David J Bodenhamer (10)
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10 Challenges for the Spatial Humanities: Toward a Research Agenda

David J Bodenhamer Indiana University Press ePub

TREVOR M. HARRIS, JOHN CORRIGAN, AND DAVID J. BODENHAMER

This book set out with the ambitious goal of critically engaging domain experts in the task of examining the role of GIS technology and spatial concepts in the emerging field of the spatial humanities. The resulting chapters explore both the potential of GIS as a core component of the spatial turn and the role of geographical space as a conceptual framework in the humanities. The basic premise under examination is whether the powerful spatial data management, functionality, geovisualization, and mapping capabilities of GIS, combined with a spatial perspective, can provide new insight in humanities scholarship. We have chosen not to develop case studies to illustrate the use of GIS in specific humanities disciplines but rather have sought to identify the present status, history, and nature of the challenges facing the spatial humanities. We also have set out to explore critically the theories, concepts, and methodologies redolent in GIS usage and the spatial analytic perspective in humanities scholarship. In common with humanities scholarship in general, we sought not to develop an authoritative or ultimate answer to the role of GIS in these disciplines but to probe for new questions, develop new perspectives, advance new arguments and interpretations, and recursively shape the interface between GIS and the humanities and between humanists and GIS scientists. In exploring these multifaceted relationships we see the beginnings of a research agenda that is formulated on understanding the core elements of a reoriented humanities scholarship where space and geographical concepts play a greater role in framing scholarship in both the humanities and GIS communities. Likewise, we see opportunities for GIS to experiment methodologically and technically in ways that bring it into closer collaboration with the agendas of the humanities.

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1 Turning toward Place, Space, and Time

David J Bodenhamer Indiana University Press ePub

EDWARD L. AYERS

Just as many disciplines rediscovered place and space over the last thirty years, so did they rediscover time and temporal representation. A critical geography and a new historicism have reoriented many humanists and social science disciplines. Like the spatial turn, the temporal turn now grounds the analysis of everything from literature to sociology in new kinds of contexts. The exciting challenge before us now is integrating those new perspectives, taking advantage of what they have to teach us.

The spatial turn began within the discipline of geography itself. By the early 1970s, geographer Edward Soja observes, many people in the field “sought alternative paths to rigorous geographical analysis that were not reducible to pure geometries.” In this new critical geography, “rather than being seen only as a physical backdrop, container, or stage to human life, space is more insightfully viewed as a complex social formation, part of a dynamic process.” By making this argument, geographers opened their discipline to humanists and social scientists who found congenial both a skepticism toward positivist social science and a focus on the texture of experience.1

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2 The Potential of Spatial Humanities

David J Bodenhamer Indiana University Press ePub

DAVID J. BODENHAMER

Space is everywhere, and its definitions are legion. We are inherently spatial beings: we live in a physical world and routinely use spatial concepts of distance and direction to navigate our way through it. But this routine and subconscious sense of space is not the one that engages us as humanists. We are drawn to issues of meaning, and space offers a way to understand fundamentally how we order our world. Here, contemporary notions of space are myriad: what once was a reference primarily to geographical space, with its longstanding categories of landscape and place, is now modified by class, capital, gender, and race, among other concepts, as an intellectual framework for understanding power and society in times near and distant. We recognize our representations of space as value-laden guides to the world as we perceive it, and we understand how they exist in constant tension with other representations from different places, at different times, and even at the same time. We acknowledge how past, present, and future conceptions of the world compete simultaneously within real and imagined spaces. We see space as the platform for multiplicity, a realm where all perspectives are particular and dependent upon experiences unique to an individual, a community, or a period of time.1 This complex and culturally relativistic view of space, the product of the last several decades, has reinvigorated geography as a discipline, just as it has engaged scholars within the humanities.

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3 Geographic Information Science and Spatial Analysis for the Humanities

David J Bodenhamer Indiana University Press ePub

KAREN K. KEMP

Geographic Information Science (GISci) is the science behind the technologies of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). As a science, GISci evolved in a context of precision, quantitative measurement, and notions of accuracy. As such, it might seem that its technology has little application in the humanities where imprecision, qualitative information and individual, sometimes conflicting, interpretations of “facts” are the norm. Fortunately, GISci has a strong intellectual foundation in the discipline of geography, a field that sits astride the science/social science divide, and its practitioners are generally comfortable addressing the challenging issues that arise when we attempt to represent the complex and ever changing places in which we live within the rigorous structure of the digital computer.

In a somewhat circular definition, GISci is an information science that focuses on the collection, modeling, management, display, and interpretation of geographic information. It is an integrative field, combining concepts, theories, and techniques from a wide range of disciplines, allowing new insights and innovative synergies for increased understanding of our world. By incorporating spatial location (geography) as an essential characteristic of what we seek to understand in the natural and built environment, geographic information science and systems GIS provide the conceptual foundation and synergistic tools to explore this frontier.1

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4 Exploiting Time and Space: A Challenge for GIS in the Digital Humanities

David J Bodenhamer Indiana University Press ePub

IAN GREGORY

Most information is explicitly or implicitly concerned with theme, time, and space. Much humanities scholarship is concerned with a theme and how it varied over time and/or space. Handling space and time together is difficult, and this complexity has often led scholars to focus on either change over time, the domain of historians, or variations over space, primarily studied by geographers. Arguing that history is the study of time and geography the study of space overstates the divide between the two; however, it is fair to say that history is concerned with the study of periods in the past, while geography is the study of places on the Earth’s surface.1 As time is clearly a central concept to period and space is important to place, the difference between space and time appears to be a central reason for the disciplinary divide between history and geography. History has what Monica Wachowicz calls a time-dominated view, while geography has a space-dominated view.2 Many academics within and beyond these two disciplines have long argued that the division between time-dominated and space-dominated approaches is counter-productive and a more integrated approach is needed. This has been taken furthest in physics where Einstein’s work has moved the discipline beyond seeing space and time as separate but related concepts to a single concept of space-time. Arguments also have been made by geographers, historians, and others that to understand the human environment we need to move towards a concept of space-time.3

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Edited By Arijit Sen And Lisa Silverman (7)
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1. Placemaking and Embodied Space

Edited by Arijit Sen and Lisa Silverman Indiana University Press ePub

SETHA LOW

Within the field of space and culture there has been increasing interest in theories that include the body and walking as bodily movement as integral parts of spatial analysis. These concerns have been addressed partially through the historical analysis of the docile body to social structure and power in work of Michel Foucault, and sociologically in the notions of habitus by Pierre Bourdieu and “structuration” by Anthony Giddens, as well as the works of many others.1 Nonetheless, many researchers, architects, and landscape practitioners need theoretical formulations that provide an everyday material grounding and experiential, cognitive, and/or emotional understanding of the intersection and interpenetration of body, space, and culture.2 I call this material and experiential intersection “embodied space.” These understandings require theories of body and space that are experience-near and yet allow for linkages to be made to larger social and political processes.

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2. Visualizing the Body Politic

Edited by Arijit Sen and Lisa Silverman Indiana University Press ePub

SWATI CHATTOPADHYAY

The concept of public space in modern political theory is remarkably impoverished. It largely ignores the material attributes of space—its architectonics and physical-sensorial dimensions that enable habitation—and the process of social production that creates the “publicness” of public space. Such imagination of public space is disembodied in keeping with the disembodied, abstract imagination of the modern state. When it does consider material attributes and the bodies of citizens at work in shaping public space, it assumes a particular delimited imagination of the Greek polis. Both ignore the possibilities of a political vernacular that might enable us to expand the imagination of public space and its attendant materiality.

“To be embodied,” writes James Mensch, “is to be physically situated.” By that logic it is also to “exclude other persons from the position that one occupies in viewing the world.”1 This produces a plurality of viewpoints that we must accommodate, because we are also “dependent” on others to inhabit this world. To be embodied is to be aware of the vulnerability of the flesh. An embodied understanding of politics and public space thus requires attention to the conditions of our physical situatedness in relation to other bodies and objects. It involves an understanding of our position in a given space, our movement and ability to access space, what we can see, hear, feel, and touch: our vulnerability as well as our capacity to manipulate and change the aforementioned conditions. These states of vulnerability and capacity that actualize our political freedom set the parameters of our relation to fellow subjects. These material conditions (and their limits) are the bases of our political subjectivity and enable our political imagination.

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3. Inside the Magic Circle: Conjuring the Terrorist Enemy at the 2001 Group of Eight Summit

Edited by Arijit Sen and Lisa Silverman Indiana University Press ePub

EMANUELA GUANO

The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc., are all…forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart.

—Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture

Held in Italy shortly after the election of Silvio Berlusconi's second conservative government, the 2001 Group of Eight (G8) summit went down in history as the battle of Genoa due to the violent clashes and the extreme brutality of state repression. From July 20 through July 22 the leaders of the eight wealthiest countries in the world conducted their debates inside a militarized citadel—a magic circle—at the heart of downtown Genoa. In the meantime, the rest of the city became the theater of a guerrilla warfare and a police and army violence that had few antecedents in recent Italian history. While most protesters sought to hold their demonstrations peacefully, anarchists known as the Black Bloc carried out hit-and-run attacks on the police as well as on civilian targets, ravaging and burning down parked cars, banks, and small businesses. Instead of seeking to contain the Black Bloc's offensive, police and army corps responded by indiscriminately beating all of the protesters who happened to be in their way. Over three hundred of them were illegally detained; more than four hundred had to be hospitalized; and one young man, Carlo Giuliani, was fatally shot in the head.

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4. Eating Ethnicity: Spatial Ethnography of Hyderabad House Restaurant on Devon Avenue, Chicago

Edited by Arijit Sen and Lisa Silverman Indiana University Press ePub

ARIJIT SEN

In 2006 an item in the Chicago Tribune announced the closing of Hyderabad House, an ethnic restaurant located on Devon Avenue, a popular and crowded retail street on the northern edge of the metropolis. The heart of a diverse and ever changing immigrant community, Devon Avenue is well known for its Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi stores. Frequent visitors know that ethnic restaurants appear and disappear with regularity on this retail strip, so the only remarkable thing about the Tribune's report was its vivid description of the health hazards in the establishment:

A restaurant on Devon Avenue, a stretch well-known for its global cuisine, was closed Thursday after inspectors found insects, mouse droppings and food held at dangerous temperatures.

The city's Dumpster Task Force visited the Hyderabad House, 2225 W. Devon Ave., after receiving complaints about rodents, but soon found it was a “minefield” of food safety problems, said Matt Smith, spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

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5. Urban Boundaries, Religious Experience, and the North West London Eruv

Edited by Arijit Sen and Lisa Silverman Indiana University Press ePub

JENNIFER A. COUSINEAU

On the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, February 23, 2003, a woman carrying her infant child walked out her front door, through her yard, and into the street.1 This seemingly unremarkable occurrence was an unprecedented act among Sabbath-observant Jews in London. After centuries of Jewish life in London, why should such a mundane gesture mark a significant departure in the experience of the Jewish Sabbath? The catalyst for ritual innovation in this case was a spatial device called an eruv (plural, eruvim). An eruv is a space whose disparate areas are regarded as forming a single domain by virtue of the contiguity of its boundaries. An eruv can be built in a single street, uniting several dwellings on that street, or on a much larger scale, uniting many streets, households, and even neighborhoods. All eruvim, however, require real, physical boundaries. These boundaries tend to be minimalistic and are usually well integrated into the urban built environment. It is often difficult, even for eruv users, to detect the boundary by sight.2 Where possible, preexisting features of the urban environment deemed acceptable according to Jewish law, such as fences, row houses, hedges, railway lines, embankments, major roads, and bridges, can be borrowed imaginatively to create a contiguous boundary for the eruv. Where preexisting urban features are not fully contiguous, under certain circumstances Jewish law can allow for the boundary to be “completed” by erecting poles and wires to close gaps. The erection of some eighty poles in this way permitted the creation of an eruv that now encompasses an area of 6.5 square miles in North West London, including large parts of Hendon, Golders Green, Finchley, and the Hampstead Garden Suburb, and encircling the majority of the Jewish population of North West London. This eruv is known as the North West London Eruv.

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Tyra A Olstad (5)
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1. Shortgrass / Semi-Desert Shrub-Steppe

Tyra A. Olstad University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 1

Shortgrass / Semi-Desert Shrub-Steppe

1.1 Terra Incognita

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Before desire and before knowing, how can I say I am? Consider. Dissolve in the beauty.

—The 72nd of Shiva’s 112 ways to open the invisible door of consciousness, trans. by Paul Reps 1

The wind was whipping fiercely. Grey clouds hung low over a rugged expanse of scraggly sagebrush, sandy arroyos, and the occasional tumble-weed or dust devil or raven swooping by. Because I didn’t yet have the words for “sagebrush” or “arroyo” or “raven” on that cold November morning, I was left with nothing but an empty horizon and big black birds.

I had been driving for hours, following Interstate 40 into northern Arizona, where I was to report for an internship at Petrified Forest National Park. Although I sought a bit of adventure—anything other than another long cold winter at college in New Hampshire—I was beginning to wonder just what I was doing, where I was going, how I could possibly pass the next four months in such a place. (Such a place! Were there any people here? What were those birds?) Having spent my life comfortably surrounded by roads and rivers, trees and buildings, I was both intrigued and terrified by the yawning desolation of the landscape—what was out there but cold, windy, open space?

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2. Mixedgrass

Tyra A. Olstad University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 2

Mixedgrass

2.1 Wonderlands

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping . . .

—Willa Cather, My Ántonio1

Green! Lush, luxurious green!

So this was the legendary sea of grass; here was the soft growth of Poaceae; now was Willa Cather’s “spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly”2

I thought I needed to try something more spectacular—less desolate and more inhabitable—so headed northeast, destination South Dakota. I arrived at Badlands National Park on a glorious day, mid-May—a sunny, blue-sky-with-puffy-white-clouds, air-throbbing-with-spring sort of day. I should describe the drive: how I was so eager to get to there from Denver that I woke pre-dawn and zipped all the way along the Interstate instead of lingering on scenic back roads; how I hadn’t even turned off I-80 at Wall to drive through the bulk of the park, but rather stayed on the highway until I reached the exit nearer the Ben Reifel Visitor Center; how I had slowed slightly and opened my windows to let the fresh morning air and the liquid songs of meadowlarks permeate my car; how I caught my first glimpse of the jagged, pink-cream-red-striped mountains of clay, passed the parking area for the Notch Trail and Castle Trail, then rolled down the steep hill after Cliff Shelf and finally stopped at the visitor center; how I had introduced myself to a half-dozen new faces, then gotten directions to my new quarters; how I had begun to unpack my car, but, halfway through, finally looked up and around and realized, I’m here! I dashed out the back door, scrambled over a hill, flung myself down into a soft carpet of spring grass, and let my mind explode with, Green! “Bad” lands?

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3. Tallgrass

Tyra A. Olstad University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 3

Tallgrass

3.1 Experiment and Experience; Or, How I Tried to Like a Prairie

Konza Prairie Preserve, Kansas

I didn’t dare leave much out. I wanted to bear witness to the facts . . . There’s no cleverness to be found here, only rawness

—Rick Bass, Book of Yaak 1

You cannot make yourself love a place. You can go again and again with different expectations, for different reasons, in different seasons, but you can’t make yourself love a place. You can learn the names of the plants and the colors of the sky, make friends with the deer and come to terms with the wind, but you can’t make yourself love a place. You can rationalize and rhapsodize, open your mind and narrow your field of vision, sit and watch, walk and think, think and try through rain snow sunrise sunset, but no. Know you cannot make yourself love a place.

When I moved to Manhattan, Kansas, late one summer, I was not dreading what journalists such as Stephen Darst denigrate as an “all-pervading flatness, moral, cultural, social, topographical, political.”2 Rather, I was eager for Kansas! The Heartland! Wide-Open America! As Big as I Thought! I thought it would be big. And beautiful. Ad astra, per prairie!

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4. Shortgrass / Semi-Desert Shrub-Steppe

Tyra A. Olstad University of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER 4

Shortgrass / Semi-Desert Shrub-Steppe

4.1 The Return to the Plains

Fossil Butte National Monument, Wyoming

He who pursues learning will increase every day; / He who pursues Tao will decrease every day.

—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching1

I could tell you about how I’d seen the place a year earlier, when traveling through on the way to somewhere from somewhere else, and thought, hmmm, I could live here. I could tell you about how circumstances obliged and I moved to southwestern Wyoming—Fossil Butte National Monument—late one spring to start work as a physical science technician (paleontology). I could tell you about the months I spent perched halfway up the side of a tawny bluff, peeling up layers of limestone in search of 52-million-year-old fossil fish, or the hundreds of walks I took up and down old ranching roads and off into the scraggly steppe, looking for wonders. In short, I could review the process of getting to know a place—exploration, exhilaration, familiarity; flowers, marmots, cattle; sunrise, sunset, storms—and Look, I could sing, how beautiful the plains are!

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Prologue. Flyover Country; Scottsbluff, NE

Tyra A. Olstad University of North Texas Press ePub

PROLOGUE

Flyover Country

Scottsbluff, Nebraska

[W]hile I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the upper Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but the prairies and plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, and precede all the rest . . . what most impress’d me, and will longest remain with me, are these same prairies.

—Walt Whitman, Specimen Days, America’s Characteristic Landscape1

Hot. Hazy. The June sun was glaring down on the dusty brown earth and distant black cattle and my father and me, sitting in a Piper Cherokee, slowly buzzing our way west.

It was our fourth day in that little plane. We had begun the trip full of enthusiasm, lifting off from the Niagara Falls International Airport into a sun-pierced sky and skimming over islands of light on Lake Erie. The next day, we slipped between tidy white puffs and their neatly spaced shadows on checkerboard fields below. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, then past the muddy meanders of the Mississippi (the Mississippi! I’d never seen the Mississippi!). The land began flattening out, drying brown, browner, beige. Thin strips of road cut indomitably straight lines toward the horizon, occasionally intersecting in sharp, desperate 90-degree angles. Tiny bovine dots clustered just as desperately at infrequent watering holes while bzzzz the engine droned on above them, were we actually moving or just hovering, suspended in time and space? It was hard to tell.

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