The Endless Thinker of Pennsylvania: A Look at the Life and Thought of Wilbur Zelinsky

Document Type : بنیادی(Stem, Basic)


1 Academic Member/ University of Tabriz

2 2- Ph.D. Graduated in Geography & Urban Planning, University of Zanjan


In geography, more than any other science, one can see a kind of closeness and interdependence between the individual destinies of geographers, their theories and ideas. It is not without reason that the history of geographical theories is also known as the history of theorists or, in the words of John Kirtland Wright, the "history of geography, the history of geographical ideas", because geographers compete as a group in the context of history. They rise and with this collective and historical competition, not only do they not reduce the scientific nature of geography, but they also give it identity and realization. On the other hand, from the educational and research dimension, it is important to know that one of the intellectual occupations of geographers to strengthen and develop reasoning and creativity among themselves is to get acquainted with the philosophical thoughts of the world's great geographers from the past to the present. A review of the historical background of Wilbur Zelinsky's character and ideas and the "reading" of a geographical epistemological view of his works and thoughts are a factor in clarifying the context of his views and beliefs; Questions like Who was Zelinsky? Where are they rooted and in what world? As a human being, what kind of lived spaces and intellectual changes did he experience? What conditions and factors led to Zelinsky's intellectual and political revival in the field of geography? Can he really be classified as a member of the Berkeley School of Geography philosophically and methodologically? what methodological basis for reading the text of his works and life will lead to justifiable reasons for our arguments?
Since the methodology in the present research is descriptive-analytical. Using a qualitative approach and interpretive paradigm in the method of library and content analysis, an attempt has been made to answer the questions and to integrate the subject of Zelinsky's thought, in order to see his social, political and intellectual changes from the late 1940s philosophical-geographical view observed and read epistemologically, and the trends and changes of paradigm and attitude, the identity of the discipline and the research practice until the last years of his life from the perspective of idea historiography and biography in geography be reviewed and critiqued.
No thinker can be excluded from the influence of the environment, history and culture of the land in which he grows up; In other words, in the history of the idea, the course of idea is in history. In the history of the idea, different schools have started from the beginning of that school to its current state, and its subject is always thought, and it should be added that a researcher with fixed elements of personality, transformation and intellectual changes, the philosophical system. and if the biographer is not a familiar geographer, he does not understand all the details and subtleties in the text, and in some cases, despite his best efforts, he may err in understanding and conveying the author's intent. Therefore, in this article, the following parts were discussed.
Wilbur Zelinsky believed that If geographers do not dare to neglect history, the researcher of history and other social and human sciences must reciprocate the spatial factor in the full description of their endeavor.
Zelinsky, without ignoring the importance of quantitative aspects in his geographical studies, in his discussions and arguments, gives priority and importance to the qualitative and long-lasting aspects of phenomena; that is, he sought a level of understanding beyond the raw mechanistic models that had long dominated American geography and the social sciences.
Observing the logical form of explanation in geography, points out that How we should go about studying phenomena? And what should we study and why? And then concludes that in most disciplines, the connection between the questions that a discipline asks and its explanatory form is extremely important. Now, with these explanations, referring to Zelinsky's works, the connection between the questions he asks from a geographical point of view and its explanatory form is very thought-provoking. Even his attention to the explanatory form in geographical research by other geographers shows his intellectual precision. In geographical analysis and sensitivity to form observance.
Without historical roots in a particular culture, one may become a credible researcher and expert, but one cannot be a thinker in a historical and cultural vacuum; There is no doubt that in the labyrinth of words we see some revelations and concepts which are inherent features of the author, especially the concepts that are resonant and instructive, can be clearly seen in Zelinsky's works and writings. Concepts such as " The Geographer as Voyeur " to understand the world and fieldwork from a geographer's Stereoscope View on the combination of masculine and feminine gaze in geographical analysis, " Heterolocalism " in expressing the nature of the ethnic landscape The United States and etc.

The idea history and biography are historically linked and interrelated, which must be historically, methodologically, and analytically necessary for serious geographical intellectual work and the acquisition of a valid scientific history of our field; If we look at geography as a historicity science, whose past is considered as its introduction and ladder today, then the history of geography should be considered as this science and a part of its current character, and the rebellion of researchers and practitioners in this field are, of course, a duty in the science of geography. In the present paper, such a process has been discussed in order to obtain the collective and historical identity of this science by choosing one of the prominent geographers named Wilbur Zelinsky, on the basis of which an attempt has been made to find some philosophical schools of geography that let us enter into the development of Zlinsky's scientific personality, and the second reason for this is that Zlinsky, with a long life span of nearly a century, witnessed the true changes of man and the world, and before that geographical knowledge that dealt with the scientific personality. he has been very insightful in a research work.


Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 06 July 2021
  • Receive Date: 01 April 2021
  • Revise Date: 03 July 2021
  • Accept Date: 06 July 2021