From today’s perspective, early 20th century ‘Area Studies’ texts represent a relic form of geographical research and writing. These compendiums of place-based knowledge present what we now consider to be a layperson’s understanding of ‘geography’ – details of landforms, climate, land use, economic activities, urban patterns and so on. This empirical content is described in language littered with the judgemental adjectives associated with hierarchical knowledge systems
This paper is based on the 2016 Neil Smith lecture presented at St Andrews University. It honours the work of a geographer whose pioneering work on uneven development and the complex relations between capitalism and nature shaped late 20th century thinking inside and beyond the discipline of Geography.