The Trouble with Savanna and Other Environmental Categories, Especially in Africa

  • Chris S. Duvall
  • Bilal Butt
  • Abigail Neely


Environmental categories are simplifications of reality meant to enable generalization, which is necessary to produce predictive physical geographic knowledge. We argue here that these categories are social constructions related to ideas shared broadly in society, including environmental deterministic explanations of human difference. The biophysical, philosophical, and sociocultural problems associated with environmental categories are exemplified by ‘savanna’ in Africa. Examining environmental categorization is an important point of engagement in critical physical geography because it is a social process, explicitly centered on simplification and generalization, and significant broadly across scientific practice and society.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris S. Duvall
    • 1
  • Bilal Butt
    • 2
  • Abigail Neely
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.School for Environment and Sustainability, University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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