Prospect

These active areas of research reflect at least some degree of continuity with the project that began in the 1960s as a corrective to spatial science and that became an important catalyst for new waves of research that sought to put the ‘human’ back into ‘human geography’. The current outlook for behavioral geography sensu stricto, however, reflects its undeniable marginality to the discipline of geography. The loss of connection with the humanistic stream, the relegation of its status through the writing of history, and the unanswered challenge posed by the ‘cultural turn’ left behavioral geography with the reputation of being outmoded in outlook, peripheral to present day interests, and primarily occupied by an older generation of researchers. It was also undermined by the loss of its once thriving relationship with psychology, which due to the rise of humanistic approaches and fading attractions of environmental psychology, no longer offers the basis for partnership that it did in the 1970s.

Nevertheless, there remains merit in the study of many elements that were once included in the ambit of behavioral geography, regardless of whether or not it has a recognizable future as a separate subdiscipline. Despite the reappraisal of research agendas in the wake of the cultural turn, recent interest in embodiment, sensory geographies, emotional geographies, nonrepresentational theory, actor network theory, performativity, and ethnomethodology, amongst others, has turned attention back, in diverse ways, to human behavior. Many of these developments engage with the territory of behavioral geography without making, or indeed seeing the need to make, any such allusion.

In saying this, of course, there is no suggestion that the typical perspective on human behavior favored by cognitive behavioral researchers – still heavily influenced by the intellectual climate of the 1960s – directly accords with more recent concerns with ‘discourse’, ‘practices’, or ‘performance’. The shifting currents of ideas over the last half century have done more than just change the lexicon of terms deployed when studying the material and symbolic relationships between people and their environments, since they also challenge the conceptual frameworks in which human agency is situated, question the methods by which information is gathered, and invite scrutiny of the positionality of the researcher when gathering data. Yet it is undeniable that there is only so much that can be learned about spatially embedded everyday practices by forms of analysis that proceed primarily at the group level. As such, there is still a need to reintegrate consideration of the individual and the cognitive back into geographical inquiry, even if pursuit of that goal will not prove an easy task. Certainly, contriving any form of rapprochement between cognitive behavioralist and cultural perspectives will require a great deal more attention to building conceptual foundations than behavioral geography exhibited during its heyday.