CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY AND
ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPPOLOGY



 
To: EANTH-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
From: negenter@worldcom.ch (Nold Egenter)
Subject: INTRODUCTION
Date: 18. 11. 1998 12:32
 
 

Dear Eanth-List members,

I was very pleased these days when I read that the AAA created a new list on Environmental Anthropology, since this is, somehow, what I have been doing for quite some time: researching and theorizing anthropology not on the basis of the established disciplinary system but with environmental paradigms of space per-/con-ception (Bollnow 1963) and the *evolution of constructive behavior* (nestbuilding behavior of the great apes; Yerkes 1929). These two basic paradigms are used in a complementary sense, in a wider framework of spatial and architectural anthropology. The method is cross-culturally and syn- and diachronically focussed on the human (or sub-human) settlement (or habitat) and how it is spatially organised by using artificial, resp. constructed demarcations. Evidently many cultural phenomena are intrinsically related to space per-/conception and demarcation. Thus, this type of *environmental anthropology* could be a new approach to culture. *Settlement* is a fairly objective term which allows us to avoid hidden Eurocentric idealisms already at the descriptive level of research. You will find further informations on this approach and on our office in our website. Its URL is found below.

Regards

Nold Egenter

___________________________________
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 18:19:06 +0100
Reply-To: Ecol/Env Anthropology <EANTH-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>
Sender: Eanth-L <Eanth-l@uga.cc.uga.edu>
From: Nold Egenter <negenter@WORLDCOM.CH>
To: EANTH-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU
 

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!

 
> > > > > > > > > > See our INTERNET-Homepage: http://home.worldcom.ch/~negenter

Nold Egenter
DOFSBT, Chorgasse 19
CH-8001 Zuerich, Switzerland
Tel.: +41-1-2516075
Fx: +41-21-3231707
----or:
e-mail: negenter@worldcom.ch

 
_____________________________________
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 18:53:20 +0000
Reply-To: simon.batterbury@brunel.ac.uk
Sender: Eanth-L <Eanth-l@uga.cc.uga.edu>
From: Simon Batterbury <simon.batterbury@brunel.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Egenter
To: EANTH-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU
 

Nold

Point taken, but I'm not trying to plug a particular discipline.

The door is, at least, half opened by previous thinkers,
as you step towards it. There are many anticedents who upheld a similar
approach to yours, although perhaps they stated it or framed the issues
differently. They aren't all featured in the website articles. One person
that came to mind is Vidal de La Blache - his geographical work in the
early 1900s led students to consider how landscape and culture were like
'snails and shells', organically moulded to each other, with the natural
environment providing 'possibilities' for variation in technologies,
artefacts, traditions, dwellings (this was before globalisation penetrated
deeply, even to French rural society!). Jean Yvres MArchal and Michel
Izard are a geographer and and anthropologist respectively - they work
together. the former studies the evolution of the Mossi (Burkina FAso) as
a people, and their political systems and culture, while MArchal looks at
the spatial expression of the hierarchical social order, and animist
belief, in settlement pattern, agricultural practices, migration patterns,
and so forth. Mossi dwellings are hybrids - of practicality, taste, and
belief systems - and the configuration is ordered by strong belief and
tradition (I used to live in one!).

Marchal , in particular, move us a long way from the 'capes
and bays' of early regional geography, and the 'house types and vernacular
architecture' of the American cultural geographers.
More recently , Yi Fu Tuan and Edmund Relph have been at pains to point
out that settlements reflect the beliefs and feelings of their owners, as
much as they do the prevaling architectural discourse. Steve Daniels and
Dennis Cosgrove have shown how the notion of landscape is deeply engrained
in prevailing cultures, and shaped by it . They have abandoned any
mechanistic view of an 'organic' culture, to focus on particular
representations of 'landscapes' (eg English rural scenes, or Venetian
waterways) as having particular social and historical origins. Cultural
geography today is not moving towards postmodern studies of youth
cultures, and so-forth - but there is a lot there of interest to an
ecological anthropologist.

The distancing of cultural geography from anthropology and sociology seems
to be a dialogue of the deaf. As Roy Ellen pointed out (in Progress in
Human Geography, 1988) this dissonance also applies close to our
intellectual home - between ecological anthroplogy, and human-environment
studies in geography. I would argue we need more
cooperation between disciplines around notions of political and cultural
ecology, realist environmentalism, and even in policy studies (although
the point about HArvey, Massey et al is that they are truly free thinkers
who don't consider their work to be based primarily in one discipline) -
not a new framework at this point.

Finally - did not Julian Steward introduce the notion of the cultural
core, and employ it (as did Carl Sauer) to account for spatial
and temporal variations in productive activities? That was back in the
1950s, and I do not think we have mined all he has to say just yet.

best wishes

Simon

On Mon, 23 Nov 1998 18:19:06 +0100 Nold Egenter <negenter@WORLDCOM.CH>
wrote:

> 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!
>
> _________________
>
> > > > > > > > > > > See our INTERNET-Homepage: http://home.worldcom.ch/~negenter
>
> Nold Egenter
> DOFSBT, Chorgasse 19
> CH-8001 Zuerich, Switzerland
> Tel.: +41-1-2516075
> Fx: +41-21-3231707
> ----or:
> e-mail: negenter@worldcom.ch

------------------------------
Dr Simon Batterbury
Dept. of Geography & Earth Sciences
Brunel University
Uxbridge Middx. UB8 3PH, UK

http://www.brunel.ac.uk/depts/geo
tel +1895 274000 fax +1895 3033217
Simon.Batterbury@Brunel.ac.uk
(I've returned from the Univ. of Colorado)

YES, YOU CAN COMMUTE BY BIKE
"It's the first machine we master as children and the one we abandon
when the seductions of the automobile take over." Colman McCarthy

 



Back to List
Homepage