Poststructuralism/Poststructuralist Geographies

K. Woodward, D. P. Dixon, J. P. Jones

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

15 Scopus citations


Post-structuralism is an intellectual movement that emerged in philosophy and the humanities in the 1960s and 1970s. It challenged the tenets of structuralism, which had previously held sway over the interpretation of language and texts in the humanities and the study of economies and cultures in the social sciences. Post-structuralists critiqued structuralism's reliance on centers and binary oppositions; they questioned the soundness of ontology and demonstrated the emergence of Truth regimes; and they developed new ways of thinking about difference and identity that are anti-essentialist rather than grounded or fixed a priori. Post-structuralism has been criticized for being idealist and apolitical and for lacking evaluative standards, charges that most post-structuralists reject or reinterpret. In regard to geography, the movement's impact has been largest in cultural geography, where it has led to new perspectives on landscapes, representation, and identity. However, it also has adherents in political geography, economic geography, and social geography. Much of its de-stabilizing force within the discipline has revolved around antagonisms between it and other geographic approaches, especially spatial science, critical realism and Marxism, and humanistic geography. Here, we first elaborate the tenets of structuralism and post-structuralism, dividing the latter into theorists whose work alternatively stress epistemology and ontology. We then go on to discuss some of the more influential aspects of post-structuralist geography. In doing so, we argue that a geographical sensibility, that is, an alertness to space, space-time contexts, historicogeographical specificities and so on, should be considered part and parcel of postdisciplinary, post-structural theorizing, research, and politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780080449104
ISBN (Print)9780080449111
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Actor-network theory (ANT)
  • Actual
  • Binary thought
  • Constitutive outside
  • Deconstruction
  • Deleuze (Gilles)
  • Derrida (Jacques)
  • Difference
  • Discourse
  • Epistemology
  • Foucault (Michel)
  • Identity
  • Immanence
  • Latour (Bruno)
  • Materialism
  • Ontology
  • Plato
  • Post-structuralism
  • Power
  • Representation
  • Saussure (Ferdinand de)
  • Scale
  • Structuralism
  • Transcendence
  • Virtual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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