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  • The Sauer Tree in Time and Place1
  • Kent Mathewson, Ashley L. Allen, Audrey Grismore, Mariano Lagos, Jessica Rose Simms, and Brett Spencer

carl O. Sauer's Latin Americanist genealogical tree provides a prime example of what can be learned and discerned from assembling an academic family tree. The tree comprises Sauer's Latin Americanist PhD descendants. The record is, for the most part, recoverable. Once the basic tree has been assembled, a variety of other questions can be asked, attributes can be distinguished, and connections can be established. These include favored regional locations where research has been done, and areas where research is sparse or absent. Similarly, there are clear shifts in research foci, methodology, and epistemological orientations over time that can be charted and commented on. Overall, this assemblage of Sauer-associated researchers and their doctoral research provides one of the larger tableaux of Latin Americanist geography's history since the 1920s, including its personalities and development, and offers some indications of where the geography is headed. The construction of academic genealogical trees is largely an exercise or enterprise that awaits historians of geography. While biographical literature on individual geographers, both monographic and article-length, is considerable, and some figures have been singled out for particular attention, work on collectivities associated with individuals is almost non-existent. There is a modest literature on departmental histories, usually in-house documents or book chapters or journal articles in special issues. It would seem that prosopographical work (collective biographical studies) in the history of geography is a promising new arena. Constructing academic "family trees" or genealogies is the logical place to start. It is widely accepted that Sauer inspired and directed a school (the "Berkeley school") with common epistemological and methodological groundings in cultural-historical approaches and perspectives, and with a preponderant regional focus [End Page 84] on Latin America. The extent to which this is empirically validated can be determined from the data on the tree. Similarly, the extent to which subsequent generations have either adhered to or diverged from the ideal types (topics, regions, periods) that Sauer's own work represents can be charted.

The "total" Carl O. Sauer academic genealogical tree comprises all of the PhD graduates in geography (first generation) that Sauer supervised over four decades (1923-1967), and their students, and so on, now unfolding into the sixth generation. At present, over 1,000 dissertators have places on the "total tree." However, this figure may be an undercount by as much as 10 to 15 percent. We have relied primarily on ProQuest's data bank, which mainly provides U.S. dissertation information. For the most part, dissertations directed by Sauer legatees at universities outside the U.S., especially in Latin America, have yet to be identified and placed on the tree. Sauer had thirty-seven PhD graduates in geography at Berkeley, and one, Darrell Haug Davis, at the University of Michigan. Of Sauer's thirty-eight PhD students, half, or nineteen, pursued dissertation topics involving Latin America (15) or the Caribbean (4). The common perception is that Sauer's students, and their subsequent descendants, primarily focused on Latin America. However, this turns out to be something of a misconception. Preliminary compilation and tabulation of dissertation data on the "total" Sauer tree suggests that, at most, one third (about 320) of the dissertations fall into the Latin America and the Caribbean category. North America based dissertations are actually the largest group, with about 380 dissertations. About seventy dissertations lack a regional focus, about sixty treat sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia and Europe about fifty each. North Africa and the Middle East are the scenes of about twenty-five dissertations, East Asia of about twenty, and Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand/Oceania of about fifteen each. Russia, Central Asia, and the global scope have about five dissertations each. Once the total tree is completely filled-out, it is likely to constitute the largest number of academic advisee "descendants" of any North American geographer. Quite possibly, it is also the largest in the history of geography.

Although Latin Americanist dissertations represent less than half of those on the total tree, they almost certainly constitute the largest...