical Diffusion: From Mecca, Islam diffused in an expansion pattern in all directions very quickly. By 700 C.E., all of the Middle East and much of North Africa was adherent to Islam. Further expansion into Europe and Asia occurred through to the 1600s. Some relocation diffusion was seen, such as that to Indonesia in the 1200s.
Islamic States: Theocracy, Sharia, and Secular Governance
You may have learned that a few countries in the Middle East are theocracies, where religious leaders hold the senior positions of governance. In fact, only Iran has a supreme religious council that serves as the head of state and can overrule the elected parliament and president. Some but not all Middle-Eastern states are republics or monarchies that abide by Sharia, or Islamic law, based on the Koran and Haddith. A few absolute monarchies (that unlike constitutional monarchies have no elected parliament) have all-powerful kings and large aristocracies, who in turn enforce religious standards on the populace.
Other states in the region are more secular, meaning they are not directly governed in a religious manner and instead often utilize French or British legal tradition and government structure. Even in these states, the influence of religion on government policy remains, and tension between the secular government and religious activists can cause difficulty or violent conflict.
Here are a few Middle-Eastern examples of each case:
||Iran, formerly Afghanistan under the Taliban
||Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen
There are some religions, known as syncretic religions, that synthesize the core beliefs from two or more other religions. Examples of these include the Druze, who incorporate both Christian and Islamic principles, and the Sikhs, who incorporate principles from both Islam and Hinduism. Like Buddhists, Sikhs reject the concept of a caste-based social hierarchy.
Moral Principles in the Abrahamic Traditions: The Five Pillars of Islam
The Judeo-Christian system has its Ten Commandments from the Book of Exodus, which serves as a basic moral code for all followers. Likewise, the Koran emphasizes five pillars that guide followers with a moral system. The five pillars of Islam are as follows:
1. Five Daily Prayers
• The call to prayer is heard on loudspeakers in cities throughout the Muslim world at designated hours.
• For the devout, all work stops and prayer mats are unrolled.
• Prayer is done facing Mecca. Islamic astronomers and geographers have for centuries worked to determine the azimuth, the angle of direction, from Mecca to other parts of the Earth.
2. Islamic Creed
• “There is only one god, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
• The creed is a statement of monotheism. Prior to Muhammad’s religious conversion of the Arabian peninsula, many of the peoples in the region believed in polytheistic Animist or tribal religions.
• Muslims believe in a number of prophets shared with the Judeo-Christian traditions, such as Moses, Isaac, Ishmael, and Jesus, but Muhammad is the supreme prophet, as he is the author who received the Koran from Allah.
3. Alms to the Poor
• It is the duty of all Muslims to care for and donate to the poor and sick within their communities.
• Large charitable foundations in the Islamic world help alleviate poverty, extend health care, and educate children.
• Many of these international charities have come under increased scrutiny by the U.S. government following September 11, 2001, due to accusations that charities were being used to funnel money to terrorist groups.
4. Observance of Ramadan
• Ramadan is a period of spiritual cleansing and repentance for past sins.
• During Ramadan, there is fasting during daylight hours, with plain evening meals of sparing quantity.
• Ramadan, like the Christian Easter and Lenten period, the Jewish holidays, and Buddhist New Years, is set on a lunar calendar. The lunar month of Ramadan can fall during a wide range of months in our Gregorian calendar.
5. The Hajj
• Each Muslim who is able must make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca during his lifetime. “Haji” is an honorific name for those who make the journey.
• The most popular time for the Hajj is during Ramadan, when Mecca can swell with several hundred thousand visitors.
• Even prior to the 20th century, Hajis made multi-month-long voyages across desert and oceans to complete the pilgrimage.
Folklore are the collected stories, spoken-word histories (such as Norse sagas), and writings that are specific to a culture and tell the societal histories and morality tales that define a culture’s ethical foundations. The morality tales serve a purpose similar to religious scriptures, dictating culturally constructed rules of behavior. Aesop’s fables are an example of folklore from the classical Greeks. Each fable had a moral to the story, a lesson to be learned regarding proper behavior. Many American forms of folklore (referred to as tall tales), such as Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Mike Fink, mix a bit of the unreal to tell tales of a strong work ethic, a product of Puritan Protestantism.
When a culture’s history and its folklore intersect, it can often lead to distortions of reality in the lives of historical figures, like the myth of George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree. Also see the stylized tales of American frontiersmen like Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett, whose Hollywood movie depictions have furthered fictions and half-truths about the long-dead historical persons.
Cristóbal Colón, American Hero? The Historical Geography of Folklore
In many parts of the Americas, a folklore has been built around the life and travels of Christopher Columbus. The myths and facts are intertwined and the folklore varies from country to country. Here’s a comparison of the folklore and truths regarding Columbus from the United States’ point of view:
“Columbus Discovered America.”
• Archaeological evidence shows that Norsemen (Scandinavian Vikings) established settlements on the northeastern tip of Newfoundland at L’Anse aux Meadows around 1000 C.E. These were likely abandoned 100 years later when a significant global climate cooling event resulted in crop failures. Settlers likely evacuated to other settlements in Greenland or Iceland.
• Columbus never saw or set foot on the mainland United States. He did explore Puerto Rico and also landed on the mainland of South and Central America.
“Columbus sailed the ocean blue with his ships the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.”
• Well, sort of. These are the ships he departed with in 1492 from Seville in Spain on his first voyage. What you might not know is that the Santa Maria struck a reef off the northern coast of what is today Haiti, the island Columbus named Hispañola.
• The shipwreck forced Columbus to leave behind 40 men at a colony named for the Spanish Queen, Isabella. This was in part to establish trade with the Indians. Upon Columbus’s return 366 days later on his second voyage, not a single sign of the 40 men was found at the village. This caused severe grief for Columbus and the other crew that had returned to rescue their comrades.
“Columbus was a famous Spaniard who gained the title ‘Admiral of the Seas.’”
• First, Columbus was Genoese (from Genoa—a coastal city in what is today northern Italy).
• Columbus sought funding for his expedition to the Indies (today’s India, Indonesia, and China), but was turned down by a number of potential donors when he proposed sailing westward across the Atlantic instead of around Africa, as was already done by the Portuguese.
• The Spanish Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella was receptive to Columbus’s plan for two reasons:
Spain was nearly bankrupt from years of war trying to remove the Muslim Moors from the southern Iberian Peninsula and needed the new trade route to raise money for their treasury. The western sailing route to land had been long rumored. Basque fisherman had likely sailed off the coast of Brazil and Canada following cod fish and Columbus was aware of their land sightings—assuming they were India.
The Portuguese were keen on protecting their African trade route and would likely fight to protect it. They also possessed sailing charts of the route, maps to which the Spanish did not have access.
• Columbus did receive the title of Admiral of the Seas but did not receive the promised 10 percent of treasure from the New World that the position was entitled to. Only after his death were his sons able to extract money from the Spanish government. Columbus was not a folk hero in Spain; he died blind in Spain in 1506 at the age of 54.
This may seem like a “historical” example. However, the Columbus myth and the settlement of Latin America is an area of extensive research in cultural geography. This kind of thing is fair game on the exam, and you need to be prepared for it. Read Carl Sauer’s Northern Mists about the Nordic voyagers and The Early Spanish Main for an accurate description of the Columbus voyages and the first Spanish settlement in the New World.
Land survey techniques can also reveal something about the cultural landscape. How property is utilized, shared, or divided can say something about culture through its imprint on the landscape.
Cultural differences in agriculture are not limited to the types of foods produced. How farming is done can also be culturally specific and is heavily influenced by technology. It is, after all, agri-culture. Cultural farming practices range from swidden, or a “slash and burn” style of agriculture seen in forest regions, to the highly technological large-scale farming seen in the First World. Keep in mind, traditional farming practices seen in the Third World are quickly disappearing in favor of modern, mechanized farming.
Blue Sheep’s Milk?
Also, don’t forget that in the First World there are still some significant culturally specific and low-tech farming practices. Examples of this can be found in Vermont with the production of maple syrup from trees. Or look to Europe for the production of regionally specific cheeses, such as Roquefort (a blue sheep’s milk cheese) in France or Parmagianno Reggiano (a hard cow’s milk cheese) in Italy. These are high-value appellations that designate a culturally specific farm product that brings high value. These appellations, including Champagne and Vermont Maple Syrup, have their name usage protected by international trade laws.
Find out more about appellations and specialized agriculture in Chapter 7.
How living space is distributed is also an important indicator of culture, especially in rural and tribal areas. Often, cultural traditions impose rules on living space that depend on singular clan relations, extended family units with more than one clan, or whole tribal communities with multiple clans living in one shared residential area.
For the distribution of urban land use, see Chapter 9.
As was mentioned in Chapter 3, in Europe, much of Latin America, and Anglo-America east of Central Ohio and Ontario, land surveys used natural landscape features to divide up land on a system of metes and bounds that had been developed in Europe centuries earlier. Metes and bounds are also evidence of the European feudalist political economy (see Chapter 6 for more details). In its early form, the irregular property boundaries were the territorial claims of large aristocratic landholdings.
Over time, these landholdings became subdivided via partial land sales or by nationwide land reform efforts. Land reform often divided properties into smaller polygons. France and French colonial areas such as Québec and Louisiana have long-lot patterns. These have a narrow frontage along a road or waterway with a very long lot shape behind.
As mentioned earlier in Chapter 3, new techniques in the 1830s were transferred from sea navigation to land survey; land survey in the United States and Canada used a rectilinear township and range survey system based on lines of latitude and longitude. This produced the block-shaped property lines and the geometric shape of many western U.S. states and Canadian provinces. It is also evidence of the impact of technology on the cultural landscape.
How people are identified and how they identify themselves is another important aspect of cultural geography. This section examines the several dimensions of identity that may appear on the exam.
Nation and Ethnicity
The term nation is used loosely in normal conversation. However, cultural geographers and political geographers have a specific definition for the term. A nation, in its most basic definition, is a population represented by a singular culture. Another term for nation would be a culture group. What defines a nation is a common identity, which is a complex of genetic heritage and political allegiance embodied in the term ethnicity. Ethnic groups often claim a single identifiable lineage or heritage, which all members tend to identify with as a common social bond. Keep in mind, as with our prior example of the English language, several ethnicities can exist within the same linguistic region. Likewise, within a single ethnicity more than one language can be used, such as the French Canadians, South Asian Indians, or Belgians.
Not all nations have a representative state, as a state in its most simple form is a population represented by a single government. This is the case with our previous music example of the Gypsies, Roma or Romani peoples of Europe. Likewise, the Kurds of northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, and western Iran are similar in that they are defined groups with no official government. The Kurds are attempting to establish a Kurdistan in what is today northern Iraq and northeastern Syria. However, the geopolitical relationship between the United States and Turkey prevents the Kurds from being recognized as a sovereign independent state.
Ethnicity can be modified in the process of migration. In the United States and Canada, there are many migrant groups, including Italian-Americans and Irish-Canadians. This modified ethnicity is more than symbolic, and can be evidence of acculturation by immigrants to culture in their new home country.
See the section on acculturation later in this chapter.
Ethnicity and race are two commonly confused cultural identifiers. Whereas ethnicity represents the national heritage of an individual, race refers to the physical characteristics of a common genetic heritage. The concept of race was developed by physical anthropologists in the 1800s. Researchers categorized racial groups based on a number of variables including skin color, bone structure, and the shape of the hair shafts (straight, wavy, or curly). Keep in mind that over time these formerly scientific ideas were used crudely as the basis for racism within society and have lead to oppression, suffering, and war throughout the world.
Racial Group Physiology
Three large, distinct racial groups emerged from this research: the Mongoloid or Asiatic, with a tan or yellowish skin tone, small body structure, and straight hair shaft; the Caucasian or Indo-European, with a light to dark skin tone, medium body type, and wavy hair shaft; and the Negroid or African, with a dark skin tone, medium body shape, and a curly hair shaft.
The Names Explained
Mongolians appeared to have physical features common to all Asians. Native Americans, who were at the time hypothesized to be from Asia, shared many Asiatic features with Mongolians. Archeological and genetic research has since added to a body of theory connecting Native Americans to origins in Asia. The Caucasus Mountains region, which separates Europe from Asia, is believed to have been a major migration route from the Indian subcontinent to Europe during the prehistoric era. The term negro is the Latin and French term for the color black.
The Pacific Islands
In addition, four small populations of physical anthropological groups were identified within the Pacific Islands. Melanesians, found in New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Fiji, so named because of their dark skin coloration, have comparatively thin bodies and angular facial features, with a curly hair shaft. Polynesians, living in Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii, have a lighter brown skin color, heavyset body shape, and curly hair shafts. Micronesians, the name coming from the small island atolls of the Marshalls and Caroline Islands, have a light brown skin color, medium body shape, and curly hair shafts. And Aboriginals in Australia have light brown skin, a medium body type, and wavy hair shafts.
Race and Identity
In the contemporary era, race has become less of an identifier. Oppression and discrimination based on race was popularly opposed and systematically deregulated in many countries during the latter part of the 20th century. Racism still exists today; however, the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president of the United States signifies progress.
For many parts the world, identity is based on a single race being the indigenous population—the people who originally settled an area. In other parts of the world, identities are defined by multiple mixed races. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, identity based on mixed races is the norm. Across the region, several thousand terms are used to describe varying degrees of mixed heritage.
For the purposes of the exam, we focus on the larger representative groups. Mestizos are people who have cultural and genetic heritage from European and Native American backgrounds. Mulattos are people who have mixed African and European heritage. (This term has fallen out of favor and use because of its history as a derogatory term.) There is one significant group of mixed Native American and African peoples, known as the Garifuna. The Garifuna live in the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent, Dominica, and Trinidad, as well as the coast of Honduras, including Roatan Island.
Creole is a term used to describe people or culture that is derived from all three racial groups—European, Native American, and African. Originally, the term in Spanish meant someone who was born in the New World, regardless of heritage, and could refer to colonists with two European parents. Creole heritage and culture is mainly found in the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica), as well as coastal Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, Belize, Colombia, and Brazil. An example of the Creole food culture would be gumbo. It’s a French Mediterranean soup like bouillabaisse with file, a spice used in Native American cooking made of sassafras. The rice first used in American cooking of gumbo in the 1600s was West African red rice.
Environmental Determinism and Racism
In the 1800s, at the same time anthropologists were establishing the physical characteristic of race, human geographers developed the concept of environmental determinism to explain cultural differences around the world. By definition environmental determinism is the former scientific ideology that states that a culture’s traits are defined by the physical geography of its native hearth or culture region. Contemporary human geography as a science was originally based on deterministic philosophies. The Anthropogeographie of the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel, considered the father of modern human geography, and his students such as American Ellen Churchill Semple, built a large body of research claiming that all aspects of culture were defined by physical geographic factors such as climate, landforms, mineral resources, timber, food, and water supplies.
The problem with environmental determinism was that science was being used to reinforce the racist ideologies of the 1800s and early 1900s. An example of this racist logic would be that people from extremely hot tropical regions are considered lazy, as they would not want to work during the midday heat. Conversely, people from colder regions had to be physically and mentally hardier to survive the cold winters. Although these ideas may seem plausible, they are scientifically incorrect and based on flimsy evidence. In truth, different races and culture groups are essentially the same physiologically, and each can survive in a multitude of climates and environments.
The Determinism Debate and Possibilism
Despite the global elimination of slavery by the late 1800s, racism and environmental determinism were widely accepted both socially and scientifically. To change the scientific perspective, human geographers including Carl Sauer debated and opposed the environmental determinists. Possibilism was the revised concept proposed by Sauer and other like-minded geographers. This ideology stated that cultures were to a partial degree shaped by their environment and the material resources available to them. However, culture groups have the ability to adjust and modify the environment. The research of Sauer and others from the 1920s onward showed that in many cases, cultures made massive modifications to the landscape to meet their food and resource needs, often destroying the natural environment in the process.
Nazism and Determinism: Be Careful What Science Creates!
Despite Sauer’s contribution of possibilism to the science of human geography in the 1920s, the deterministic ideas first proposed by Ratzel had become ingrained in the European society and psychology. The concepts of Nazism proposed by Hitler in the 1920s and put into practice in the 1930s were in part based on Ratzel’s concept of lebensraum, in which the living space for each distinct nation was based upon the optimal physical geography of the culture group. Hitler’s idea was to expand the living space of the Germanic or Aryan race across the European landscape. Of course, this was at the expense of other European ethnic groups, who by the way were also Caucasians.
Despite Germany’s defeat during World War II, Nazi ideologies still persist among some extremist groups in the United States and Europe. This neo-Nazism is not based on lebensraum or ethnicity, but is instead violent racism against non-whites and immigrants. This is also a violent expression of xenophobia, the fear of outsiders.
Internal Versus External Identity
How people express their identity is dependent on the audience with which they are communicating. Internal identity is used by individuals to express their cultural heritage, ethnicity, or place of origin to people who share their heritage or place of origin. External identity is used by individuals to express their cultural heritage, ethnicity, or place of origin to people who do not share a common cultural or geographic background.
Egyptian or Arab?
For example, imagine an Egyptian in London being introduced to another person of Egyptian descent. Immediately the conversation includes geographic specifics such as local place-names, family names, and culturally specific language. Compare this to that same Egyptian an hour later, meeting someone from Canada. In this conversation, there is little geographic specificity; just basic identifiers such as Egypt or terms like “near Cairo.”
On the other side of the conversation, the Canadian may have her own misconceptions, which can further distance the cultural goals between the two people. For instance, by referring to Egyptians as Arabs, the Canadian may lose face, as many Egyptians consider themselves a single culture group as opposed to those who live in the Arabian Peninsula, a few hundred miles away, despite their common language. From the Egyptian’s point of view, she might as well refer to the Canadian as an American. It is quite possible that we use external identity to compensate for the lack of cultural knowledge from one group to another.
SPATIAL CONCEPTS IN CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY
The world is covered with several overlapping culture regions that create multiple layers on the local to global scale. As stated in Chapter 3, a region is an area of bounded space with a homogeneous characteristic. In the case of culture regions, the homogeneous characteristic can be one or more components of culture, such as language. Likewise, the cultural concept of a nation or ethnicity can also represent the culture region. In these cases where ethnicity defines the culture region, look for a multitude of cultural components with which to define a number of homogeneous characteristics as a complex of defining factors.
The Fuzzy Borders of Cultural Regions
One of the things that sets apart cultural regions from other types of regions is its border characteristics. Cultural regions tend to have what are called fuzzy borders. They are referred to as fuzzy because it’s hard to tell where one cultural region ends and another begins. In addition, the transition from one cultural region to another is not easily measured, as compared to the way you can measure the transition between one bioregion to another. The fact is that cultural regions overlap in an irregular manner.
An example of a fuzzy border would be where Dixie ends and the American Northeast or Midwest begins. Some try to apply a political boundary to it, like the Mason-Dixon Line, but this is a very poor definition. The Mason-Dixon Line actually runs south and west of Delaware and north of Maryland. These are border states where one part of the state is decidedly Southern and another part seems more Northeastern. There’s no one place where you could put a road sign saying, “Welcome to Dixie!”
Others have attempted to quantify certain cultural symbols in the hope of determining Dixie’s regional boundary. If you were to estimate the concentration of NASCAR fans or the market areas of country music radio listeners, you might be able to see the extent of the Dixie culture region. However, you would find much inconsistency along its edges, and you would find that the phenomena of NASCAR and country music extends far beyond the South proper.
Our Ties to Ancient Culture Hearths
The culture hearth is based on the idea that every culture has a localized area where it originated or has its main population center. Contemporary culture hearths exist in today’s world. Human geographers also discuss the concept of ancient culture hearths, which developed ideas with technology that exist today. The most common of these technologies is the domestication of staple food crops.
In the ancient world, staple food crops were very important, as they fed the conquering armies of empires, provided sustenance for the labor force, and were the primary commodity for commercial trade networks. Most large ancient civilizations had a single staple food, which they either domesticated or utilized heavily. The following table provides some examples of ancient culture hearths and their staple food crops:
||Sumerian, Assyria, Babylon
|The Indus Valley
||Olmec, Maya, Aztec
|The Andean Highlands
|*Indicates place of original domestication.
The classical civilizations of Rome and Greece were also major consumers of wheat. However, wheat had been domesticated long before, in Mesopotamia. Archaeologists believed this occurred in what is present-day northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey. The cultural hearth of ancient Greece and Rome drew much of the culture traditions, such as their shared mythology, from the earlier Minoan culture of Crete. Likewise, Western societies today draw upon much from Greek and Roman politics, such as the concepts of democracy and the republic.
Culture Hearths of Today: Core and Periphery of Mormonism
Hearths can represent the core of a contemporary culture region. An example of a region with a distinct core and a wider periphery is the Mormon culture region of the American West. The Latter-Day Saints (LDS) religion, of course, is the homogeneous characteristic shared by the region. However, a distinct Mormon culture has emerged, evidenced by cultural products like the LDS film industry. LDS filmmakers have produced notable expressions of the region’s culture, such as the hit comedy Napoleon Dynamite.
The population and cultural core of the region is the Salt Lake City–Ogden-Provo metropolitan area, a long, continuous north-south urban corridor also known as the Wasatch Front. The area has around 1.5 million people, the majority of whom are practicing church members. At its cultural heart is Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, where the church has its main offices, a large convention center, and a historic temple and tabernacle.
Outside of the Wasatch Front, the region is predominantly rural and agricultural. The peripheral Mormon culture region spreads across the irrigated farms and dry ranchlands of Utah and the border region of the surrounding states of Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, and extends with significant populations in rural eastern Oregon and suburban Southern California. As you head farther away from the Wasatch Front, the cultural signs (the ward church house) and symbols (the beehive of industry) become fewer, especially when you leave Utah’s borders. But even in this peripheral region, Mormonism is still detectable and existent in the population. Las Vegas, Idaho Falls, Boise, Denver, Phoenix, and Los Angeles all have large active Mormon communities. Between 2010 and 2013, Mormonism was the fastest-growing Christian denomination, furthering the peripheral region to include states like North Dakota, New Mexico, and Virginia (having churches in 88% of U.S. counties).
Formal or Functional Culture Region?
As we discussed in Chapter 3, there are both formal regions, with homogeneity across the region, and functional or nodal regions, with a distinct central place. Functional regions can be defined as organized networks with a distinct node at the center and connections radiating throughout the region.
In the previous example, we could argue the Mormon culture region as both functional and formal to some degree. As a formal region, Mormon culture is evident through the population of followers who are concentrated in the Intermountain West. Even though not everyone who lives there is LDS, Mormons in the region are a large and distinguishable populace. Conversely, the Salt Lake City–based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the largest denomination in the LDS faith (there are a few much smaller LDS faiths), is a very well-organized and hierarchical network of neighborhood ward, local, state, and regional church administration that is coordinated from the Salt Lake City headquarters. As such, the Mormon culture region is also a functional or nodal region.
The Global Islamic Culture Region: Culture Hearth Versus Population Center
The culture hearth of Islam is the region along the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. Inland from the sea, at its heart is the most holy city of Islam, Mecca, where Muhammad was born. But don’t forget Islam’s second-most holy city of Medina, where Muhammad received a portion of the Koran. As centers of Islamic learning and traditional philosophy, these are the spiritual centers of the faith.
However, the Middle East is not a very well-populated area compared to other parts of the Islamic world. In fact, the majority of the world’s Muslims are not in the Middle East. If you combine the Islamic populations of Pakistan (160 million), India (120 million), Bangladesh (140 million), Malaysia (25 million), and the world’s largest Muslim state, Indonesia (210 million), you will find 66 percent, or two-thirds, of the world’s 1 billion Muslims.
Long-term cultural changes can be seen in all of the world’s populated regions. One way this is observed is through the concept of sequent occupance. That is, for a single place or region, different dominant cultures replace each other over time. To visualize this, think of layers of culture building up on top of each other, much like layers of sediment building up a geologic stratigraphy. When we examine the cultural landscape of a place, we often see remnants of previous cultural influences.
An example would be European architecture found in former colonial cities of Africa like Lagos, Nigeria. Deposited upon this is a postcolonial Nigerian landscape with modern buildings, a product of globalized architecture, and place names and street names with Nigerian references that replaced the British colonial names after independence in 1960.
New York City was at one point under British colonial rule (think of neighborhood place-names such as Greenwich Village, Williamsburg, and the borough of Queens). But prior to this, the city was controlled by the Dutch (place-names like Harlem, Van Cortlandt, and Stuyvesant). And before that, several Native American groups populated the shores of New York Harbor, which were rich in oysters and other seafood. Strata can be seen in construction site excavations along the waterfront where shell middens, large garbage dumps of mainly oyster shells and other artifacts of Native American life, are uncovered. Atop all these layers are signs and symbols of the postcolonial and modern American cultural occupants.
The cultural landscape also retains the imprint of minority and immigrant groups. The ethnic neighborhood is the best example of how these groups make their way into the layers of sequent occupance at a much smaller scale. In the case of New York, Little Italy or Chinatown immediately come to mind. You can also cite the example of Spanish Harlem, where Puerto Rican and Dominican immigrants settled from the 1950s onward.
Acculturate or Assimilate—Which is it?
When the European immigrants came to America in the early part of the 20th century, they adopted many new beliefs and behaviors in their new home. They still kept much of their original culture, but they learned the American norms as they adjusted to life in America. This is an example of acculturation—the process of adapting to a new culture while still keeping some of one’s original culture. Usually acculturation is a two-way street, with both the original and the incoming culture group swapping cultural traits.
Assimilation is more of an “all-or-nothing” process. Assimilation is a complete change in the identity of a minority culture group as it becomes part of the majority culture group. A great example of assimilation occurred when the U.S. government adopted a policy of “forced assimilation” of the Native American population. The government forced the Native Americans to move to reservations where they were taught in government-run schools. The people were made to learn English and give up their native tongue. The government insisted they adopt the dress, manners, language, and ways of the dominant American culture. The “old ways” were forbidden. This total absorption into the dominant culture is one-way and usually “encouraged” by government policy when the new residents are forced to learn the new languages and embrace the new ways.
In other parts of the world, national cultures have historically been threatened by outside influences, such as military invasions, mass migrations, or the decline of the indigenous culture. The term indigenous means the people who were the original occupants of a place or region. The indigenous culture is, therefore, the original culture of that same region. The loss of indigenous culture has become a significant concern among citizens and a major policy issue among governments. In some cases, the indigenous culture is merely threatened by external cultural influences. Yet in many other cases around the world, cultures are in danger of extinction if something is not done to help protect and promote the preservation of cultural heritage.
William Denevan and the Depopulation of Native Americans
One of the most important bodies of research on the destruction of indigenous culture groups is the work of geographer William Denevan on the depopulation of Native Americans in the early colonial era after 1492. By collecting years of archaeological research on the extent and productivity of agriculture by Native Americans, Denevan and allied researchers have established that the pre-Columbian population of North and South America combined was approximately 54 million people. By comparison, their research into colonial census data, collected journals, and colonial government reports revealed that the total native population had declined to around 5 million people by 1635.
Understanding what caused the massive indigenous population decline was the next part of Denevan’s research. By examining Spanish colonial-era documents, such as the journals of Jesuit priests, the logs of ship captains, and the personal diaries of other individuals, Denevan found that diseases of European origin were the main culprit behind the decline, which in some cases wiped out whole native culture groups. Diseases such as influenza, measles, and cholera were unknown to the Americas prior to the arrival of European colonists. Native Americans had no immune system defense against these pathogens to which they had not been previously exposed. As a result, diseases like the flu, which normally has very low mortality, resulted in deadly epidemics with very high rates of mortality among indigenous groups. Research has shown that deaths from European diseases vastly outnumbered all other causes of death including warfare, forced labor, and relocation combined.
From a cultural perspective, disease epidemics had a devastating effect on the survival of many unique and advanced civilizations in the Americas. In addition to the large Aztec and Inca empires that the Spanish systematically eliminated through military conquest, there is a growing body of theory that a large agrarian civilization existed in the Amazon basin that may have been completely wiped out by European disease. The difference here is that Amazonian peoples did not utilize stonework construction. Over time, the rapid physical deterioration of wooden houses and buildings in the tropical environment left little evidence of what is believed to have been a large and extensive agricultural society.
To learn more about ancient Amazonian civilization, look for research into terra preta soil formations, which are the focus of archaeological and geographic research. In short, terra preta means black earth, which was formed by combining charcoal, bone, and manure to increase the soil fertility.
CONTEMPORARY CULTURAL CONFLICTS
Today, a number of indigenous cultures from around the world are under threat from a variety of forces that have the potential to eventually wipe them out. The concept of cultural survival is used to describe the efforts to research, understand, and promote the protection of indigenous cultures. In addition to protecting the identity and promoting the livelihood of indigenous peoples, indigenous cultures are seen as invaluable to the social, anthropological, and geographical composition and diversity of humankind. Thus, indigenous cultures are important to their people and representative governments, as well as to researchers.
An example would be the current research of geographer Kendra McSweeney. She investigates the cultural and economic livelihood of the Miskito Indians along the Caribbean coastal region of Honduras (the bugs are named after them). The Miskito live in an environmentally sensitive tropical forest region that is under threat from a number of development interests, including plantation agriculture for crops such as bananas and sugar, and land development for new towns, mining, and ranching. McSweeney’s research from both environmental data and field interviews shows that there is continuous encroachment, both physically and economically, on the traditional territory of these indigenous people. Without official protections instituted by the Honduran government, the Miskito will continue to suffer from the shrinkage of their indigenous territory and their culture and way of life will be threatened.
Another set of factors that can harm indigenous cultures and threaten the constitution of national cultures is cultural globalization. A number of influences such as literature, music, motion pictures, the Internet, and satellite and cable television, mainly from English-language sources, combine to diminish and potentially eliminate the media and culture of other linguistic groups. Other globalizing factors such as architecture, transportation infrastructure, food retailing, clothing styles, and the missionary efforts of proselytic religions (those that actively seek converts) also threaten many unique cultures around the world.
The problem with cultural globalization is that when people are fully immersed in globalized popular culture, they are denying the importance of their own ethnic culture. Over time, unique and socially important traditions can be forgotten and lost. People who lose their connection to their heritage are also losing part of their personal connection to nature. This can leave people feeling disconnected from the natural world and humanity, causing social and psychological problems—things that we geographers will leave to psychologists to better understand and explain.
Economically, culture has value. By protecting national cultures from the negative effects of globalization, a nation can promote its own cultural economy and products from creative arts and media. At a basic level, these artistic products can be a significant draw for cultural tourism. At its most valuable level, whole media industries can generate large amounts of employment and value. An example would be the Bollywood movie industry based in Mumbai, India (formerly Bombay, hence the name Bollywood). In 2008, the release of the film Slumdog Millionaire generated its own global economic presence with theater receipts over $50 million by early 2009, and the Academy Award for Best Picture.
National Regulations and Laws
To combat the negative effects of cultural globalization, a number of national governments around the world have instituted laws and regulations that lessen the impact of foreign influence on their home cultures. These laws and regulations in many cases restrict certain types or limit the volume of foreign media and other external cultural influences. In some cases, there are attempts to completely ban external cultural influence.
As a First-World example, the French government has taken a number of steps to significantly limit the volume of English-language films and television programs released or broadcast within France. Furthermore, the French government, through its Culture Ministry, provides funding to develop and promote French-language media for internal release and export. These media exports are intended for both Francophone countries and non-French-speaking countries, in an effort to push back against the English-dominated global media. Similar programs exist in Québec, where the Canadian and Québécois governments provide special funding for French-Canadian media.
Perhaps the most extreme case is the country of Bhutan, which places a number of limits on the importation of foreign media. Set in the Himalayan foothills and surrounded by northeastern India with China to its north, Bhutan severely limits the number of entrance visas for foreigners. This is an effort by the royal government to preserve the ancient Buddhist culture and protect its people from the undue influence of popularized global media brought in and demanded by foreign visitors.
Ethnic and Religious Conflicts
Cultural conflicts have existed throughout human history and unfortunately are still with us today. Some cultural conflicts are continuously negotiated between groups that do not result in violence or armed conflict. However, in a number of cases, bloodshed has resulted merely from the cultural differences of people occupying the same region.
Places such as the former Yugoslavia, the Caucasus Mountains, East Timor, Rwanda, Burundi, the Darfur region of Sudan, and Syria have been in the international eye for the bloody armed conflicts between their inhabitants. Yet, what can lead to war is something as simple as differences in language or as complex as differences in religion.
The former Yugoslavia was created as a state during the post–World War I Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Prior to that time, there was no such thing as a Yugoslav either politically or culturally. This part of the Balkan Peninsula contained a multitude of different overlapping ethnic regions, including groups such as Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Slovenians, Montenegrins, Kosovars, and Macedonians. The victors in World War I (Britain, France, and the United States) thought the best plan of action was to put them all together as one state. In historical terms, the idea was short-lived.
Following the 1980 death of the country’s longtime Communist leader, Josip Tito, there was a power vacuum that left no particular individual or group in control. Tito was born a Croat, but fought alongside Serbians against the Germans during World War II. In this way, he was a representative of an artificial Yugoslav identity, which did not exist before the 20th century. After his death, with no Yugoslav heir apparent, people and politicians began to revitalize their centuries-long ethnic and religious arguments.
Croats, as an ethnic group, are predominantly Roman Catholic. Serbians are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Despite their shared Christianity and Serbo-Croatian language, these are two separate ethnic groups from two very different religious traditions. In 1989, localized fighting broke out in northern Yugoslavia between these groups. Croats forced Serbs out of Serbian enclaves in Croatia and Serbs did the same, forcing Croats to leave northern Serbia. Here we see the first mention of the term ethnic cleansing, where people of one ethnic group are eliminated by another, often under threat of violence or death.
Despite this conflict being quickly resolved by international diplomacy, by 1990 fighting and ethnic cleansing had flared up in Bosnia between ethnic Croats, Serbs, and Bosnian Muslims who fought to control various parts of the mountainous country. Several thousand men and older boys were executed in Bosnia just for being potential combatants in war. The war was curtailed in 1994 by the Dayton Peace Accords. Today, roughly 20,000 foreign peacekeeping troops are on duty in Bosnia and neighboring Kosovo (southern Serbia).
Since then, several political and military leaders have been charged with crimes against humanity for their war crimes in Bosnia. In late 2008, Radovan Karadžić, a Bosnian Serb leader, was arrested after living several years in bearded disguise as an herbal medicine practitioner in Belgrade. He has been charged with ordering the genocide of Bosnian Muslim males in Srebrenica, where several mass graves have since been uncovered.
Genocide, a large-scale systematic killing of people of one ethnic group, has been seen in a number of ethnic conflicts. Most famous is the Holocaust of Jews at the hand of the Nazis in World War II where six million were killed. More recent cases involve the deaths of several hundred thousand Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda during 1994. And today the genocide label has been applied to the situation in the west Sudanese province of Darfur, where Christians and Animist people have been killed by Muslim militia groups known as Janjaweed.
See more on culture as a source of conflict in Chapter 6.
• For more cultural geography material see The Human Mosaic, by Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, Mona Domosh, Roderick P. Neumann, and Patricia L. Price.
• Also see Cultural Geography in Practice by Alison Blunt, Pyrs Gruffudd, Jon May, and Miles Ogborn.
CHAPTER 5 DRILL
See the end of this chapter for answers and explanations.
1. Which of the following styles is associated with houses having one long pitched roof in front and a low-angle roof in back?
(A) Cape Cod
2. Minarets are prominent in the architecture associated with which of the following religions?
3. Which system of land division relies on the use of natural landscape features?
(C) Township and range
(E) Metes and bounds
4. An example of cultural synthesis would be
(A) the practice of building a church upon the location of a mosque
(B) the creation of a new style of music from the traditions of two separate groups of immigrant colonizers
(C) a pidgin language that uses simplified vocabulary and verb conjugations
(D) a village that has refined a single recipe for many generations
(E) a system of rigid social classes inherited from colonial occupiers
5. The type of religious architecture that does NOT have a common design style is
(A) Islamic mosques
(B) Hindu shrines
(C) Jewish synagogues
(D) Christian cathedrals
(E) Buddhist pagodas
6. The Altaic language family encompasses both
(A) Turkish and Mongolian
(B) Korean and Japanese
(C) Yoruba and Zulu
(D) Farsi and Urdu
(E) Tibetan and Burmese
7. The Abrahamic tradition is most distinct from the Hindu-Buddhist tradition in
(A) the willingness of Abrahamic devotees to slaughter members of other religions
(B) the belief in a higher plane of existence
(C) the belief in continued existence after death
(D) the absence of the Abrahamic tradition from Southeast Asia and the Oceanic regions
(E) the difference between monotheism and polytheism
8. All of the following are examples of creole societies EXCEPT
(A) Cape Verde
9. Contemporary architecture typically features all of the following EXCEPT
(A) recycled materials
(B) green energy technologies
(C) nontraditional materials
(D) symmetrical design
(E) use of curvature
10. A lingua franca refers to
(A) the use of French in the field of diplomacy
(B) an archaic expression for kissing with one’s tongue
(C) any language that is used as a bridge between speakers whose native languages are different
(D) the difficulty of pronouncing French vowel sounds, particularly at the ends of words
(E) the practice of acquiring a second language
11. All of the following are examples of products from appellations of origins EXCEPT
(A) champagne from France
(B) maple syrup from Vermont
(C) prosciutto di Parma ham from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy
(D) pizza from Naples
(E) tequila from Mexico
components of culture
cultural synthesis (syncretism)
culture group (nation)
traditional housing style
New England style
Federalist (Georgian) style
Cockney rhyming slang
global lingua franca
religions (belief systems)
head of state
five pillars of Islam
metes and bounds
township and range
nation (culture group)
contemporary culture hearths
ancient culture hearths
staple food crops
contemporary culture region
Latter-Day Saints (LDS)
preservation of cultural heritage
connection to nature
Treaty of Versailles
Dayton Peace Accords
crimes against humanity
CHAPTER 5 DRILL: ANSWERS AND EXPLANATIONS
1. E A saltbox home, (E), has one long pitched roof in front and a low-angle roof in the back. Make sure you qualify all of the clues in the question stem, as a Cape Cod house, (A), has a pitched roof, but not the other identifying features. Both Federalist, (B), and Georgian homes, (D), have rooflines that feature classical Greek and Roman designs, and an I-house, (C), has chimneys on opposite ends of an evenly pitched roof.
2. C Mosques, places of worship associated with Islam, have one or more minarets, which are narrow towers that are pointed on top. Minarets are not a prominent feature in the architecture of the other religions, so (C) is therefore the only valid answer.
3. E Land surveys that use natural landscape features to divide up land are a system of metes and bounds, (E). The long-lot system, (A), splits land into very long lots with narrow frontage along a road or waterway. The caste system, (B), is a social hierarchy system present in India. Township and range surveys, (C), split land into block shapes. Belief systems, (D), have to do with religions, which should pretty obviously be irrelevant to a land division question.
4. B Cultural synthesis is the practice of blending together two or more cultural influences. Clearly bringing two styles of music together to form a new style of music falls under this definition—for example, the African slave rhythms and Scots-Irish song structures that blended to form American blues. Choose (B).
5. C Mosques famously have minarets, while Hindu shrines have rectangular-shaped main bodies and short towers of carved stone. All cathedrals feature a steeple, bell tower, or a cross-shaped floor plan. Buddhist pagodas feature several levels with winged roofs. Jewish synagogues, however, follow no single design, perhaps because of the constraints of anti-Semitism throughout history. The correct answer is (C).
6. A The Altaic language family, named after the Altaic Mountains, spans the entire Asiatic continent, including Turkey and Mongolia. Experts believe that both languages descended from a common proto-Altaic language that existed thousands of years ago. Korean and Japanese are unrelated, according to its speakers, but in actuality both are descended from Chinese. Yoruba and Zulu are members of the Niger-Congo family, while Urdu is a descendant of Farsi, the Iranian language. Tibetan and Burmese are members of the Sino-Tibetan family. Choose (A).
7. E While Buddhism is the religion most associated with non-violence, Buddhist monks have conducted several campaigns of slaughter, particularly in Myanmar. Both traditions believe in either heaven/hell or reincarnation, which can be defined as higher planes of existence and continued life after death. Lastly, the largest Islamic (meaning Abrahamic) country in the world is in Southeast Asia: Indonesia. Abrahamic religions are monotheistic (one god), while Hindu-Buddhist countries are polytheistic (many gods). Choose (E).
8. E Defined as a people or culture that is derived from European, African, and local indigenous groups, a creole is found primarily in regions that were colonized by European powers using African slave workers. While Argentina was certainly colonized and populated by Spanish and Italians, its African slaves were either shipped to other countries or eventually died off. Likewise, the European colonists eradicated virtually all the native population. Today, the country claims 97% European descent. The correct answer is (E).
9. D Symmetrical design was typical of traditional architecture, going all the way back to the Greeks, the Romans, and up through more recent folk styles such as Cape Cod, Federalist, and I-house design. Contemporary designers such as Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry reject it outright.
10. C The term lingua franca derives from the time when France was considered to be the most powerful cultural hub of the world. Civilizations around the world imitated its design, its food, its literature, its diplomacy—and so they used French as a language to communicate with other foreign languages, because of its perceived high value. Today, it has been usurped by English as the global lingua franca.
11. D An appellation of origin is designated primarily to places that can boast a single product that is farmed or grown there, such as wine or tequila or ham. A pizza, because it’s assembled out of many different ingredients in a kitchen and then baked, wouldn’t qualify.