Not Yet a Placeless Land
Tracking an Evolving American Geography
Challenges the widespread belief that the American cultural landscape has lost its diversity
Today it is taken as a given that the United States has undergone a nationwide process of homogenization—that a country once rich in geographic and cultural diversity has subsided into a placeless sameness. The American population, after all, spends much of its time shopping or eating in look-alike chain or franchise operations, driving along featureless highways built to government specifications, sitting in anonymous airports, and sleeping in forgettable motels.
In this book, cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky challenges that nearly universal view and reaches a paradoxical conclusion: that American land and society are becoming more uniform and more diverse at the same time. After recounting the many ways in which modern technologies, an advanced capitalist market system, and a potent central political establishment have standardized the built landscape of the country’s vast territory and its burgeoning population over the past two hundred and fifty years, he also considers the vigor of countervailing forces. In a carefully balanced assessment, he documents steady increases in the role of the unpredictable, in the number and variety of arbitrarily located places and activities, and the persistence of basic cultural diversities. Contrary to popular perceptions, place-to-place differences in spoken language, religion, and political behavior have not diminished or disappeared. In fact, Zelinsky shows, novel cultural regions and specialized cities have been emerging even as a latter-day version of regionalism and examples of neo-localism are taking root in many parts of the United States.
"Zelinsky creates a sometimes maddening but ultimately rewarding experience. . . . Zelinsky concludes that the US is becoming simultaneously more uniform and more diverse. While these conclusions are perhaps obvious, arriving at them with a qualified guide provides refreshing new perspectives. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice
"College-level collections strong in American geography and sociology will find the far-ranging scope of this examination to be intriguing."—Midwest Book Review
"Refreshingly, Zelinsky has the intellectual courage to tackle huge questions and broad national-level overviews, and he firmly grounds his theories in mountains of empirical evidence. . . . Zelinsky's relentless curiosity and love of his country shows through in every page, and anybody interested in its cultural geography would do well to read and take inspiration from it."—Journal of Cultural Geography
"The final substantive chapter is the book's heart. Here Zelinsky originally and concisely digests the previous information and asks whether genuine culture regions still exist in the United States. His answer is yes, but with a twist. . . . Not Yet a Placeless Land deserves careful attention across the broad spectrum that is American Studies."—American Studies