Call for Applications: PhD Studentship “Esperanto 4.0. Millennials and the global Esperanto movement in historical and anthropological perspective”

PhD Studentship in Social Anthropology & Modern History

The deadline for applications is 5pm on 25 May 2019.

The project “Esperanto 4.0: Millennials and the global Esperanto movement in historical and anthropological perspective” invites applications for one PhD studentship, for applicants to start at the University of St Andrews in September 2019. The student will examine the current resurging interest in the artificial and neutral language Esperanto among millennial Esperanto speakers and activists in an anthropological-historical perspective.

The project seeks to address – among others – the following questions:

  • To what extent are current Esperanto-speakers driven by similar or different agendas and ideals as previous generations of Esperanto-speakers?
  • To what extent are current speakers aware of the historical origins and the legacy of the language and the broader movement?
  • How do millennials interact within the wider Esperanto community in comparison to previous generations (travel, congresses, local and national societies, media and online forums)?
  • To Millennial Esperantists, what are the limits and potentials to revive the movement within the current social, economic, political, and cultural climate?

The main focus of the project is to conduct ethnographic fieldwork, in form of meetings, informal and informal interviews and oral history, regarding Millennial Esperantists. The successful candidate will find a highly stimulating research environment and joint supervision from Social Anthropology and History. The studentship allows for the development of a flexible and independent interdisciplinary project around today’s Esperanto community in a historical perspective. While the project is a free-standing PhD project it will be embedded into a wider project on “Esperanto & Internationalism, c. 1880s-1930” (Dr Bernhard Struck, School of History).

We are looking for a PhD candidate trained in Social Anthropology or History. This could include someone with a joint degree or someone with a Masters and Undergraduate degrees in the disciplines. Applicants should have completed a taught-postgraduate degree (or equivalent) with a good Masters degree by September 2019. It is expected that the student will know or be willing to learn Esperanto. The studentship is funded through the St Leonard’s College Interdisciplinary Doctoral Scholarships Scheme at the University of St Andrews. The scholarships comprise a full-fee waiver and stipend for the normal full-fee paying period. The stipend will be paid at the current Research Council rate (£14,777 in 2018-19). The scholarship may be awarded to a UK/EU or international applicant.

For a full outline of the project rationale, see PDF version Interdisciplinary PhD – Esperanto Project. The project is part of a wider project on “Esperanto and Internationalism, c.1880s-1930” with another PhD starting in September 2019 on Poland in local and transnational perspectives.

Applicants should apply for a PhD place via the University of St Andrews standard application process: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/pg/apply/research/. In addition, they should submit a research outline of a maximum of 500 words directly to Professor Mark Harris (mh25@st-andrews.ac.uk) and Dr Bernhard Struck (bs50@st-andrews.ac.uk).

 

 

ITSH Mondays

Welcome to our ITSH Institute Mondays AY2018-19, 3-5pm, Venue: Old Seminar Room, St John’s House

Our main theme this academic year is “Space” and “Spatial History”. Texts will be pre-circulated for the sessions. Please email Konrad Lawson (kml8@st-andrews.ac.uk).

  • 12 November 2018, Manuscript Workshop, Bernhard Struck, Did Prussia have an Atlantic History? The Partitions of Poland-Lithuania, the French Colonisation of Guyana, and Climates in the Caribbean, c.1760s-1780s
  • 11 February 2019, Reading Group – Chalana, Manish (ed), Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia, Hong Kong University Press, 2017 (comments by Vahishtai D. Ghosh)
  • 18 February 2019, Reading Group – Stock, Paul (ed), The Uses of Space in Early Modern History, New York 2015 (comments by Jessica Rees)
  • 25 February 2019, Skills Workshop – Introduction to QGIS (open to all Staff and PGs) (Konrad Lawson)
  • 4 March 2019, Skills Workshop – Introduction to Regular Expressions (open to all Staff and PGs) (Konrad Lawson)

    Konrad Lawson, GIS workshop

  • 11 March 2019, Manuscript Workshop – Antonio Scalia, The reinvention of left-wing internationalism in Italy: transnational activists, cultural practices, political violence and gender (1960-1987)
  • 1 April 2019, Manuscript Workshop – Rosalind Parr, Citizens of Everywhere. Indian Nationalist Women and the Global Public Sphere, 1920s-1950s
  • 15 April 2019, MLitt Dissertation Prospectus Workshop
  • 29 April 2019, Manuscript Workshop – Riccardo Bavaj, Konrad Lawson, Bernhard Struck, Doing Spatial History (Introduction)

 

Connecting the Czech Lands & Latin America around 1900

Research Seminar

Short-term and circular mobility from the Czech Lands to Latin America (1880s-1930s). A Case study in Entangled History

Professor Markéta Křižová (Charles University Prague)

Hosted by  the Cross Cultural Circa Nineteenth Century Research Centre and the Institute for Transnational & Spatial History (ITSH), School of History

The paper will introduce the phenomenon of short-term transatlantic mobility, on the basis of sources as memoirs, letters and official reports, but also oral histories and family histories. The phenomenon of short-term labor migration offers fascinating insights into the mechanisms of communication in the broader Atlantic region in the period under investigation. The paper investigates cultural and economic interchange as well as the perceptions by the migrants themselves of their place in the world, their “home” and their identity.  The movement across the Atlantic certainly left profound marks upon the spiritual and material culture of both the sending as well as receiving countries. Through transmitting skills, experiences, and cultural knowledge, the migrants assisted in the creation of “transnationalism from below” on both sides of the ocean.

Research Seminar Thursday 25 April, 5pm

Venue: Arts Lecture Theatre, University of St Andrews

Summer School: Experts and Expertise in Motion

Call for Application

 Experts and Expertise in Motion

 7th GRAINES Summer School, Charles University, 12-15 June 2019

Ever since its establishment Transnational History, however loosely defined, has focused on connections, on flows of people, goods, ideas as well as processes, interconnections and exchange of information in its various forms, that stretch over political and territorial borders. This process-oriented perspective challenges the notion of both the nation and the state as a principal historical category. It questions the binary concept between “centers” and “peripheries” with its single-direction relation. Furthermore, European history has become deeply involved in Global History, and expert networks or scientific transfers are there an important topic too.

1927 Solvay Conference

Following this perspective, the GRAINES summer school 2019 will engage with the multiple and multi-directional entanglements within and beyond the European continent around “experts” and “expertise in motion”. Experts and expertise shape our modern world and societies, from technology to health care, to decision and policy-making around taxation, education, infrastructure or humanitarian action – to name just a few areas. Experts may work directly in or are associated with the state, yet they also operate beyond and below the state level. They may equally shift between the two, as intermediaries between civil society, science and research on the one hand, and the state on the other. Experts often work in specific institutional settings that produce and provide expertise (e.g. labs, universities, think tanks, academies, learned societies, international organisations). Yet beyond such settings experts form and forge various forms of exchange and cooperation that sets expertise and expert knowledge in motion.

The summer school invites contributions on themes including: the movement of persons, the translocation of objects as well as ideas, the problem of “authority” and “trust” in the establishment of knowledge networks, the forms and reshaping of transnational spheres of “expert” communication and collaboration. We invite contributions on modern European history with Europe understood as an open concept that includes connections within as well as beyond Europe.

The summer school is organised by the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, in cooperation with the Graduate Interdisciplinary Network for European Studies (GRAINES). The program includes reading and discussion groups, lectures and excursions, as well as room for the presentation and discussion of student projects. While the summer school will have a distinct interdisciplinary and trans-epochal character, potential participants should demonstrate historical awareness and general interest in history. We invite postgraduate students from a broad range of theoretical perspectives and disciplines to submit their project proposals to the organisers.

The working language of the summer school is English. It is open to PhD candidates as well as MA students. Accommodation costs will be covered, a limited number of travel bursaries may be available.

To apply, please send your project proposal of maximum 500 words and a one-page CV by 20 February 2019 to graines2019@ff.cuni.cz

Summer school organized by:

Faculty of Arts, Charles University in cooperation with the partners of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Network for European Studies (GRAINES)

For further information on the summer school and GRAINES see

http://grainesnetwork.com/ or https://graines2019.ff.cuni.cz/

 

 

ITSH Mondays – Reading Groups & Manuscript Workshops

Welcome to the autumn term 2018. This year we will aim to make Mondays afternoons the time for a series of afternoon activities and occasional brown-bag lunches with our MLitt students.  Everyone is very welcome to these activities whether you are affiliated with the institute or not. Our fall activities, which are designed to be informal and conversational opportunities to learn from each are set as follows:

  • Mon 15 Oct 1.15-3pm ITSH Reading Group – Old Seminar Room, South Street, Su Lin Lewis Cities in Motion: Urban Life and Cosmopolitanism in Southeast Asia, 1920-1940 (Konrad Lawson presenting)

  • Mon 12 Nov 1.15-3pm ITSH Manuscript Workshop – Old Seminar Room, South Street (Chapter submitted by Bernhard Struck)
  • Mon 19 Nov 1.15-3pm ITSH Reading Group – Old Seminar Room, South Street, A. K. Sandoval-Strausz and Nancy H. Kwak eds. Making Cities Global: The Transnational Turn in Urban History (Emma Hart presenting)
  • Mon 3 Dec 1.15-3pm ITSH Manuscript Workshop – Old Seminar Room, South Street (Chapter submitted by Calum Daly)

Reading Group – In this activity we ask one institute member to present to us about a book relevant to Transnational or Spatial History, summarizing it and offering comments on its contribution to our themes of interest. Optionally, a second person offers some comments from their perspective. Those who attend are not expected to have read the work, but they are most welcome to do so. We will also usually distribute some selection from the book for discussion. The discussion that follows need not be limited to the book but can range more broadly on the theme as relevant to our own interests and research.

Manuscript Workshop – An institute member submits a chapter or article draft for reading by attendees and after giving some comments at the beginning of the workshop setting the context for the work and any other preliminary comments, the workshop works through the text and offers comments and suggestions.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.

Statistical nodes and circulations around 1800

Research Seminar Paper 

Adam Dunn (University of St Andrews)

From words to numbers and maps. Transfers, networks and the transformations of statistical thinking in Britain and the German lands, c. 1750s-1840s

This talk will explore the changes, evolution and developments of statistical thinking from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. It will argue that the form, function and theory of statistical thought changed from a descriptive, narrative, mode to a more mathematical, visual, mode. Taking Sir John Sinclair as its lead the talk will argue that the work of amateur statisticians, working beyond or on the margins of state mechanisms, played a crucial part in this development. It will argue that Sinclair not only made significant methodological and theoretical leaps forward, but also that he was aided in these developments and spreading his ideas by the vast transnational network he established through travel and correspondence.

Time & Venue: Monday, 5 February 2018, 5.15pm, Room 1.10 St Katharine’s Lodge, University of St Andrews 

Fife Coastal Walk 2017

2017 Masters Cohort near Elie

2017 Masters Cohort near Elie

In October, our masters students studying transnational and spatial history in our MLitt programme took a break from their research and seminars for a day long walk along the southern coast of Fife from Elie to Crail. A new tradition in formation, this was the second cohort of masters students to make the journey along with programme coordinator Konrad, which this year added new elements, including a picnic and student-supplied whisky in St Monans harbour, a stop for hot chocolate and historical discussion in the village of PIttenweem, and fish and chips in the final village Crail, which a recent blind taste test by postgraduate students give winning scores to, despite the greater fame of its rivals in Anstruther.

Whisky fortification for the last leg of the walk between Cellardyke and Crail. The Isle of May is in the background.

St Andrews is located on the northern side of Fife, but is a convenient bus ride from all the coastal villages further south that can all be reached by following the Fife Coastal Path. The stretch from Elie to Crail is especially stunning, and a walk beginning in Elie at 10:30am can end in Crail by dinner time, with plenty of time for breaks in the villages along the way. Walks like these are perfect ways for postgraduate students to get to know each other better and explore what Fife has to offer.

Dropbox, Dinner, and Debate: Or, How to Produce an Edited Volume

Prof. Despina Stratigakos

Following on from the successful and highly-engaging exploratory workshop held in September 2016, this August saw the second meeting towards the production of a new ‘Routledge Guide to Using Historical Sources’ aiming to offer an accessible introduction to the sources and methodologies of spatial history. This report will explore the different ways in which this proactive workshop helped to bring the volume closer to becoming a reality.

Dinner, the evening before work truly began, partly offered a social welcome to participants, some who had merely walked across town from the School of History in St Katharine’s Lodge, but several of whom had travelled to St Andrews via Edinburgh Airport from locations as far afield as Buffalo, USA. However, conversation turned almost immediately to the volume. Draft chapters had been circulated in advance via Dropbox, and many a greeting could be heard along the lines of “ah, so you’re so-and-so, I very much enjoyed your paper on such-and-such, and it made me think of…” This cross-dinner table discussion typified the collaborative, conversational tone of the following two days.

The initial workshop last September focussed on the sharing of preliminary ideas between a relatively small group of spatial scholars. The workshop this August saw not only the addition of new potential contributors to the volume – of whom more shortly – but also the welcome input of several external commentators. These scholars, all experts in their field, not only provided feedback on individual papers, but also offered their own perspectives on what space is, and what a historical introduction to spatial history as a subject should try to do.

Prof. Susanne Rau

SUSANNE RAU (Universität Erfurt), having quite literally written the book on space (Räume: Konzepte, Wahrehmungen, Nutzungen, 2013), helped to ground the conference in just these challenging questions. Whilst she challenged whether it is possible – or even useful – to attempt to define space, she emphasised that historians have the potential to ‘add value’ to discussions of the past through a consideration of how space is ‘produced’ (a process which can also be destructive), how our social relations are transformed and institutionalised through space, and the ways in which we can analyse the power relations behind the claims made to spaces through documents such as maps.

CHRISTOPH NÜBEL (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) picked up this latter theme, pointing out that several papers shared the common theme of the appropriation of space, whether through economic activities or even in the construction of historical narratives. DIARMID FINNEGAN (Queen’s University Belfast) provided an interdisciplinary insight, suggesting that the fields of geography and spatial history have more in common than might be assumed at first glance in terms of the problems posed and the answers provided. He acknowledged, however, the value of ‘spatial history’ as a designator which brings together the figures of both space and time as categories for analysis.

As noted above, the number of participants grew significantly between the September and the August workshops. DESPINA STRATIGAKOS (University of Buffalo) provided a fascinating exploration of Hitler’s domestic spaces, utilising the floorplans (both ‘real’ and unrealised) for the Berghof, the dictator’s home in the Bavarian Alps. She brought the eyes of an architectural historian to bear on the question of how Hitler constructed and displayed this home space in the service of developing his image as a refined, educated world-leader.

Prof. Benjamin Schenk

Moving from the small scale of the floorplan to the national or even transnational scale of railway networks, FRITHJOF BENJAMIN SCHENK (Universität Basel) offered a consideration of – and indeed a proposed revision to – the history of infrastructure. He emphasised that traditional narratives suggest that, by enabling people to cross vast distances in relatively little time, developments such as trains served to integrate large territories such as Tsarist Russia. Schenck suggested that, by contrast, trains stratified society further, for example in physically separating socio-economic classes into different carriages, and by enabling greater population movement and correspondingly less national stability.

ANTONIS HADJIKYRIACOU (Boğaziçi University) explored both the promise and the pitfalls in utilising GIS to visualise historic economic data, focusing on the example of the 1572 fiscal survey of Cyprus. In common with TIM COLE (University of Bristol), who had attended the September workshop, and his new co-author ALBERTO GIORDANO (Texas State University), Hadjikyriacou emphasised the need to carefully interpret and curate data before inputting it into GIS, and the nature of visualisations as important analytical tools for the historian to build their work upon, rather than as straightforward ‘illustrations’ of results.

STÉPHANE VAN DAMME (European University Institute) and KATE FERRIS both brought questions of space to distinctive historical sub-disciplines: the urban history of science and the history of everyday spaces, respectively. Van Damme set out a historiographical narrative of the impact of the spatial turn upon the history of science and the metropolis, before considering the roles of ‘space’ and ‘place’ within the Scientific Revolution. Ferris took the discussion from telescopes to pint glasses with a case-study of bars in Fascist Italy, highlighting the ways in which they served as complex political spaces in which individuals might both express divergent views, and also suffer the regulation or observation of the regime.

The final new contribution, from ADAM CATHCART (University of Leeds), discussed the similarly ambivalent space of borderlands, with a focus on the Sino-Korean borderlands from 1931-1954. Cathcart emphasised the disjuncture between the reality of borders as sites which limit movement, and the focus – in both scholarship and popular fantasy – on movement across them.

In terms of attendees of the original workshop, BERNHARD STRUCK offered a more detailed analysis of German maps as ‘spatial text’, whilst JAMES KORANYI (Durham University) re-analysed travel guides as constructing mental, national space, and JORDAN GIRARDIN reminded us – in absentia, and via an excellent Youtube video – that travel accounts should be read ‘from a to z’, with attention to the traveller as an ever-moving space. MICHAEL TALBOT (University of Greenwich) returned to the ‘big blue wet’ problem of maritoriality, MARK HARRIS took the workshop back down the Amazon, and DAWN HOLLIS once more forced the spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre up a mountain. Finally, SARAH EASTERBY-SMITH and MATT YLITALO brought Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘heterotopia’ to bear on nineteenth-century whaling vessels as particularly complex and fluid spaces. (For more details on the initial ideas underlying all of these contributions, please see the previous workshop report).

Of course, from the perspective of participants at the two-day workshop, much of the above ‘discussion’ occurred between the pages of pre-circulated papers, with the bulk of the time together given over to in-depth discussion both of individual papers and of the volume as a whole. One participant lauded the ‘extraordinary process’ which this enabled, with the group returning again and again to questions of volume structure and how each chapter might meet the needs of our intended student reader until a general consensus was reached.

A particularly important discussion centred upon the question of inviting further contributions to the volume, with the communal wish-list for further areas of spatial history that could be covered reaching lengths that would exceed the page count of two or three volumes, let alone one. Several participants advocated passionately for a chapter focussing particularly on space and gender, whilst others argued that questions of gender and diversity more generally ought to be represented in as many papers as possible. The editors ultimately decided to follow both courses of action, and went away with a list of suggested authors to add further thematic range to an already broad volume.

The phrase ‘the editors decided’ is not, however, the note to end this report on, for what should really be emphasised about the workshop was its interactive, collaborative nature, with editors and contributors alike working to bring the intended volume another few steps closer to fruition. Pre-circulated papers, open discussion and debate, and above all a good meal all served to make the workshop an invigorating process for all involved and, most importantly, an effective stage in the long journey of producing an edited volume.

Seminar: Legal Flows – Crimes against Humanity

On Monday 25 September 2017, we will be welcoming Dr Kerstin von Lingen (Heidelberg). Kerstin von Lingen will be giving a paper entitled “Legal Flows: Crimes against Humanity in Transnational Legal Thought, 1899-1945”.

War Crimes Commission August 1945

The paper addresses the normative framework of the concept of ‘Crimes against Humanity’ from an intellectual history perspective, by scrutinizing legal debates of marginalized (and exiled) academic-juridical actors within the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC). Decisive for the successful implementation were two factors: the growing scale of mass violence against civilians during the Second World War, as well as the support by ‘peripheral actors’, jurists forced into exile at London by the war. The latter group united smaller Allied countries from around the world, who used the commission’s work to push for a codification of international law, which finally materialized during the London Conference of August 1945. To study the process of mediation and emergence of legal concepts, I propose to speak of ‘legal flows’, to highlight the different strands and older traditions of humanitarian law involved in coining new law. The global experience of exile thereby has a significant constitutive function.

Dr Kerstin von Lingen is a Research Fellow at the Heidelberg Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”. She is the Principal Investigator of the Research Group “Transcultural Justice. Legal Flows and the Emergence of International Justice within the East Asian War Crimes Trials, 1946-1954”.

Time & Venue: 5.15pm, Room 1.10 – School of History, St Katharine’s Lodge, St Andrews

 

Space and Place in the work of Yi-Fu Tuan

This posting is the first of three offering a reading of the work of the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan from a historian’s perspective. I hope to follow it with a series of similar postings on other scholars that may offer us productive ways to think about spatial history, or in other cases, avoid some of the pitfalls along the way. Historians who are interested in issues related to space are presented with a bounty of potential inspiration when it comes to theoretical work, much of which will draw them to reading works outside their own discipline. Philosophers and other thinkers who fit uncomfortably into any single disciplinary category are found in great number, while perhaps the most intuitively natural disciplinary home for thinking about space, geography doesn’t have much claim to a monopoly or dominance. If we take one volume that explores some of the most influential thinkers, Thinking Space (2000), for example, we find that both the editors, Mike Crang and Nigel Thrift, and a majority of the work’s authors are themselves geographers or find their institutional home among them, but not a single one of the sixteen thinkers considered by its chapters are. The Sage collection of 66 essays introducing Key Thinkers on Space and Place delivers a slight majority of its pieces on geographers, but also reveals the impressive interdisciplinary range of scholars who have made important contributions to thinking about space.

In the case of Thinking Space, which brings Walter Benjamin, Deleuze, Frantz Fanon, Bruno Latour and others under one roof, we see a good example of the important role of active communities of later scholars reading, reinterpreting and drawing out the spatial implications of this or that thinker and exploring the potential of applying these ideas in their work in circumstances where the original set of thinkers were not necessarily in conversation with each other about these ideas either directly or in their own work. By contrast, when it comes to reflecting on space, place, and the many problems that go along with it, histories of geography as a discipline by Richard Peet and David Livingstone or in more recently published companions aimed at students suggest that the more confined disciplinary space among geographers has yielded particularly dense set of patterns, trends, widely recognised interventions and, most of all, mutual encounters among thinkers. This shows how disciplinary space can as much enable intense and fruitful interaction even as the boundaries between them inhibit them.1

Below I want to introduce Tuan and what draws me to his work. I will devote a second posting on Tuan to consider him more critically, focusing on two features that I suspect many historians would find troubling: the relative little attention to change on the one hand, and to either human agency or social structures in bringing about the spatial practices that he describes. Finally, in a third posting, I want to say a bit more about the style of argument that Tuan uses, his consistently concrete, empirical, and engaging writing style, and then revisit some of the features of his approach that I think continue to make him interesting to read today.

Yi-Fu Tuan is an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin and often described as a key proponent of what he called a “humanistic geography.” When Tuan sets out the answer exactly what that means in the widely cited article he wrote under that title, he calls for them to turn their gaze away from what he sees as the “dogmatic” scientific approaches in which a “former liberator becomes censor.” It is not a rejection of such approaches, but more a lament that these approaches “circumscribe the appropriate language of discourse concerning man.”2 Instead, a humanistic geographer is to pay closer attention to geographic phenomena and human awareness, to take the risk and “perceive intention” where others see only objective forces, to take more seriously emotions of attachment to place, and to celebrate the power of human initiative to “break out of habitual modes” and clarify concepts and symbols related to space.3

In this manifesto for a field of geography Tuan speaks confidently of it in terms that suggest it already exists, and in a sense it was beginning to. Edward Relph’s similarly inspired Place and Placelessness comes out the same year with a complex framework and analysis of the “modes of spacial experience” while Anne Buttimer’s work would count among the humanistic geographers of the decade. Like Relph, Tuan describes the practice of humanistic geography in phenomenological terms but conflates this as the fruitful gamble of the humanist approach in general, “The humanist runs the risk of paying excessive attention to beginnings,” a phrase which could have been easily found in the opening pages of Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, where he describes his phenomenological approach to space as, “a consideration of the onset of the image in an individual consciousness” or later phenomenology of space an approach which “liquidates the past and confronts what is new.”4 This was not the first time Tuan had written like this: in an also widely cited 1971 article on geography, phenomenology, and human nature, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and indeed Bachelard’s Poetics of Space itself all make their appearance but without any engagement with any of their ideas in detail.5 In this earlier article we find his goal stated in its boldest and perhaps most problematic early version: Tuan believes that a phenomenological approach will allow the identification of human essences, and allow for a “geography as the mirror for man” or which “reveals man” (by now you will have spotted the gendered nature of these identifications). Whereas Bachelard offers corners, miniature, and shells, for example, Tuan in this article suggests exploring the spatial secrets of “back” and “front,” of “home” and “journey” (in Space and Place one can find way stations between these two as critical) among others, and suggests that only by looking at humanity’s basic responses to the world through spatial concepts such as this will a geographer capture things which statistic approaches fail to deliver, as when, for example, one attempts to use statistics on visits to nature parks as a measure for human interest in nature.

These two articles are perhaps the most cited of his works, but were closer to proclamations than demonstrations. For the latter you could turn to his now long list of books including Topophilia: a Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values (1974) and the work that I will focus most on in these postings, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (1977). In this work he gives a clear set of definitions for his two main concepts and then, in a thematic approach explores the awareness and response to them in major realms of human experience. In the introduction to a 2001 edited volume dedicated to Tuan on humanistic geography Textures of Place the excitement and “groundswell” that was produced by Yi-Fu Tuan’s scholarship inspired what would come to be recognized as “Tuanian” work. This movement is described in glowing terms even as the book goes on to describe the many limitations of its framing in its early days. On the other hand, the roughly identifiable cluster of humanistic geographies appear to have largely ceased to go by that term by the 1980s, it argues, and the rise of cultural geography, contextualist approaches, and “critical humanist geographies” took its place.6

So what drew me to Tuan’s work if, in some sense, the peak of its particular approach came in the unique moment of disciplinary transformation within geography of the 1970s and was then absorbed and developed in new decorations in the decade that followed? A few of the things I found most impressive were: 1) the inspiring breadth – pick up a work by Yi-Fu Tuan and flip through it, not even skimming full sentences, and you will be immediately struck by the sheer cosmic scale of his approach. He shifts smoothly from quoting Kant on the heavens to the spatial practices of Eskimo on the hunt or describing the ventilated homes of termites – all in a way that never looses the plot. We’ll come back to the dangers of this kind of approach, but the experience for the reader is breathtaking and sets the mind on fire with ideas. 2) the range of sources – a related point are the sources he draws this from. A good majority comes from anthropology, but psychology, architecture, literature, philosophy, and the hard sciences are all taken up and woven together in an impressive way and brings me to 3) the readability – many of the ideas that Tuan is interested in are abstract, such as the experience of time, the ability to perceive and analyse space and the relation of this to culture, but Tuan’s works are extremely readable, not only accessible to a general reader, but it is, I would argue, possible to pick up Tuan at any point in his Space and Place and almost immediately be pulled in. While I very often found myself protesting at the conclusions Tuan is drawn to, I think there is considerable value in the way that the highly concrete examples Tuan uses continually provokes the reader to engage in reflection. Even if that reflection results in protest, it often inspires new ideas for a researcher. Enough for now, but in the next posting I’ll consider Space and Place in more detail and turn to some of its problematic aspects.


  1. Richard Peet’s Modern Geographical Thought (1998), David Livingstone The Geographical Tradition (1992), and examples of companions include Blackwell’s A Companion to Cultural Geography ed. by James S Duncan, Nuala C. Johnson and Richard H. Schein (2008) and Approaches to Human Geography edited by Stuart C. Aitken and Gill Valentine (2015)
  2. Tuan, Yi-Fu. “Humanistic Geography.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 66, no. 2 (1976): 266.
  3. Ibid., 267, 273
  4. Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space Beacon (1994), xix, xxxii.
  5. Tuan, Yi-Fu. “Geography, Phenomenology, And The Study Of Human Nature.” The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien 15, no. 3 (September 1, 1971): 181–92.
  6. Adams, Paul. Textures Of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2001, xiv, xvi.