The Buffalo commons: Metaphor as method

Deborah E. Popper, Frank J. Popper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


By crafting regional metaphors, geographers can help the public to understand and expand regional choices. As a metaphor for the United States' Great Plains, the Buffalo Commons stands for a large-scale, long-term ecological-economic restoration project. It has found an attentive audience in the last thirteen years and is in practice springing to life in the region. Comparable metaphors for other regions dealing with structural change are explored in this essay, using as main examples the Pacific Northwest, Detroit, and big cities generally. Metaphors, we conclude, differ from usual social-science tools because they engage the public in forming policy. The most effective regional metaphors are ambiguous, open-ended, and somewhat disconcerting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-510
Number of pages20
JournalGeographical Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Buffalo Commons
  • Geographical imagination
  • Great Plains
  • Regional geography
  • Regional metaphor


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