Geographic Explanations for the Foundations of Identity at Local Scale

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Prof. of Political Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran

2 Associate Prof. of Political Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 Assistant Prof. of Geography and Urban Planning, Emam Hossein University, Tehran, Iran

4 PhD Candidate in Political Geography, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


Human being as a social creature is always interacting with his “place” of living. In fact, “place” is part of the earth where has various connections, communication networks, or social processes acting at three main local, national, and global scales. Although in humanities, identity is considered as a social phenomenon, in geography, it is the results of interactions between “human” and his living place. It requires “geographic explanation” of foundations or factors affecting the identity. If the geographic explanation is considered as the explanation and interpretation of the “why” or “how” on the emergence of a geographic phenomenon or event and its outcomes, this study intends to geographically explain the foundations of identity at local scale. This in going to find an answer to the key question that “why” and “how” “geography” affects the “identity” formation at “local scale”?
The descriptive and analytical method was used in this study. The data required for the study were collected from Libraries (books, papers,…) and internet.
Results and Discussion
In the discussions of “explanation of identity”, it must be mentioned that each discipline of humanities which explains identity must answer the cause of the emergence of this phenomenon in its area of study. In the next stage, based upon the features of every scientific discipline, how variables such as society, place, culture and policy affect the formation of identity is stated. In explanation of the phenomenon of identity through geographic approach, the factors of “human” and “place” are considered as two basic issues in the formation of identity. The effect of human factors on identity can be analyzed based on the issues like the level of awareness and literacy, different forms of power relations, and function of sociopolitical institutions in various places. The other aspect of geography and identity is the living place and space of humans. Place and space lead to differences in various phenomena, such as identity, in three ways. First, social processes are formed in places. Second, activities occur locally, so they can be spatially various. Finally, spatially various activities can create spatially various contexts. These three ways are, indeed, the “cause” or “why” of the influence of space on different phenomena such as identity. On the other hand, in geographic explanation of identity, place affects identity in two “ways”; in the first way, place is the context of forming identity, but in the second, place creates a sense of identity which is referred to by geographers as “sense of place” and “identity of place” both which being influenced by “place identity”.
In geography, like other sciences, sufficient answers are provided to “why”, “how”, and “what” questions at “explanation” stage. In “explaining the phenomenon of identity” through “geographical landscape”, the factors of “human” and “place” are considered as two basic factors. The findings indicate that at “local scale”, regarding “human identity” two groups of identities, i.e. “ethnic group identities” and “local people identities” can be recognized. With respect to “place identity”, the identity of places such as village and city were also recognized. “Geographic explanation of identity foundations” at local scale reveals that the identity of every place (including village, locality, city, and geographic area) which involves physical and functional elements is unique, and the identity of every individual residing in these places are not separable from the “identity of place”.
It can be concluded that the “human identity” at local scale is affected by values, beliefs, and etc. of human systems. On the other hand, the “identity of place” at local scale is affected by “physical”, and particularly, “functional” elements varying from one place to another. It must be mentioned in the discussions of “identity of place” that the identity an individual or group acquires from a place is very important, because the spirit of place is hidden in its human activities. Hence, despite the fact that humans live in different places and in spite of the difference among the identity of one place from that of other places, the identity of humans is mixed with the identity of their places.


Main Subjects

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Volume 46, Issue 3 - Serial Number 3
February 2014
Pages 505-522
  • Receive Date: 04 May 2013
  • Revise Date: 09 February 2015
  • Accept Date: 07 July 2013
  • First Publish Date: 23 September 2014