Tropical Geography ›› 2022, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (3): 358-372.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003454

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Reflections on and Progress in Social and Cultural Geography in China: Analysis of Chinese and English Literature during 2015-2020

Zhenjie Yuan1,2,3(), Zhaocong He1,2, Xiaomei Cai2,3,4(), Congying Chen1   

  1. 1.Center for Human Geography and Urban Development, School of Geography and Remote Sensing, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
    2.Guangdong Provincial Center for Urban and Migration Studies, Guangzhou 510006, China
    3.Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Zhuhai 519082, China
    4.School of Tourism Management, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
  • Received:2021-08-23 Revised:2021-12-01 Online:2022-03-05 Published:2022-03-21
  • Contact: Xiaomei Cai;


As a newly developed branch, social and cultural geography has gradually become an important research field within human geography. With fast-changing research topics, methods, and theories, social and cultural geography has been attracting increasing attention in Chinese mainland over the past six years (2015-2020). New trends and criticisms deserve further analysis, such as the diversity of topics, the intersectionality of research methods, and the reflection and questioning of scientific research. Thus, from the perspective of disciplinary introspection, it is necessary to examine the trend of Chinese social and cultural geography from the perspective of comparing China and the West, so as to locate the characteristics of the discipline and to provide certain directions and enlightenment for domestic social and cultural geography research. Drawing on CiteSpace, this article collects, analyzes, and visualizes publications related to social and cultural geography in both English and Chinese (for English publication, we focus on Social & Cultural Geography (N=418), focusing on five selected leading Chinese journals: Acta Geographica Sinca, Scientia Geographica Sinica, Progress in Geography, Geographical Research, and Human Geography (N=400). Furthermore, the Delphi method was employed to see how Chinese social and cultural geographers (N=20) would comment on the recent development of social and cultural geography in Chinese mainland. With qualitative and quantitative analysis, the topics of Western social and cultural geography are reflected in: (1) migration studies and mobility research, (2) cultural landscape and more-than-human geography, and (3) research on disadvantaged groups and caring geography. In contrast to the West, Chinese social and cultural geography research themes include 1) subject theory introduction and reflection, 2) urbanization, mobility, diverse immigration, 3) tourism and place, and 4) rural transformation and homesickness. Given the comparison of research topics of social and cultural geography between China and the West, the findings of this article include 1) Western countries (the U.K. in particular) currently play key, if not dominant, roles in producing, shaping and consuming theories and knowledge of social and cultural geography; 2) "Politics" and "politics" are the main research focuses in the West, while "tourism" and "rurality" are the dominant topics among Chinese publications. It presents a critical difference between the two bodies of literature and reflects the trends of China's social development. 3) Social and cultural geography research in Chinese mainland is undergoing a significant process of internationalization. However, common knowledge (e.g., publications and theories being cited and discussed) shared by both sides remains insignificant. The boundary of knowledge becomes increasingly flexible but still relatively fixed. On the other hand, researchers' opinions also exposed the issue according to which social cultural geography researchers' sense of discipline belonging is yet to be strengthened, as well as the fact that systemization and consensus of research paradigm are insufficient. To further promote interdisciplinary dialogues and knowledge exchanges, explore the role of space in theorization, and show the contributions of Chinese stories, experience and theories to the current literature on research on social and cultural geography deserve further exploration.

Key words: social and cultural geography, research progress, literature statistical analysis, China

CLC Number: 

  • K90-09