Popularization and Geography: An Inseparable Relationship

Roger M. Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Geography in America is inseparably entwined with popularization: historically from its inception, structurally in its composition, and functionally in its mission. Despite its centrality to geography, the role of popularization remains largely ignored and therefore is poorly understood. To put popularization into a conceptual and historical context, I explore two public debates about popularization: one structural, involving the rationale for the separation of the National Geographic Society and the Association of American Geographers, and the other functional, involving conflicts between the popular intellectual and academic geographic reviewers of a popular text, Van Loon's Geography. Using analytical frameworks taken from the history and sociology of science and communication studies, I show how issues of demarcation, authority, and authenticity have, through debates about popularization, shaped the history and current structure of the geographic enterprise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-467
Number of pages24
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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