‘Land’ and life

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Understanding how people classify physical geographic features is necessary for identifying cross-cultural geographic concepts necessary for successful communication of landscape knowledge. Identifying cross-cultural geographic concepts will require development of the field of ethnogeography, which employs ethnographic methods to analyze geographic knowledge. This chapter analyzes physical geographic knowledge in the Maninka language of southwestern Mali, and compares Maninka knowledge to that of other culturalgroups. The results suggest that broad physical geographic concepts may be shared pan-environmentally, but that most physical geographic knowledge is contained in culturally specific classifications within a broad cross-cultural framework. Academic geographers should expect only broad correspondence between their categories of physical geographic variation and those of people who classify biophysical features according to local knowledge systems.


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