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Population in Geography: Contemporary Relevance in the Indian Context

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Population geography in India is in its infancy. To excel in this field one needs to know the variety of aspects dealing with population and geography in totality. Geographers in India, in general, are mostly concerned with spatial description. Majority of them fail to think that geography is not a simple account of variability, it is a more rich and complex subject that demands explanation and innovative methodologies for understanding the human behaviour over space. Perhaps geographers are failing to appreciate the multidimensional aspects of this unique science and hence they are struggling. Understanding population dynamics is the base in population geography. Unfortunately, population geographers are failing to excel for their paucity in comprehensive training in methodology and research techniques, dearth of in-depth knowledge in geography as a whole and population science/demography in particular.

In the world context, population geography is linked with many parallel sub-disciplines like environment, management, public health, social studies, family studies, urban studies, women studies etc. A cursory look of the syllabus of this subject in any foreign university structurally looks alike as ours in India, yet the depth in teaching, technical aspects of measuring change, model building approaches, and project works are more rigorous overseas. The overall structure of population geography course is given in Table 14-1.

The substantial overlapping between population science—demography and population geography is perhaps the main reason for which population geographers in India are failing to keep pace with the subject's dynamism. Even in the West, Princeton School of population scientists who were mostly trained in sociology and economics with the basics of demography, stolen the geographer's thunder (Weeks 2004). Even Trewartha seemed to have backed away from the broader scope of this subject that he outlined in his presidential address to the Association of American Geographers (AAG) at Ohio in 1953. In 1969 he wrote that “the geography of population as concerned chiefly with one aspect of population study—its spatial distribution and arrangements”. From 1950s, many geographers as well as non-geographers with profound training in population science are contributing well in the spatial aspects of population. It is misleading to perpetuate the view that demographers are merely population statisticians. In recent years, population scientists’ contributions in explaining regional variation of population components are much more appalling than population geographers, when the latter give mere description and the former is more analytical. Demography and population geography go hand in hand if the “population geographers adopt the demographer's analytical sophistication and the demographers become more spatial”. With the passage of time, demographers in India have become more spatial, yet geographers are lagging behind in adaptation of methodological sophistication—be it in statistical modelling or writing narratives or understanding the inner meaning of collected data partly for lack of training and partly for rigidity in appreciating approaches of nongeographers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Indian Geography in the 21st Century: The Young Geographers Agenda
    This book, primarily a collection of statements on action agenda to be pursued in geography in India, consists of nineteen chapters exclusively authored by the young geographers. It is organised into five parts: Part I provides "The Contextual Orientation", Part II contemplates on "Reshaping Geography Education", Part III explores "Resurrecting Physical Geography", Part IV looks at "Retrieving Human Geography", and Part V: "The Summum Bonum" attempts to garland the emerging thoughts. The book seeks to provide a peep into the future Indian Geography and serve professional geographers, researchers, teachers and students alike.
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