Geography Hegemony and Geographic Knowledge
Erdem Bekaroğlu
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0259


The hegemonic role of Anglo-American geography over the production and dissemination of geographical knowledge as well as its definition, analysis, and criticism has been an issue of debate in geography (particularly in human geography) throughout the early 21st century. There have always been individuals, groups, and institutions that hold a hegemonic position in the creation and dissemination of knowledge. From the perspective of disciplinary history, for instance, geography schools in Germany and France before World War II pioneered mainstream practices and played a significant role in the discipline’s acquisition of a paradigmatic form. Anglo-American hegemony in the discipline, which emerged in the 1960s and steadily consolidated its position until the early 21st century, differs from its predecessors in a number of ways. The first is that, as a result of the transformation in global geopolitics since 1945, the United States has become the dominant power. Having achieved close cooperation between the military, industry, and academia during the Cold War, the United States has transformed scientific knowledge production. The second is that the quantitative revolution, which started in Anglo-American geography after World War II and grew in the 1960s, revolutionized the field in a manner never seen before. Geography, which was adapted to the military-industrial-academic complex in the United States and rapidly transformed into a spatial science after World War II, reached a position of exporting geographical knowledge in a relatively short period. The third is that universities, particularly in the Global North, have experienced a transition and been restructured by academic capitalism since the 1980s due to neoliberal policies. Various academic dynamics have been altered as a result of an intensely competitive environment for resources, products, performance, and the market. Fourth is the restructuring of national science policies in peripheral countries in accordance with internationalization goals. This transformation, which encouraged the reorganization of universities in line with market demands, the use of English as the language of science, and increased competition for funding, among other things, led to the incorporation of academic institutions into the academic capitalism market. Moreover, these implemented policies served as a feedback mechanism that strengthened the asymmetrical power geometry in the global knowledge economy. In light of this context, Anglo-American hegemony and its consequences have been the subject of criticism and calls for change over the past quarter century. This chapter examines the following topics after this introduction: (1) Overviews; (2) Journals; (3) The Transition to Anglo-American Hegemony; (4) Quantifying the Hegemony; (5) Debating Anglo-American Hegemony; (6) Reflections on the Hegemony; and (7) Moving Beyond the Hegemony.


Hegemony in science occurs when certain individuals, groups, or institutions establish an order, define norms, and use a network structure to implement it in the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge. When considering geography, in particular, there are many symptoms that can be attributed to the Anglo-American predominance in the discipline, including the following: the status of the English language as the lingua franca; the Anglo-American domination of international publication spaces; the limited access of authors from non-Anglophone countries to international databases; the lack of interest in the cultural and linguistic context of “other” places; the expectation for research themes to be determined according to the Anglo-American geography agenda; seeing the peripheral countries as exotic examples (and data providers); and the marginalization of “others” (traditions, places, people). These are some of the most fundamental problems that arise from the uneven power relations in academia and the skewed nature of internationalization. In this context, several papers have examined hegemonic relations in geography, and they provide a valuable introduction to the topic. Kitchin 2005 explores the perceived hegemonic status of Anglo-American geography and the role of English as the academic lingua franca. Paasi 2005 addresses the issue of internationalization, in particular investigating the unequal geography of international publication spaces and their institutional and linguistic monopolization. Aalbers and Rossi 2009 review Anglo-American predominance in human geography and provide an overview of its causes, arguments, and debates. In his study on the effect of the neoliberal agenda on geographical studies in Europe, Minca 2013 evaluates geographic traditions, internationalization, and Anglo-American hegemony. Paasi 2015a examines the changing nature of the university system, the historical context of English’s significance, and the spaces of academic competition to comprehend how power relations and hegemony shape international practices and discourses. Paasi 2015b analyzes the structural and individual conditions underlying the growth of the hegemony debate, the rise of English as a lingua franca, and the issues associated with knowledge production. Müller 2021 focuses on three key themes concerning hegemonic relations in geography: the language advantage in geographical knowledge generation, gatekeeping positions, and three ways of worlding the discipline of Geography.

  • Aalbers, M. B., and U. Rossi. “Anglo-American/Anglophone Hegemony.” In International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Edited by R. Kitchin, and N. Thrift, 116–121. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2009.

    This is a brief review of Anglo-American hegemony in human geography that discusses the scope and causes of the hegemony, as well as the direction the discussion has taken in recent years.

  • Kitchin, R. “Disrupting and Destabilizing Anglo-American and English-language Hegemony in Geography.” Social & Cultural Geography 6.1 (2005): 1–15.

    DOI: 10.1080/1464936052000335937

    This study presents an overview of Anglo-American hegemony in geography, the mechanisms that sustain and reproduce it, the consequences for the discipline, and the potential for effective interventions to disrupt and destabilize this hegemony.

  • Minca, C. “(Im)mobile Geographies.” Geographica Helvetica 68.1 (2013): 7–16.

    DOI: 10.5194/gh-68-7-2013

    A short review of Anglo-American hegemony in geography. In this piece, Minca examines geographical traditions, internationalization, and Anglo-American dominance in the discipline, with a particular interest in how universities under the influence of neoliberalism feed this dominance.

  • Müller, M. “Worlding Geography: From Linguistic Privilege to Decolonial Anywheres.” Progress in Human Geography 45.6 (2021): 1440–1466.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132520979356

    Müller conceptualizes language and linguistic privilege as an epistemic struggle in geographical knowledge production. Our knowledge of the world, according to the author, primarily derives from English-language sources. Due to this, Geography urgently needs to be “worlded,” or expanded to include many voices and languages from throughout the globe. 

  • Paasi, A. “Globalisation, Academic Capitalism, and the Uneven Geographies of International Journal Publishing Spaces.” Environment and Planning A 37.5 (2005): 769–789.

    DOI: 10.1068/a3769

    This study contextualizes the debate on hegemonic discourses in geography by demonstrating that ISI-indexed journals of social sciences in general, and human geography in particular, are predominantly Anglo-American. The piece is a good example of how knowledge production is governed through market-like operations supported by corporate universities and academic governance.

  • Paasi, A. “‘Hot spots, dark-side dots, Tin pots’: The Uneven Internationalism of the Global Academic Market.” In Geographies of Knowledge and Power. Edited by P. Meusburger, D. Gregory, and L. Suarsana, 247–262. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2015a.

    This paper explores how power relations and hegemony shape international practices and discourses. Paasi examines how neoliberal policies have changed the higher education system. He then discusses academic competition spaces and the origin and significance of English in the academic market.

  • Paasi, A. “Academic Capitalism and the Geopolitics of Knowledge.” In The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Political Geography. Edited by J. Agnew, V. Mamadouh, A. Secor, and J. Sharp, 509–523. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015b.

    This book chapter looks at the unequal power relations that result from the globalization of knowledge production. In order to reveal the complexities of current knowledge policies, Paasi revisits the ongoing debate on Anglo-American hegemony in the discipline.

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