Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies

Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies

Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies

Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies


A fresh and far-ranging interpretation of the concept of place, this volume begins with a fundamental tension of our day: as communications technologies help create a truly global economy, the very political-economic processes that would seem to homogenize place actually increase the importance of individual localities, which are exposed to global flows of investment, population, goods, and pollution. Place, no less today than in the past, is fundamental to how the world works.

The contributors to this volume -- distinguished scholars from geography, art history, philosophy, anthropology, and American and English literature -- investigate the ways in which place is embedded in everyday experience, its crucial role in the formation of group and individual identity, and its ability to reflect and reinforce power relations. Their essays draw from a wide array of methodologies and perspectives -- including feminism, ethnography, poststructuralism, ecocriticism, and landscape ichnography -- to examine themes as diverse as morality and imagination, attention and absence, personal and group identity, social structure, home, nature, and cosmos.


David Ley

How to circumscribe the encyclopedic? How to contain the ocean of geographic imagination? These are the challenges that confront the writer foolish enough to arm wrestle with Yi-Fu Tuan's expansive mind and seek to submit it to some rules of convention and precedent. One solution, perhaps, is the solution of all travelers who engage complexity and difference: to domesticate the wild by imposing upon it personal experiences. of course, as David Lowenthal reminds us, such a trope does not escape one of Tuan's own metaphors — that of the appropriation and domestication of nature. But domestication need not require a hostile takeover. If we think of Tuan's dualism of dominance and affection, as he encourages us to do, not only as a dichotomy but also as a dialectic, then one may arm wrestle playfully with the other within the context of respect, not subordination.

There have been two formative moments in my own encounter with Tuan's work, the first as an undergraduate, the second as a graduate student in a very different intellectual environment. Yi-Fu Tuan was a visitor to the School of Geography at Oxford University in the mid-1960s, and I attended lectures he presented on the landforms of the semiarid (“seem-eye arid,” as he memorably put it) southwestern United States. This identity as a physical geographer might raise some eyebrows now, but I was reminded of it as I read William Howarth's discussion of the physicality of sympathetic interpretations of place. in Tuan's slides and narrative we engaged nature not as an abstraction but physically and also sympathetically. the second moment came a few years later as a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University. Here in one of the epicenters of the spatial science revolution that invaded human geography in the 1970s, one encountered always cosmos but never home; it was always winter but never Christmas, to borrow one of the famous laments from C. S. Lewis's account of the journey from home and back again in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Geography's own experiment with “rational, abstract, decentered knowledge” might have merited a page or two of discussion in Kenneth Olwig's essay, for in a heightened manner it represented the view of the cosmopolite and of course encouraged the emergence of a resistant humanistic geography with which Professor Tuan has been closely associated. Spatial science relegated the . . .

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