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Landscapes of Fear

Landscapes of Fear

Yi-Fu Tuan
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 272
  • Book Info
    Landscapes of Fear
    Book Description:

    To be human is to experience fear, but what is it exactly that makes us fearful? Landscapes of Fear-written immediately after his classic Space and Place-is renowned geographer Yi-Fu Tuan's influential exploration of the spaces of fear and of how these landscapes shift during our lives and vary throughout history. In a series of linked essays that journey broadly across place, time, and cultures, Tuan examines the diverse manifestations and causes of fear in individuals and societies: he describes the horror created by epidemic disease and supernatural visions of witches and ghosts; violence and fear in the country and the city; fears of drought, flood, famine, and disease; and the ways in which authorities devise landscapes of terror to instill fear and subservience in their own populations. In this groundbreaking work-now with a new preface by the author-Yi-Fu Tuan reaches back into our prehistory to discover what is universal and what is particular in our inheritance of fear. Tuan emphasizes that human fear is a constant; it causes us to draw what he calls our "circles of safety" and at the same time acts as a foundational impetus behind curiosity, growth, and adventure.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8494-6
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Landscapes of fear? If we pause to reflect on what these are, surely swarms of images will come to mind: fear of the dark and of abandonment in childhood; anxiety in strange settings or on social occasions; dread of corpses and of the supernatural; fear of disease, war, and natural calamities; uneasiness at the sight of hospitals and prisons; fear of muggers in desolate streets and neighborhoods; anxiety at the prospect of the breakdown of world order.

    Fears are felt by individuals and are in this sense subjective; some, however, have a clear source in a threatening environment, others do...

  6. 2. Fear in the Growing Child
    (pp. 11-24)

    The child lives in a magical world of innocence and joy, a sheltered garden from which adults are expelled to their lasting sorrow. Vladimir Nabokov seems to believe in such a world. He confesses to an inordinate fondness for his earliest memories, but then argues that he has “reason to be grateful to them. They led the way to a veritable Eden of visual and tactile sensations.”¹ No doubt there are fortunate people whose childhoods, like Nabokov’s, are lived in bubbles of light and warmth. For the generality of humankind this is unlikely to be true. The pure happiness of...

  7. 3. The Child as Unformed Nature
    (pp. 25-34)

    Children have reason to fear adults, even those closest to them. Throughout history and in widely different parts of the world, infants and young children have often been treated as of small account and with extraordinary cruelty. Killing the newborn child was an accepted practice in many societies. Until the fourth century A.D., neither law nor public opinion found infanticide wrong in Greece or Rome. Ancient writers could openly approve of the act. A man had the right to do what he wanted with his children. The Greek philosopher Aristippus (435–356 B.C.) asked, “Do we not cast away from...

  8. 4. “Fearless” Societies
    (pp. 35-44)

    To survive, animals must be sensitive to danger signals; they must know fear. Human beings, individually and collectively, are no exception. In the heart of ancient Sparta was a temple dedicated to Fear. Other societies may not acknowledge the role of fear so explicitly, but nonetheless it is there in the midst of all human groups. Society as a whole dreads the capricious will of the gods, natural calamities, wars, and the collapse of social order; rulers fear dissension and rebellion; the ruled fear punishment and the arbitrary powers of authority. Although all societies know fear, its prevalence varies strikingly...

  9. 5. Fear of Nature: Great Hunters and Pioneer Farmers
    (pp. 45-55)

    Archaic ways of living have survived into the modern era. In the rain forest as also in the desert, small bands of people with keen knowledge of their environment and very modest demands seem able to lead contented lives unshadowed by lacerating fear. Do the habits and livelihood of these primitive groups tell us something about how our remote ancestors lived? Was the long prehistory of the human stock a time of almost constant struggle and anxiety, or was it, on the contrary, one of peace and abundance relative to needs? In the absence of detailed knowledge, these two polarized...

  10. 6. Natural Calamities and Famines
    (pp. 56-72)

    Although organization is power, power over the natural environment does not automatically produce a sense of security: subsistence farmers do not usually feel more secure than do primitive hunter-gatherers. Likewise, the move from village to state, from culture to civilization, does not necessarily result in any significant abatement of fear. What may indeed change is the character and frequency of dread. Villagers, for example, are haunted by local nature spirits who require frequent propitiation; by contrast, the subjects and rulers of a state fear the breakdown of cosmic order and the unleashing of violent natural forces that can devastate whole...

  11. 7. Fear in the Medieval World
    (pp. 73-86)

    An external nature that seemed all-powerful and hard to predict was one major cause of human insecurity and fear in prehistoric times, in archaic civilizations, and in tribal and traditional societies. Another was and is human nature, its fickleness, its potential for violence and cruelty. We have noted the adult’s often harsh attempts to domesticate childish nature. In subsequent chapters, we shall examine the fear of evil and chaos in human individuals and groups. The forces that threaten humankind from without and within can thus be explored one by one. There is need, however, to see how all of them...

  12. 8. Fear of Disease
    (pp. 87-104)

    Signs of life are all around us, but so, if we choose to look, are signs of decay and disease: moldering leaves and rotting tree trunks; wounded, sick, dead, and dying animals. Yet, despite the common claim that human beings are a part of nature and therefore must adapt or submit to its rules, nowhere in the world do people accept sickness and death as perfectly natural and thus in no need of special notice or explanation. Night follows day, winter follows summer. People take these great rhythms of nature as given, but not the alternations of sickness and health,...

  13. 9. Fear of Human Nature: Witches
    (pp. 105-112)

    It is reasonable to fear the wilder manifestations of nature. We still see the need to protect ourselves against flood, lightning, and the rattlesnake. What we do not see from the safety of our built environment is the horror these natural elements once inspired because they also stood for human maliciousness. People the world over have shown a tendency to anthropomorphize the forces of nature. We cannot, in fact, feel strongly about any object, animate or inanimate, without endowing it with human attributes. But the physical environment of dark nights and mountaintops acquires an extra dimension of ominousness, beyond the...

  14. 10. Fear of Human Nature: Ghosts
    (pp. 113-129)

    Ghosts are dead persons who, in some sense, are still alive. They may be known only by their effects, such as a creaking door or sudden illness. They may appear as an ectoplasmic shadow or mist. They may have a recognizable human form and expression but lack the full materiality of a live human being. They may look misleadingly normal and solid like the person sitting next to you. Or they may be zombies, the walking dead.

    Fear of ghosts is rooted in the human apprehension of the unknown and the bizarre. Specters haunt people in essentially the same way...

  15. 11. Violence and Fear in the Countryside
    (pp. 130-144)

    A sign of efficient, if not necessarily good, government is peace in the open countryside as well as in the city. Early in the fourth century, a Roman governor of Britain (Pacatianus, for instance) could well have boasted to a visitor: “You have traveled the whole day in comfort, and have nowhere been robbed, or molested, or threatened. You have seen the natives peacefully gathering in their corn. You have passed villa after villa standing alone in the open country, with no fortification, and with no protection save that which the owner’s slaves would render without fail in case of...

  16. 12. Fear in the City
    (pp. 145-174)

    The city manifests humanity’s greatest aspiration toward perfect order and harmony in both its architectural setting and its social ties. Wherever urbanism emerged independently, we find that its root lay in a prestigious ceremonial center rather than in a village.¹ An early and essential function of the city was to be a vivid symbol of cosmic order: hence its simple geometric design with walls and streets often oriented to the cardinal points, and its imposing monuments. Corresponding to this desire for physical perfection was the longing for a stable and harmonious society.

    In ancient times, people discerned a stability and...

  17. 13. Public Humiliation and Execution
    (pp. 175-186)

    A tribal community has no permanent enclave of strangers living in its midst who might disturb the peace. As for deviants within the social net, ostracism is normally sufficient to bring them to heel. Witches, it is true, are enemies from within, and they must sometimes be killed, but the killing is not justified as a deterrent. The machinery of justice and punishment need not be put on display, because tribe members respond to more subtle cues. However, where rootless “strangers” form a large component of society, social sanctions lose effectiveness. Rulers, from fear that their world might shatter, use...

  18. 14. Exile and Confinement
    (pp. 187-201)

    Complex societies are intricate codes of exchange. Some of these codes are formulated into laws and regulations; most are internalized patterns of behavior that the dominant institutions of society have more or less succeeded in inculcating. Yet a complex society is never immune from the threat of anarchy (or rebellion). Its diversified and stratified population inevitably contains elements which, for different reasons, deviate from the generally accepted norms, or which seek deliberately to subvert them. Madmen do not obey rules of polite behavior. Neither do vagrants and loiterers and, in general, the dispossessed and rootless poor. To members of established...

  19. 15. The Open Circle
    (pp. 202-208)

    We seek security and are curious: this describes not only human beings but all higher animals. “Security” and “curiosity” have a common root in the Latin cura, which means anxiety, care, medical care, and cure. In a secure place we are cared for and are without care. But never wholly without care, for the world is full of surprises. Moreover, we know, as all higher animals know by virtue of their brain and distant sensors, that there is always another world beyond whatever space we have encircled, conquered, and made safely our own. To be curious is to feel anxiety...

  20. 16. Fears: Past and Present
    (pp. 209-218)

    Many people even in the modern and affluent Western world are haunted by fear. Almost daily we read about muggings and murders, and about elderly residents of the inner cities so afraid that they are virtually prisoners within their own homes. While well-educated young people do not usually live in dread of physical violence, more nebulous threats plague their lives. They often appear to be anxious about the future, their own as well as that of humanity. They have the uncomfortable feeling that “things are getting worse”; the future promises not only further deterioration of the inner cities but ecological...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 219-244)
  22. Index
    (pp. 245-262)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-263)