In this article, You will read Concept of Region in Geography for UPSC IAS (Geography Optional).
Concept of Region in Geography
- In geography, regions are the areas that are broadly divided by its physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (environmental geography).
- Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.
- ‘Regions’ or ‘Landschaft’ is a similar concept that came into existence in Mid 19th centaury from the “German School”.
- At first, geographers where trying to classify the world into a natural region by the homogeneity and uniformity between physical attributes of the area or space.
- In the 20th century regions were classified into different categories ( different functional regions or planning regions) with the help of different statistical methods showing functional homogeneity in multiple attributes
- At present, the Region and regionalization get wide spectrum through the planning process in any country or a state or small unit of a natural, functional, or vernacular region of the word; to achieve the goal of sustainable development.
Definition of Region
A region is an area on the earth’s surface marked by certain properties that are homogeneous inside and distinct from outside it.
A Region is defined as a part of the Earth’s surface with one or many similar characteristics that make it unique from other areas. Regional geography studies the specific unique characteristics of places related to their culture, economy, topography, climate, politics, and environmental factors such as their different species of flora and fauna.
The concept of Region is generally linked with Space and has Spatial dimensions.
It is sometimes also used to as ‘Subjective’ (a ‘mental construct’) or ‘spaceless’. However, for most Geographers, Region is an Objective Reality linked with space, defined in terms of Space.
Sometimes a part of a District (sometimes even a village) is called Region, Sometimes a District, a State, a group of States is regarded as Region.
Some important definition given by geographers are below:
- The Region is an area of the earth Surface. – Taylor
- A region is an unit area of the earth’s surface differentiated by its specific characteristics. – F. J. Monkhouse
- The Region is a geographic area or areas which given civilisation, standard of a people seems to require for the fulfillment of the aspiration through a material resource. – C Aronovic
- Any Surface over the earth’s surface where physical conditions are homogenous is a region. – Woolfgang & Joerg
- Regions are genuine entities, each of Which expresses both natural and cultural differentiation from its neighbours. – G. T. Ranner
- “A region is a complex of land, water, air, plant, animal and man, regarded under their spatial relationship as together constituting a definite portion of the earth surface.” – A .J. Herbertson
- “A region is a domain where many dissimilar things are artificially brought together have subsequently adopted themselves to a common existence.” – Vidal-de-La-Blache
- “A region is an area of specific location which in some way very distinctive from other areas and which extends as far as the distinction extends.” – Richard Hartshorne
- “A region is an area within which the combination of environment and demographic factors have erected a homogeneity of economic and social structure.” – T.T. Woofer
- “An area throughout which a particular set of physical type of economic life.” – R.E.Dicknision
- Region is an are delineated on the basis of homogeneity of land –character, and occupance. – R.S. Platt.
Why Geographers Use regions?
Geographers study a very wide range of issues from a spatial perspective. Regions are one way to organize and simplify this vast amount of information. Even though regions are “made-up” by the geographer, they are designed in such a way that the information they provide will be useful.
Biologists do the same thing when they divide living organisms into different groups with similar characteristics to better understand the great variety of living organisms.
Development of Regional Geography
Regional geography has its roots in Europe; specifically with the French and geographer Paul Vidal de la Blanche. In the late 19th century, De la Blanche developed his ideas of the milieu and pays. The milieu was the natural environment and pays was the country or local region.
Before becoming the target of systematic concerns, regional studies sought, above all, to identify specificities, curiosities, and descriptions of the most different parts of the globe.
From the mid-eighteenth century several forms of description, classification and analysis techniques have been created without the intention to develop a more “scientific” point of view about the term region.
These concerns have become more common in the early twentieth century when the systematization of a “regional geography” began to take its first steps, both in Europe and in the United States.
Main geographers who developed the first theoretical definitions on the regional phenomenon: Alfred Hettner, in Germany, Vidal-de-la-Blache, in France, and A. J. Herbertson, in Great Britain.
The first systematic definition of the notion of the region was made by Herbertson, in an article dated 1905. With regard to its more methodological aspects, it can be said that the purpose is to create a “systematic geography“, and seeks to find ” geographical divisions orders on the globe“.
The concern to define regionalization as a classification process, It makes explicit reference to the biology classification procedures (Organic theory of Regionalisation), thus demonstrating a deductive bias, based on the demarcation criteria, divides the world into major natural regions”.
Herbertson (1905) proposes four “classes of phenomena” for such regions, in the following order of importance:
- configuration (mainly the elements of geology and geomorphology of the earth);
- climate (air masses, temperature, and precipitation levels);
- vegetation; and
- population densities
Setting natural regions would be, in this sense, “the necessary step for the final solution of the problems of geography” as these definitions would allow the establishment of a sound and lasting cuts on the earth’s surface even to understand the economic functions, which each portion of the space would fulfill since it was believed that the productive activities had clear causal relationships with natural elements such as climate, geology, landform, vegetation and soil of each area. This true “physical regionalization” of the world at the time was followed by several similar attempts, mainly conducted by Russian geographers Gregg, 1974.
Paul shows that in this period the region was a fact of physical geography, a fact of nature in virtually all that was written on the subject.
Gomes (1995) also noted that “the concept of natural region is born from this idea that the environment has some ownership on the orientation of the society development.” Most of these definitions had a deterministic or “environmentalist” Bias.
Regional geography began to develop in the United States specifically and parts of Europe in the period between World Wars I and II.
During this time, geography was criticized for its descriptive nature with environmental determinism and lack of a specific focus. As a result, geographers were seeking ways to keep geography as a credible university-level subject.
In the 1920s and 1930s, geography became a regional science concerned with why certain places are similar and/or different and what enables people to separate one region from another. This practice became known as areal differentiation.
In the U.S., Carl Sauer and his Berkeley School of geographic thought led to the development of regional geography, especially on the west coast. During this time, regional geography was also led by Richard Hartshorne who studied German regional geography in the 1930s with famous geographers such as Alfred Hettner and Fred Schaefer.
Hartshorne defined geography as a science “To provide accurate, orderly, and rational description and interpretation of the variable character of the earth surface.”
For a short time during and after WWII, regional geography was a popular field of study within the discipline. However, it was later critiqued for its specifically regional knowledge and it was claimed to have been too descriptive and not quantitative enough.
The economic region was the main focus of regional research from the 1930s to the 1970s. Quite substantial results were reached in that field. During the last forty years, regional geography has ceased to appear central to most geographers. In fact, the new interest in place and territory shows a renewal in this field much more than a decline. Some geographers are, however, very critical of the regional idea.
Some Examples of Regions
- Global regions
- Continental regions
- Geographical regions
- Planning Regions
- Palaeogeographic Regions
- Physiographic Regions
- Historical Regions
- Tourism regions
- Natural regions
- Natural resource regions
- Hydrological regions
- Religious regions
- Political regions
- Socio Cultural Region
- Administrative regions
- Local administrative regions
- Traditional or informal regions
- Functional region
- Military regions
- Culture Region
- Geographical regions
Characteristics of Region
The major Characteristics of the regions are-
- A region is an area of a specific location.
- Distinctiveness: Every region is a distinct geographical area;
- Homogeneity: Homogeneity in one ore more geographical element within the boundary;
- Heterogeneity: Heterogeneity in those elements towards its regional boundaries;
- Dynamic/ Changing character: A region has dynamic character because its features where change during times; whether it is physical or human elements, single or multiple feature elements or functional or planning regions; geographical features where dynamics;
- Hierarchy: Every region has some kind of hierarchical arrangement.
- Dynamic Scale: A region can be different in scale according to its shape and size.
- Problematic: Every region have similar problems within its boundary;
- Purposive: A region is delineated for specific proposes.
- Resourceful: A region should be resourceful or have some specific resources so that they were utilized in the planning process.
Structure of Region
Node – Here polarization or centralization of Phenomenon is found. Nodes develop in functional regions but unidentified in formal regions.
Zone – it is segment of space/part of an area where intensity and magnitude of phenomenon is maximum.
Area– It include Node + Zone + Transitional Boundaries.
Thus Region is Node + Zone + Area.
Typology of Region
The three main types of regions are formal, functional, and vernacular regions.
- A formal region is a geographical region that is homogeneous and uniform within a specified criterion. This specified criterion could be physical, social, or political. Example – Himalayan Region, Sub-Tropical Region, etc.
- A formal region is also known as a uniform or homogeneous region.
- It is an area in which everyone shares in common one or more distinctive characteristics. This common characteristic could be a cultural value such as language, an economic activity such as the production of a certain crop, or an environmental property such as climate and weather patterns. Whatever the common characteristic is, it is present throughout the selected region.
- In certain formal regions, the characteristic may be predominant rather than universal, such as the wheat belt in North America, it is an area in which the predominant crop is wheat, but other crops are grown here as well.
- Its is further divided in ‘Single feature Region ‘(ex. Physiographic regions of India),“Multiple Feature region’ (ex. Resource Region or Planning region), and ‘Compage region’ (ex. Agricultural region of the World).
- Whittlessy (1956) defined ‘compage region’ as a uniform region where all the features of the physical, biotic and social environment are functionally associated with the human occupance.
- A functional region that displays a certain functional coherence, an interdependence of parts when defined on the basis of certain criteria is known as a functional region.
- A functional region, also known as a nodal region, organized around a node or focal point. It is sometimes referred as a polarized region and is composed of heterogeneous units such as cities, towns & villages which are functionally inter-related. Example – National Capital Region.
- The characteristic chosen to define a functional region dominates at a central focus or node and diminishes in importance outward.
- The region is tied to the central point by transportation, communication systems or by economic or functional associations.
- The functional linkage keep in changing in nature and volume.
- An example of a functional region is the circulation area of a newspaper. That area is centered around the city in which the newspaper is published in. The farther away from the city of circulation, the less people that read the newspaper (this phenomenon is known as distance decay).
- A “vernacular region” is a distinctive area where the inhabitants collectively consider themselves interconnected by a shared history, mutual interests, and a common identity. Such regions are “intellectual inventions” and a form of shorthand to identify things, people, and places.
- Vernacular regions reflect a “sense of place,” but rarely coincide with established jurisdictional borders.
- A vernacular region, also known as Perceptual region or Adhoc Region, is a place that people exist as part of their cultural identity.
- These regions vary from person to person. They emerge from a person’s informal sense of place. An example of a vernacular region would be the Cultural region or Transitional regions, depressed areas, etc.
A planning region can be defined as a geographical region where designing and implementation of the development plan is possible for tackling of regional problems. It could be both formal & functional and generally transitional in nature: Example – Delhi Metropolitan Region.
Apart from the above Classification, there are other typologies of regions adopted for different purposes which we will see in the next article.