theoryofplace

theoryofplace - Theories of Place and Language Keith Bassos...

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Theories of Place and Language
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Keith Basso’s theory of place and language In Wisdom Sits in Places Keith Basso cites some names, and uses some theoretical language, that may not be familiar to many students. This lecture presents some background on his perspective, and makes more explicit the alternative perspective used by David Samuels in “Indeterminacy and history in Britton Goode’s Western Apache placenames”
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Keith Basso’s theory of place and language Basso (with Steven Feld (1996:5)) locates himself this way: [Other] anthropologists are increasingly framing the study of place “as economic development by state invasion and occupation, or as the extraction of transnational wealth at escalating costs in human suffering, cultural destruction, and environmental degradation … [as] sites of power struggles or about displacement as histories of annexation, absorption, and resistance … consistent with a larger narrative in which previously absent “others” are now portrayed as fully present, no longer a presumed and distant “them” removed from a vague and tacit “us” … on a world map … increasingly smudged by vagueness, erased by chaos, or clouded by uncertainty” (1996:5)
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Basso’s theory of place and language Basso & Feld seem to think that this (perspective they outline in quote on previous slide) is premature generalizing (although both have been very involved in trying to protect indigenous lands – Basso in the fight over Mount Graham in Arizona, and Feld over environmental damage from mining in Papua-New Guinea; Feld actually resigned from the University of Texas because they held stock in Freeport-Moran, a big mining company accused of environmental crimes in New Guinea). So in their School of American Research conference seminar they call for exploration “in close detail [of] cultural processes and practices through which places are rendered meaningful … are actively sensed (1996:7). They wanted “fine-grained ethnographic description”.
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Keith Basso’s theory of place and language Basso and Feld (1996) also worry about another problem, simple inattention to “place” as something presupposed, e.g. places as simply “settings”, which can become “prisons” for ethnographic subjects (Rodman 1992) but a site of freedom for the anthropologists, who escapes a placeless academic world. Basso addresses this question by making Apaches highly “agentive” as “place makers” and as making places within a very local set of cultural projects “living local history in a localized kind of way”, seeing history as a “path” or “trail” among places
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Keith Basso’s theory of place and language 2) But Basso thinks we do need theory or the ethnography will just become “a welter of particulars”. So he draws on the tradition of phenomenology : In his usage, influenced by the philosopher Edward Casey, a program of thought that attempts to critique what is taken for granted as a priori , before thought, by the exercise of
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This note was uploaded on 05/06/2009 for the course ANTH 276 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Arizona.

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theoryofplace - Theories of Place and Language Keith Bassos...

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