A Cultural Geography of the United States and Canada

Geography 200 StudyWeb
Award Prof. Jon T. Kilpinen
Fall, 2008 Valparaiso University

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Ethnic Groups | Culture Regions | Religion | Language | Politics | Socio-Economics

The United States and Canada are home to a rich diversity of ethnic and cultural groups. Various observers have described this diversity as a "melting pot" or a "tossed salad." It might better be described as a cultural mosaic, one with remarkably vivid geographical elements. Shaping this mosaic has been an ongoing series of migrations and settlements, cultural interactions and exchanges, adaptations and innovations, and diffusions. Over time, North America's many ethnic groups have also made visible and lasting impressions on the landscape.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to expose students to the rich ethnic diversity of the United States, and to a lesser degree Canada, as well as the physical expression of these cultural groups on the North American landscape. To achieve this goal, the course will systematically examine the immigration and settlement of each of the major cultural or ethnic groups that came to occupy this country. It will also consider how these cultures have manifest themselves on the land religiously, architecturally, linguistically, etc. Throughout this analysis, the perspective will be that of the cultural geographer, meaning we will pay careful attention to the location, distribution, diffusion, and regionalization of ethnic groups and their cultural characteristics, as well as the interaction of these people with the environment.

This course satisfies either the Cultural Diversity or a portion of the Social Science component of the General Education requirement and is designed for students in any field concerned with American culture and society. No previous course in geography is required, but a basic knowledge of place locations, such as states and provinces, is assumed. If you lack such a basic knowledge may consider purchasing an atlas to familiarize yourself with the North American scene.


Daniel D. Arreola, Tejano South Texas: A Mexican American Cultural Province (University of Texas Press, 2002).

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Created by JTK. Last revised August 27, 2008.