MAJOR CULTURAL REALMS OF THE WORLD



MAJOR CULTURAL REALMS.

A cultural realm is a geographical region where cultural traits maintain homogeneity. The cultural traits are supposed to be the product of regional geographical circumstances. It is, thus, regional geography which has become the basis of the delineation of cultural realms in the world. Ratzel’s concept of cultural landscape provided encouragement to geographers for culture regionalization.

Blache and Spencer are other geographers who considered the study of cultural realms as an important part of human geography. Apart from the geographers, historians, anthropologists and sociologists have also tried to regionalise the world into cultural realms. The variables of culture include the economic organization, social customs, traditional values, dietary habits, dress patterns, language and uniformity in physical characteristics. On the basis of these variables, various cultural realms can be identified.

Brock Webb tried to establish the dominance of a particular phenomenon over the evolution of cultural landscape. He found that the impact of religious values is tremendous over the entire cultural system. All over the world, human beliefs, day-to-day activities and even dress patterns, food habits and social values are influenced by religious messages. To many geographers, religious messages are also influenced by regional geography. A cultural religious investigation reveals that the culture of a particular region becomes ineffective once the religious impact is withdrawn. Considering these phenomena, Brock Webb divided the world into four major and two minor cultural realms. The major cultural realms are Occidental Realm, Islamic Realm, Indian Realm, East Indian Realm and the major cultural realms are South-East Asian Realm, Meso-African or Negro African Realm.

OCCIDENTAL REALM
Occidental culture is the culture of European society. It is influenced to a great extent by Christianity. It has regionalmodifications on the basis of varying levels of industrialization, political and economic thought, colonization, commercialization, urbanization, and development of transport system, development of social, political and economic institutions. In many parts of the occidental culture, the impact of non-religious factors, particularly the effect of modernization is so great that the religious values are sidelined. Post-industrial
Europe is in fact merging as a society where traditional values are nearly abandoned. The occidental culture covers a vast area. It is further divided into six sub-regions considering the impact of regional environment. West European is the most industrialized and urbanized culture. Continental European culture is influence by different political and economic thoughts, while Christianity remains an important influence. Mediterranean Europe includes countries lying to the south of the Alps. It is the region of dominance of Christianity. To many geographers, the deep-rooted traditional social system is the principal cause of limited economic development in countries like Spain, Portugal and southern Italy, compared to adopted necessary changes in their social systems.

Anglo-American and Australian cultural realms are practically the off springs of west European culture. Both are inhabited by migrants from west Europe. There are only some regional differences. Latin American culture is very similar to the Mediterranean culture. It is the only region of occidental culture which lies in the tropics and is underdeveloped. It became a part of the occidental culture as a result of conversion of tribes into Christianity. The colonial languages, Spanish and Portuguese, have become the state languages. Regional architecture has been influenced by the Spanish and Portuguese styles. Practically all countries maintain economic, cultural and social ties with the Mediterranean countries.

ISLAMIC CULTURAL REALM
The culture, here, is influenced by Islamic values. It covers a vast geographical area from Morocco in the west to Pakistan in the east. The population is sparsely distributed due to inhospitable environment. The coasts, river basins and oases have been the cradles of Arabian culture in this realm. The British call it the Middle-East while the Germans call it a region of oriental culture. This cultural realm lies between the traditional Indian culture in the east and the modernized European culture in the west. Islamic culture is highly orthodox and based on traditional beliefs, the impact of which can be seen in high female illiteracy rates. These countries have very high per capita incomes, but the level of modernization is very low.

INDIC CULTURAL REALM
This is the culture of the Indian sub-continent. Baker called it a sub-feudal land relations, subsistence agriculture, paddy farming, seasonal climate changes and agricultural season coming at the same time all over the region. The culture of this region is greatly influenced by Vedic values. Though the region is inhabited by various communities, the social system has the hidden impact of Vedic cultural values.

EAST ASIAN CULTURE
This culture is basically a Buddhist culture with regional modifications. True Buddhist culture can be seen in South Korea and Japan. Even these two countries have felt the impact of industrialization, urbanization and modernization. The culture of mainland China has modified the Buddhist system. This culture was adopted after the Second World War.

SOUTH-EAST ASIAN CULTURE
It is a transitional culture lying at a place where different cultures have intermingled. Dominance of Buddhism can be seen in Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Influence of Christianity can be seen in Philippines, of Indic culture over islands of Indonesia, and the Islamic influence is evident in Malaysia and the Indonesian islands. No other region has such peculiarities.

MESO-AFRICAN CULTURE
This culture is also known as the Negro culture. It principally includes tropical Africa. Similar cultural systems can be seen among the American Red Indians, Latin American tribes of Asia-Pacific region. Historian Toynbee has used the term ‘marginalized culture’ for these traditional culture units. Some geographers even include Eskimos under this cultural realm. Thus, it is a widely scattered cultural realm characterized by marginalized and relatively isolated communities.

INTERNATIONAL MIGRATIONS- PAST AND PRESENT
International migration is one of the most important phenomena of human geography. A true form of migration is the permanent shift of residence. It can be seasonal as well as temporary. When the place of residence changes crossing the international boundary, it is international migration. The cause leading to migration can be put under push and pull factors. The push factors operate at the source region and include increase in size of population, destabilizing land relations, unemployment, poverty, food shortage, religious and social oppression, recurring droughts and floods, insecurity, political tensions, etc. The  pull factors,  on the other hand, operate at the destination or the host country. These factors include better employment opportunities, better living conditions and favourable economic and political conditions. Migration, when seen in totality, is a function of both the pull and push factors.

THEORIES ON MIGRATION
According to the functionalists, international migrations take place voluntarily in response to spatial inequalities in the distribution of physical and human resources. The neo-Marxists on the other hand see international migration as coercive labour migration which is a manifestation of dependency that promotes underdevelopment in the periphery and over development at the core. They consider the movement of labour from less developed peripheries to the cores as an exploitation of labour in capitalistic system. Whereas this neo-Marxist theory suffers from rigidity, the functionalist’s view of migration seems optimistic. The international migrations in the past have taken place for both these reasons, i.e. forattaining equilibrium between the physical and human resources (e.g. the Trans-Atlantic European movement) and also for exploiting the unemployed to serve the interests of the capitalists (slave trade from Africa). Inter-regional migrations have been taking place since pre-historic times. At that stage, the concept of political boundaries did not exist, so only the migrations since the colonial period may be considered as true international migrations. The study of international migration may broadly be divided into past and present migrations. The past trend in migration includes migrations occurring up to 1960. Some geographers and sociologists consider it only up to the end of Second World War. The decade of the 1950s is taken as the transitional phase in the history of international migration. But clearly, the post -1960 migration is, structurally, qualitatively and spatially, a different one in comparison to the earlier trends.

PAST MIGRATIONS

The European overseas expansion, of the 17thcentury and after, perhaps constitutes the world’s largest human transplantation. The new discoveries, through adventurous voyages, enhanced the possibilities of exploiting the new world while simultaneously relieving north-western Europe from the acute pressure of population upon its dwindling resource. Such migrations took place to two different destinations. One comprised the sparsely populated tropical and sub-tropical coast lands, which were easily accessible and possessed the potential for production of exotic crops because of their warm, humid climates. Consequently, commercial production of cotton, sugar, tobacco, coffee, tea, spices, indigo, rice etc. started in coastlands of America from Virginia to Brazil. With increase in intensity of agricultural operations, need for cheap labour arose. Thus, slave trade from Africa started. Also, labour was supplied by British and Dutch colonies in Asia.
The second destination comprised the temperate grasslands and woodlands which were also sparsely populated. These attracted European settlers who moved into temperate zones of America, Australia and New Zealand. This constituted the most important migratory movement of human history involving about one-fifth of Europe’s total population. It was only from 1820 to 1930 that the movement assumed really large proportions. The two World Wars gave rise to forced migrations. The most important characteristic of forced migration is that the normal selectivity in migration process. Over one million Russians were stranded in adjacent parts of Europe as a result of the 1917 Revolution. Over 3, 00,000 Americans fled from persecution associated with the Turkish nationalism in the 1920s.

More than a million Jewish refugees left Germany in the 1930s to escape Nazi persecution.
About 18 million people in central and Eastern Europe crossed international frontiers through flight, transfer or exchange of population is three years following the Second World War In 1947, emergence of Pakistan in the Indian sub-continent forced about million people to move from one part of the sub altitude regions and wet tropical lands (e.g. the Amazon Basin

FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR UNEVEN DISTRIBUTION
Historical. For instance, the sites of early civilizations have been generally crowded (Indus and Ganga Valleys) because they got settled early. Physical/Natural. These factors include climate, terrain, natural resources and space relationships.
Cultural  These include social attitudes, stages of economic development and political organization.
Demographic These include the regional differences in fertility, mortality rates and migration trends.

ECUMENE AND NON-ECUMENE REGIONS
The permanently inhabited lands are referred to as the  ecumene, while the uninhabited, intermittently or sparsely inhabited lands are referred to as the non-ecumene.The boundaries of these regions are not distinct but diffuse into each other. The major limiting factors are climate, drainage, soil, rough terrain, wild vegetation, altitude and the degree of proneness to disease. Although, the Antarctic ice caps and Greenland represent complete, continuous non-ecumene, most of the non-ecumene is in form of unoccupied, isolated and intermittently occupied regions of varying size and is confined to desert wastes, cold barren, high mountains, swamps and primitive forests of tropics and sub Arctic’s. About 60% of the world’s total area could be referred to as ecumene.

MAJOR ECUMENE REGIONS
Four major clusters or ecumene account for 75% of the world’s total population.
1.  East Asia (China, Japan) is the largest ecumene and a sub-tropical region accounting for 25% of the world’s total populations.
2.  South Asia (India and neighbours) ranks second. It is a tropical region accounting for 25% of the world’s population. This is a region having pre-modern subsistence economy which is predominantly agricultural. The population distribution is determined by agricultural potential of the land food supply. Poverty, malnutrition and low levels of living are common. Birth rates are high; death rates are low but not like the developed countries. Therefore high growth rates prevail. This regions account for only 20% of the world’s resources.
3.  Formers USSR, a mid-latitude region, accounts for 20% of the total population.
4.  North America accounts for 5% of the total population. It is a highly industrialized region with specialized pockets and generally high standards of living throughout.

MAJOR NON-ECUMENE REGIONS  These include, generally, the cold, dry and hot-wet lands. Main features of these regions and future prospects for habitation are discussed below.
Cold, High-Latitude Lands. These include the ice caps of Antarctica,
Greenland, Tundra region of North America and Eurasia and the Arctic and sub-Arctic cold deserts.

The main limitations of these regions are long sunless periods, extreme cold temperatures, and almost no vegetation. Only towards the southern margins, some habitation is possible. Future prospects for settlement in this region are bleak due to severity of climate.
Dry Lands  These are characterized by deficiency of water, low precipitation, sparse vegetation, unreliable yields. These lands are intermittently occupied by nomadic groups with dense populations only in a few oases. These regions recently witnessed expansion of population with development of irrigation techniques. This is also possible in future, but at high costs.
Hot-Wet lands  These regions show abundance of climatic energy in form of solar energy and precipitation which cause luxuriant vegetation growth that can support large populations. The wet tropics of the old world are better populated than those of the new world. Nearly 20% of the new world wet tropics can be brought under habitation with suitable land use. Thus, only the wet tropics show prospects of dense population concentrations in decades to come.

THE POPULATION GROWTH PATTERNS
In early periods of human existence, the number of deaths generally neutralized the number of births. High mortality necessitated high fertility to assure survival of mankind. The world’s population is estimated to be around 8 million at the advent of agriculture around 8000 B.C., Subsequently; the improvement in food supply permitted the births to exceed the deaths by a modest margin. The population continued to grow at a very slow rate for a long period and is estimated to have reached 800 million by the dawn of modern era, i.e. mid-eighteenth century. After that, the population started showing rapid
increase for the following reasons- Man’s increasing control over nature. Industrial Revolution increased tremendously the supporting capacity of areas. Decline in mortality rates and widening gap between the birth rates and death rates. Consequently, by the mid-twentieth century, the world population reached 2.5 billion. By 1988, the population reached the 5 billion mark. Thus, while it had taken the world more than one million years to reach the one billion marks in 1808, the next billion was added in just 120 years (1928). The third billion was added in 32 years (1960), the fourth billion came in just 15 years and the fifth billion marks was reached in 1988, i.e. just in 13 years.

Till 1950, the growth rates were much higher in the developed world (North America, Europe and Japan) than in the developing world (Asia, Africa and Latin America). For instance, during 1750 to 1850 and 1850 to 1950, the growth rates were 0.6% and 0.9% respectively for the developed countries and 0.4% and 0.6% respectively for the developing countries. But between 1950 and 1970, the growth rates in the developing world and the developed world were 2.2% and 1.1% respectively, implying almost a 400% increase in the growth rates of the developing world.

The increase in world population during the last three decades has been greater then the world’s totals population at the beginning of the present century, about 80% of the increase taking place in the developing world. This was due to the widening gap between mortality rates and the birth rates in countries with a wide population base because of better health facilities and greater food security. Africa has the highest annual growth rate at 3% followed by Latin America (2.3%), Asia (1.7%), Oceania (1.5%), former USSR (0.9%), USA (0.9%) and Europe (0.3%). Within these continents, there are differences. For instance, northern and western Europe show lower rates (0.1%) than eastern and southern Europe (0.6%) and in Asia, west Asia had highest rates (2.9%), while east Asia recorded the lowest rates (1.1%). The regional pattern of growth rates reveals that the entire Europe (including Russia), Japan, U.S.A. and New Zealand have a growth rate of less than 1% per annum. These are highly industrialized countries which completed the demographic transition by the early decade of the 20thcentury.

The countries of China, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Indonesia (Asia); Australia; Argentina, Chile, Guyana (Latin America); Gabon, Sierra Leone, Gambia (Africa) and Canada (North America) recorded and estimated growth rate of 1% to 2% for the years 1980-85. The developed countries mentioned here, like Australia and Canada completed their demographic transition about 50 years ago. The inclusion of Asiatic giants like India, China and Indonesia indicates a downwards trend in growth rates of these countries which is further related to decline in fertility rates. If the decline in their fertility continues for some more time, it may bring considerable changes in total demographic scenario of the world.

The rest of the world covering almost the entire Africa, West Asia, northern South America, Central America and the countries of south East Asia recorded a high growth rate of more than 3% per annum. This was because of their continued high levels of fertility while their mortality rates had registered significant decline since long. But these countries had very high fertility rates to begin with and persistently low levels of socio-economic development. Thus, naturally, the efforts to control population should be focused in these two areas.

DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION
The theory of demographic transition was put forward by W.S. Thompson (1929) and Frank W. Notestein who based their arguments on fertility and mortality trends in Europe, America and Australia. According to this theory, when a society transforms into a literate, industrialized and predominantly urban one from an illiterate and rural-agrarian society, a particular direction of demographic change can be traced. The theory outlines three basic hypotheses: the decline in mortality rate comes before the decline in fertility rate. The fertility rate actually declines to match mortality rate. Socio-economic transformation of a society is commensurate with its demographic transformation.

The theory predicts conspicuous transition stage:
Stage I High and fluctuating birth and death rates and slow population growth.
Stage II High birth rates and declining death rates and rapid population growth.
Stage III Declining birth rates and low death rates and declining rate of population growth.
Stage IV Low birth and death rates and declining rate of population growth.
Stage V Birth and death rates approximately equal, which, in time, will result in zero population growth.

In the first stage, both fertility and mortality rates are high, in the range of 35 per 1000. But the mortality pattern is erratic due to prevalence of epidemics and variable food supply. This results in stable and slowly growing population. This stage mainly occurs in agrarian societies with low or moderate population density, societies where the productivity is low, life expectancy is low, large family size is the norm, underdeveloped agriculture is the main economic activity, low levels of urbanization and technological development prevail and low levels of literacy are experienced. Nearly all the countries of the world were at this stage, but now to find a country at this stage of demographic transition seems improbable, because the data on fertility and mortality in such a region would be inadequate or lacking. Also, there is little chance that such a region would have remained totally unaffected by expansion in medical facilities. For these reasons, the first stage has also been called the Pre-Industrial or Pre-Modern stage.

The second stage is characterized by high but gradually declining fertility rates (at around 30 per 1000) and a drastically reduced mortality rate of over 15 per 1000. The expansion in health facilities and food security reduces death rates. But, because education has not reached sufficient levels, birth rates are still high. By the end of the second stage, fertility rates are still high. By the end of the second stage, fertility rates start declining gradually and mortality rates start declining sharply. The population now increases at declining rates. Most of the less developed countries of the world are passing though the explosive stage of demographic transition. These countries include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia.

                   In the final stage, both death rates and birth rates are declining appreciably. As a result, population is either stable or growing slowly. At this stage, the population has become highly industrialized and urbanized technological development is satisfactory and are deliberate attempts at rates prevail. This stage is evident in Anglo-America, west Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan etc.

CRITICISM. Loschky and Wildcose have criticized the theory, arguing that the theory is neither productive, nor are its stages sequential and definite. Also, the role of man’s technical innovations should not be underrated, particularly in the field of medicine which can arrest the rate of mortality. The theory, despite its shortcomings, does provide a generalized macro-level framework within which different situational contexts can be placed in order to comprehend the demographic processes in that particular country. Also, scope should be left to take into account the fact that the present conditions are different from those prevailing 100 years ago in Europe.

About k.vero

Philosopher King
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