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What’s the Place of “Place” in the Humanities?
September 9, 2013 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Susan D. Bernstein, English, Gender and Women’s Studies, Center for Jewish Studies, UW-Madison
Thomas Dale, Art History, UW-Madison
Tomislav Longinović, Slavic Languages and Literature, UW-Madison
Yi-Fu Tuan, Emeritus Professor of Geography, UW-Madison
Louise Young, History, UW-Madison
Michel Foucault predicted in 1967 that the coming age would be “an epoch of space” in contrast to the 19th-century “epoch of history,” while geographer Edward Soja issued a famous call in 1989 for more attention to space. Many have responded to the subsequent “spatial turn” in the humanities, seeing the impact of contemporary globalization as one that has newly foregrounded the significance of space and place for new questions and discoveries in the humanities. How has this spatial turn redirected or changed or entered into your research, if at all? How has, could, or should place impact those aspects of the humanities not typically concerned with place? Where and how are you placed as a humanities scholar?
Geography, of course, is the discipline focused on space/place, but what about the place of place across the humanities? Are there newly emergent meanings of place that are interdisciplinary in nature, formation, and use? Historians typically focus on temporality—change and continuity over time; periodization assumes place without referencing it. Theory—philosophical, critical, literary, aesthetic—is often a synchronic discourse, at times not located in either space or time, implying a transcendence of location. Narrative as a mode of telling in the verbal, visual, auditory, and kinetic arts is usually understood in terms of temporality and causality, with “setting” or “description” as the background, not the ground of action. What is the ground in or of your particular humanities research? Is it located in the human, the non-human, the environment, the non-material or the humanly constructed? How is the phenomena you study defined by, limited to, or understood through the place of its existence and development? Philosophically, ethically, materially, or methodologically speaking, what’s the place of place in your humanities research?