Contemporary landscape theory and the tropics: notes for a phenomenological-material account of 'lushness'

de la Fuente, Eduardo (2015) Contemporary landscape theory and the tropics: notes for a phenomenological-material account of 'lushness'. In: [Presented at Tropics of the Imagination 2015: a multidisciplinary conference on imaginative and creative approaches to culture and nature in the tropics]. From: Tropics of the Imagination Conference, 17 September 2015, Cairns, QLD, Australia.

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Recent developments in landscape studies and associated fields of research (e.g., cultural geography, place-theory and material culture studies) have been gesturing towards a 'non-representational' account of landscape. Central to such literatures is an attempt to move away from the notion that the landscape is some kind of tabula rasa upon which culture inscribes images and iconography, narratives and representations. Whether influenced by Latour's Actor Network Theory, landscape phenomenology, Bachelardean accounts of substances, or the anthropology and sociology of the senses, this line of thinking posits that landscapes are places where we 'dwell', engage in a variety of practical activities and which offer their own distinctive 'affordances' or agential affects. What might this theoretical development mean for sociocultural studies of the tropics? In this paper, I contend that a phenomenological-material account of tropical phenomena can profitably be focused on a quality we might term 'lushness'*. Lushness involves an excessive, if not decadent, amount of something; and tends to suggest voluptuousness, fecundity, density, vividness, an object or ambience that arouses the senses, as well as the sensation of feeling refreshed. Tropical lushness 'affords' various embodied activities from lying on the sand to immersing oneself in water or the taking of cover under dense canopies. Tropical landscapes encourage outdoor-ness and often blur the boundary between inside and outside. In considering the phenomenological-cum-material qualities of the lush, I reflect on four instances: tropical landscaping of gardens and public spaces; the geography and affordances associated with tropical waterfalls; buildings and other structures that take on a 'ruinous' state due to tropical conditions; and the social and culinary life of tropical fruit (e.g., lychees, bananas, mangos, durians, and paw-paws). Drawing on such cases, I will suggest that tropical lushness involves a spectrum of aesthetic and material possibilities ranging from the cultivated to the supposedly 'wild', and that discerning the boundary between the cultural and the natural – in the case of tropical lushness – is no straightforward matter.

Item ID: 40554
Item Type: Conference Item (Abstract / Summary)
Keywords: lushness; tropics; tropical landscapes; dwelling; affordance; tropical architecture; tropical fruit; landscape theory
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Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2016 00:33
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160810 Urban Sociology and Community Studies @ 30%
12 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 1201 Architecture > 120199 Architecture not elsewhere classified @ 20%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9199 Other Economic Framework > 919999 Economic Framework not elsewhere classified @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
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