Histories of the Quantitative Revolution from a Different Perspective: Practical Implementation in Service of Political Agendas

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Astor Ballroom II, Astor, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Ferenc Gyuris, Boris Michel
Chairs: Ferenc Gyuris


Over the last some 15 years geographers have paid much attention to the history of quantitative geographies. Several works discussed the general political and social circumstances, including the Cold War and a firm belief in large-scale planning, which enabled the rapid emergence of this approach from the 1950s onwards (Barnes 2008, Barnes and Farish 2006). A number of authors investigated the career paths and individual motifs of the pioneers of the quantitative revolution (e.g. Morrill 2005, Bergmann and Morrill 2017). Many studies focused on how related ideas were produced and materialized in certain geographical settings and institutions and how key concepts were mobilized and adopted in different geographical contexts (Barnes 2004), even beyond the Anglophone world (Barnes and Abrahamsson 2017, Gyuris 2014, 193–198). Papers on how the geometric design of quantitative models, radiating orderliness and flawlessness, contributed to the wide acceptance of these models are also not absent (Michel 2016).

As a significant exception, however, it has much less been investigated how the work of Cold War quantitative geographers actually contributed to justifying, planning and implementing projects as well as state and non-state policies that were aimed at fulfilling specific political agendas. This is especially surprising for quantitative geographers claimed that the new approach was more relevant for social policies and ‘rational’ planning than ‘old, descriptive’ approaches in geography. We would like to fill this void by inviting papers that focus on actual projects and policies in the Cold War period in both the Global North and Global South (as well as the ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ Blocs of the Cold War bipolar world) and the way quantitative geographers, by their works or personal activity, enabled the preparation and implementation of these projects and policies in practice.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:
- Contribution of quantitative geographies and geographers to political and public discourses
- Participation of quantitative geographers in practical projects aimed at social and political transformation and engineering
- The actual capacity of quantitative geographers and geographies to shape political discourses and projects (instead of simply justifying them)


Barnes, T. 2004: Placing ideas: genius loci, heterotopia and geography’s quantitative revolution. Progress in Human Geography 28, 565–595.

Barnes, T. 2008: Geography’s underworld: The military-industrial complex, mathematical modelling and the quantitative revolution. Geoforum 39, 3–16.

Barnes, T. and Abrahamsson, C. C. 2017: The imprecise wanderings of a precise idea: The travels of spatial analysis. In Jöns, H., Meusburger, P. and Heffernan, M., eds., Mobilities of Knowledge, Dordrecht: Springer, 105–121.

Barnes, T. and Farish, M. 2006: Between regions: science, militarism, and American geography from World War to Cold War. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96, 807–826.

Bergmann, L. and Morrill, R. 2017: William Wheeler Bunge: Radical Geographer (1928–2013). Annals of the Association of American Geographers (online)

Gyuris, F. 2014: The Political Discourse of Spatial Disparities: Geographical Inequalities Between Science and Propaganda. Springer: Cham.

Michel, B. 2016: Seeing spatial structures: On the role of visual material in the making of the early quantitative revolution in geography. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 98, 189–203.

Morrill, R. 2005: Hägerstrand and the ‘quantitative revolution’: A personal appreciation. Progress in Human Geography 29, 333–336.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Katharina Paulus*, , A new Geography needs new Geographers 20 10:00 AM
Presenter Mariana Lamego*, UERJ, On the relation between Brazilian quantitative geography and national development plan in Brazil 20 10:20 AM
Presenter Larissa De Lira*, University of São Paulo, In the Terrain of Conquest. Nature, Technique, and Location Choice for Brasilia (1941-1955) 20 10:40 AM
Presenter Ferenc Gyuris*, ELTE, The Quantitative Revolution and Planned Economy: The Changing Role of Mathematized Geography in Spatial Economic Planning in Communist Hungary 20 11:00 AM
Discussant Trevor Barnes University Of British Columbia 20 11:20 AM

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