Humanistic Geography

In the current environment, two weeks feels like an eternity so looking at a post from two years ago feels really weird. So much can happen that you can sometimes forget where you are.

Yi-Fu Tuan, geographer that is pointed to as the father of humanistic geography, said:

“People think that geography is about capitals, land forms, and so on. But it is also about place — its emotional tone, social meaning, and generative potential.”

Sense of place is fantastically important for human beings, yet often left unmentioned in social justice directly. In my own work both on my mind (trips to dark places) and my 9-5 (lol for a second at the concept of this job ever being in that range of hours on a regular basis) I have been taking time to explore the connection between myself and where I live. Many therapy sessions talk about memories and seeing patterns and I, much more lately, have seen that new patterns have developed here in KY. Those memories are creating new ways for move toward my goal: being a whole person. I like that.

45’s rise to power and the wielding of that power have come right as we made a transition to a new place. A lot of this past year and a half has been defined by a very negative relationship to power on a mile-high political level but something interesting has also filled that space. The indefatigable human beings around me, within and without movement work, have prevented this move from being defined by this rise of darkness and I’m struck by how if I wasn’t personally experiencing it I would never think it to be so.

Community is so often slighted, particularly with regard to the state that I live in. People who don’t live here refuse to believe that this place can be thriving, complex, and politically rich while at the same time governed by snake-oil salesmen and human cardboard cutouts like Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin. So much of Kentucky is not definable by books like Hillbilly Elegy and even the stuff that is mentioned is only part of the story. People aren’t cartoons and as Ash-Lee often says “the South has something to say.” The key to shaping places, I’m starting to think, can’t just be “let’s do political education” but “let’s be educated by each other.” It’s a concept that is widening not just my work but my life.

I’m a newcomer, and likely will be long after Justice has left the house in search of new wonders, but I’m trying my best to let my sense of place be defined by the emotions I feel and the potential I see in Justice’s classmates as they explore the world they live in. I can feel a lot of the things that I remember from life in DC starting to become old parts of myself that have sloughed off like skin because of this refocusing.

These are hard times. It is helping me to remember not just the Earth in a scientific way (that I truly love) or a spiritual way (another love) but in way that honors that sense of place. The fascists are working hard (and winning on occasion) to rob us blind, but they can’t take memories or emotional connection despite all efforts to snap them in half and throw them away. We do well to hold onto each other, and our sacred places, in the dark.

Thanks to Kentucky for gifting me with a wonderful sense of place. The years have gone by quickly.

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