98_11_23

ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND GEOGRAPHY



From ???@??? Mon Nov 23 18:17:19 1998
To: EANTH-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
From: negenter@worldcom.ch (Nold Egenter)
Subject:
Cc:
Bcc:
X-Attachments:
Message-Id: <v01530501b27b849203ce@[194.235.51.50]>

On Wed, 18 Nov 1998 Simon Batterbury <simon.batterbury@brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

>Nold
>
>Surely what you are doing is very similar to human/cultural geography,
>where settlement, landscape, planning, and built environments have been
>the primary objects of study for a century theoretically, and
>practically? The idea that culture is related to space is pretty much the
>guiding force in any human geography work - David HArvey, Doreen Massey,
>and so-on!
 

Dear Simon,

I can definitely not agree with  your shifting the summary of my work into human/cultural geography, implying that it is running up against open doors.  Some arguments in the following.

1) On first sight very heterogeneous reports like the followings on
- *nestbuilding behavior of the great apes*, another one on
- *Shinto  cults in Japan*, another one on the
- *origins of script in the Ancient Near East and China* , or topics related to the
- * Egyptian temple*  or on
- * 'Software for a soft prehistory', on
- * polaritiy in the architectural conception of the Hagia Sophia* , articles on
- * Mario Botta or
- * Rene Magritte, or, on the German philosopher
- * O. F. Bollnow and his book 'man and space'*,
may all somehow have a geographical location, but their common motive is entirely different, quasi contra-geographical!

2) In my view, the geographical outlook is  often conditioned by its heritage, namely phyiscal geography and the cartographical (world-)view ('for a century'!).  The shift to the 'cultural' of the earth's crust is secondary, which means that  abstract approaches remained dominant.  Only recently, topics like 'place', or 'person, place and thing' (Wong) came in. However, if 'places' are described the studies remain within conventional ethnological monographies (Prussin, Preston-Blier). Cultural geography - though often questioning conventional historistic approaches focussed on historical centres (the most positive side of its contributions) - remains within the conventional humanities and the corresponding disciplinary system.

3) In contrast to this, *anthropology of space and architecture* works with two complementary paradigms: with an
- * anthropological [or topological] concept of space* (Bollnow 1963) and an
- * anthropological definition of architecture*.

4) Its method is not conventionally disciplinary, but pluridisciplinary phenomenologically descriptive, cross culturally comparative and theoretically inductive (note for instance that 'religion' is an Eurocentrically deductive system!).

5) Based on settlement surveys, it works with systematic terms like 'nuclear demarcation' or 'settlement core complex' which provide new hypotheses on human sedentarisation and state formation.

6) Its goal is not culturo-geographically to present  a 'human mosaic' (Jordan et. al.) but *to reconstruct the evolution of settlement and human constructive behavior* (Yerkes [primatology!] 1929) in a specifically demarcated and per-/conceptionally structured space.

Most of what is said here is found more in details in our website (about 40 texts related to various conventional disciplines). For the URL see below.

Best regards,
 

Nold Egenter
 

P.S. To give an example for what I mean: Amos Rapoport's early book 'Built form and culture' deals globally with the vernacular house. His method is closely related to cultural geography. He apriori interprets the house as a unit. In view of developmental criteria, Rapoport remains very schematic (3-factors: material, climatic, socio-cultural). In contrast to this, architectural anthropology dissects this unit of house form into components and explains it as an evolutionary composition of a more primary type of  built form: semantic and symbolic architecture. That is to say, the roof, the entrance, the sacred corner or house altar, the fire, the sacred column in the centre of the house, etc. they are all basically autonomous buildings that have had their own evolutionary processes and have been synthesised to form what we call 'house'. The method requires to integrate ritual behavior related to the house into the analysis, because it is there that 'semantic' and 'symbolic' architecture play their role. But the cultural geographers follow the disciplinary schemes and attribute these rituals to 'religion'! (see my studies on the traditional Japanese house and the house of the Ainu in our website). Note that Paul Oliver's 'Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World' suffers from the same handicap. You will never understand the vernacular house without the rites and cults related to it! They show the generic stratum from which it evolved: a pre-domestic level of territorial demarcation!

 



Back to titlepage
Back to homepage