AP Human Geography Exam
Vocabulary Definitions
Unit 4: Political Geography
(Ch. 5 in Barron's)

The following vocabulary items can be found in your review book and class handouts.  These identifications and concepts do not necessarily constitute all that will be covered on the exam.

Unit 1

Nature & Perspectives

Unit 2


Unit 3


Unit 4


Unit 5


Unit 6


Units 7&8


Unit 9

Environmental & Medical


Nation: tightly knit group of people sharing a common language, ethnicity, religion, and other cultural attributes.
: politically organized territory administered by a sovereign government, with a permanent population, and recognized by the international community (“State” = internal division; “state” = country).
: a state whose population possesses a substantial degree of cultural homogeneity and unity (e.g., Japan, Portugal, Venezuela, Armenia, Iceland, …).

Stateless nation: a nation without a state (e.g., Kurds, Palestinians, …).

Multinational state: country with two or more nationalities within its borders (e.g., US, Canada, Russia, Iran,…).

Multistate nation: nation that transcends the borders of two or more states (e.g., Kurds (Kurdistan), The Koreas,…).

Annexation:  Incorporation of a territory into another geo-political entity.  
European Model
: a state model based on inviolable territory (after the Peace of Westphalia), governmental sovereignty (possessing supreme or independent political power), permanent population with a national culture, and a state capital.  This model was spread globally due to the Age of Exploration (and Colonization).
a state whose government is either believed to be divinely guided or a state under the control of a group of religious leaders (e.g., Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vatican City (Holy See)).

Colonialism:  (modern) The attempt by a country to establish settlements and impose political and economic control and principles.  Often associated with the European movement beginning in the 16th c., which created unequal cultural and economic relations; also led to massive depopulation due to the spread of disease and through conquest.

Imperialism: (modern) Second phase of European colonialism beginning in the late 18th c. due to the Second Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.  European states sought colonies for resources necessary for industrialization, outlets for overpopulation, and markets for their goods.  The United States and Japan (and Russia to a lesser extent) were also engaged in imperialism (e.g., Berlin Conference (1885) carved Africa into a plethora of superimposed boundaries).

Decolonization: Decolonization is the movement of American/European/Asian colonies gaining independence (mostly beginning after the post-WWII era). Some were peaceful struggles while others became violent.

Core-periphery: Core countries have high levels of development, a capacity at innovation and a convergence of trade flows. Periphery countries usually have less development and are poorer countries.

World-Systems Theory: (Immanuel Wallerstein's core-periphery model) three-tier structured theory (core, semi-periphery, periphery) proposing that social change in the developing world is linked to the economic activities of the developed world.

North/south divide: (Brandt Line (1960s)) economic division between the wealthy countries of Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia, and the generally poorer countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

East/west divide: geographic separation between the largely democratic and free-market states of Western Europe and the Americas from the communist and socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Asia.

First world: the largely democratic and free-market states of the United States and Western Europe (Cold War to today)

Second world: the communist and state-planned countries of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China (Cold War)

Third world: the generally poorer countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America (Cold War to today)

Multicore state: a state that has more than one dominant region in terms of economics or politics (e.g., US (NYC, Wash. D.C.), South Africa (Pretoria = executive capital, Cape Town = legislative cap., Bloemfontein = judicial cap.)

Immigrant state: a type of receiving state which is the target of many immigrants. Immigrant states are popular because of their economy, political freedom, and opportunity (e.g., US (from Mexico & others, Germany (from Turkey and others),…).

Territorial morphology: study of states’ shapes and their effects

-Compact: distance from geometric center is similar (e.g., Germany, Hungary,…)

-Elongated: a.k.a. attenuated (e.g., Chile, Vietnam,…)

-Fragmented: two or more separate pieces (e.g., Indonesia, Philippines,…)
territory completely surrounds that of another state (e.g., Italy, Azerbaijan,…)

-Protruded: a.k.a. prorupt; have an area that extends from a more compact core (e.g,

 Thailand, India,…)

-Bifurcated: has two distinct territories (e.g., Malaysia, Michigan, ...)

Microstate (ministate): state or territory that is small in both population and area (e.g., Vatican City, Monaco,…)
bounded territory that is part of a state but is separated by the territory of another state (e.g., Alaska, Kalingrad (part of Russia),…)

Enclave: a small and relatively homogeneous group or region surrounded by a larger and different group or region (e.g., Nagorno-Karabagh (part of Armenia surrounded by Azerbaijan), West Berlin during the Cold War,…); or wholly lying within the boundaries of another country (Lesotho).  Not the same thing as an ethnic enclave (e.g., Chinatowns, Little Italys, Little Havana (in Miami),…).
vertical plane between states that cuts through the rocks below, and the airspace above (even outer space).

  Evolution (of boundaries):

-Definition: legal document or treaty drawn up to specify actual points in the landscape

-Delimitation: cartographers put the boundary on the map

-Demarcation: boundary is actually marked on the ground w/ wall, fence, posts,… (too expensive or impractical for most borders to be demarcated)

  Types (of boundaries):

-Geometric: straight-line, unrelated to physical or cultural landscape, lat & long (US/Canada)

-Physical-political: (natural-political) – conform to physiologic features (Rio Grande: US/Mexico; Pyrenees: Spain/France)

-Cultural-political: mark breaks in the human landscape (Armenia/Azerbaijan)

  Genesis: origin-based classification of boundaries

-Antecedent: existed before the cultural landscape emerged (e.g., Malaysia/Indonesia)

-Subsequent: developed contemporaneously with the evolution of the cultural landscape (e.g., US/Mexico)

-Superimposed: placed by powerful outsiders on a developed landscape, usually ignores pre-existing cultural-spatial patterns (e.g., Indonesia/Papua New Guinea; Haiti/Dominican Republic)

-Relict: has ceased to function, but its imprint can still be detected on the cultural landscape (e.g., North/South Vietnam, East/West Berlin)

  Disputes (over boundaries):

-Definitional: focus on legal language (e.g. median line of a river: water levels may vary)

-Locational:  definition is not in dispute, the interpretation is; allows mapmakers to delimit boundaries in various ways

-Operational: neighbors differ over the way the boundary should function (migration, smuggling) (e.g., US/Mexico)

-Allocational: disputes over rights to natural resources (gas, oil, water) (e.g., Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, in part, due to a dispute over oil rights regarding the Ramallah oil field (mostly in Iraq but straddling into Kuwait)

Watershed boundary: the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place; that boundary is determined topographically by ridges, or high elevation points. Water flows downhill, so mountains and ridge tops define watershed boundaries. (think of a watershed as a large bathtub; when a drop of water hits anywhere in that bathtub it eventually finds its way to the drain)

Buffer zone (state): zone of separation, a territorial “cushion” that keeps rivals apart (e.g., Mongolia b/w China and Russia; Rhineland prior to WWI; DMZ b/w North and South Korea)

Frontier: area where borders are shifting and weak, and where peoples of different cultures or nationalities meet and lay claim to the land (e.g., Amazon Basin, Antarctica, between Saudi Arabia and Yemen).

Shatterbelt: a region caught between stronger colliding external cultural-political forces, under persistent stress, and often fragmented by aggressive rivals (e.g., Israel or Kashmir today; Eastern Europe during the Cold War,…).
Geopolitics: (Friedrich Ratzel) (organic theory)
study that analyzes geography, history and social science with reference to international politics.  States can be viewed as living organisms that need to consume other territories to survive.  Gained a negative reputation when Hitler and the Nazis embraced geopolitics to justify their right for lebensraum (living space) because of their racial superiority.

Heartland Theory: (Halford Mackinder) early 20th c. theory that claimed whichever state controlled the resource-rich “heartland” of Eastern Europe could eventually dominate the world.  It would suggest that not the United Kingdom (an ocean-based empire), but Russia (which was becoming communist) would be in a position to achieve this dominance.  "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island (Europe, Asia & Africa); who rules the World-Island controls the world."

Rimland Theory: (Nicholas Spykman) mid 20th c. theory that the domination of the coastal fringes of Eurasia (the “rimland”) would provide the base for world conquest (not the “heartland”).
Capital city:
rinciple city in a state or country.  The best place to locate a capital is at the center of a country, so it is a somewhat equal distance from all parts of the country.

Forward capital: a symbolically relocated capital city usually because of either economic or strategic reasons; sometimes used to integrate outlying parts of a country into the state (e.g., Brasília, Washington D.C.). 
Unitary state:
a state governed constitutionally as a unit, without internal divisions or a federalist delegation of powers

Federal state: a state in which a group or body of members are bound together with a governing representative head. Federalism is the system in which the power to govern is shared between the national & state governments.  Considered the most geographically expressive of all states.

Confederation: association of sovereign states (or States) by a treaty or agreement.   It deals with issues such as defense, foreign affairs, trade, and a common currency.

Below the state boundary: internal divisions within a state (e.g., States, counties, municipalities (local self-government))

Above the state boundary: refer to supranationalist agreements with two or more states working together for a common purpose.

Electoral regions: the different voting districts that make up local, state, and national regions. 

Gerrymandering: the process of redrawing legislative boundaries for the purpose of benefiting the political party in power. The process is usually used to turn “too close to call” states into a party’s favor. 

Apartheid:  Afrikaans for "apartness"; it was the segregation of blacks, coloreds, Asians, and Whites in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.   It was created to keep the white minority in power and allow them to have almost total control over the black majority (~90% of the total population).
a venture of three or more states (sometimes two or more) involving formal economic, political, and/or cultural cooperation to promote shared objectives.  Some examples …

-United Nations (UN): established at the end of WWII to foster international security and cooperation (192 member states); precursor was the League of Nations that went defunct at the beginning of WWII.  Has many subsidiaries such as the Security Council, World Health Organization (WHO), …).

-European Union (EU): union of 27 democratic member states of Europe; began with the formation of Benelux by the end of WWII, then with the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) years later. The EU's activities cover most areas of public policy, from economic policy to foreign affairs, defense, agriculture and trade. The European Union is the largest political and economic entity on the European continent, with over 500 million people and an estimated GDP of >US$18 trillion (2008). 

-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): a military alliance of western democracies begun in 1949 with 28 member states today; its members agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.

-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): a trilateral trade bloc in North America created by the governments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  Poverty rates have fallen and real incomes have risen in Mexico, but farmers haven’t fared well due to cheaper food from US agribusiness; also US manufacturing workers have lost jobs to maquiladora plants in Mexico (mostly due to cheaper labor costs).

-Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): confederacy of states of the former Soviet Union; it possesses coordinating powers in the realm of trade, finance, lawmaking, and security; also promotes cooperation on democratization and cross-border crime prevention.  Some states are considered to be part of the “near-abroad”, referring to states (e.g., Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania) with strong Russian ties linguistically and politically.

Devolution: process whereby regions within a state demand and gain political strength and growing autonomy at the expense of the central government (e.g., Basque and Catalonia in Spain, Chechnya in Russia, …).

Balkanization: The political term used when referring to the fragmentation or breakup of a region or country into smaller regions or countries.   The term comes from the Balkan wars, where the country of Yugoslavia was broken up in to six countries between 1989 and 1992. 

Centripetal forces: forces that unify a state – national culture, shared ideological objectives, common faith,...

Centrifugal forces: forces that divide a state – internal religious, political, economic, linguistic, or ethnic differences
Law of the sea:
laws establishing states’ rights and responsibilities concerning the ownership and use of the Earth’s waters and their resources.

-Territorial sea: states’ navigational and economic sovereign territory extending 12 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.15 statute miles) from the coast (since 1982); foreign ships (both military and civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it; sovereignty also extends to the airspace over and seabed below.

-EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone): a sea zone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources stretching 200 nautical miles from the coast. The country that controls the EEZ has rights to the fishing, whaling, etc., as well as the raw material resources.

-Median-line principle: in situations where there is less than 400 nautical miles

Domino theory: the idea that if one land in a region came under the influence of Communists, then more would follow in a domino effect. A resulting policy out of the Truman Doctrine that promoted containment of communism, the domino theory was used by successive United States administrations during the Cold War to justify American intervention around the world.

New World Order: commonly refers to the post-Cold War era vision in which world affairs would not be dominated by the competition between the two nuclear superpowers; a positive and hopeful vision for the future.