March 6th Readings

This blog will focus on one of the readings assigned this week by McEwan and Van de Guchte “Ancestral time and sacred space in Inca State Ritual’.

This article describes an Inca ritual titled the capa hucha. The capa hucha was a ritual sacrifice of young boys and girls that reflects in part in Incas relationship with the nature.

The ceremony of capa hucha was staged by the Inca priesthood which embraced mountains, islands and religious sanctuaries throughout Tahuantinsuyu. Every village from the four quarters would send one or two children aged 6-10 who have been chosen because of their beauty and perfection. The Incas priests then sacrificed selected animals and symbolically married the boys and girls. The young children would walk twice around the square which lays the ushu, the symbolic center of the Incas universe.

Reading about this ritual left me with questions.. Why young children? Why were they married before they died? And why did the children have to be seen as perfect?

This ritual has to deal with their relationship to the nature and sacred space. The hucha signified special placed with the natural landscape like the mountain springs, rocky out-crops and trails.

With this sacred nature, it was interesting to see how words like ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ were used to designate the relations between mountains, rocks, and humans. A main component of these rituals were to marry the children to create the relationships with the land as a way of high praise. This bond between humans and nature details a strong attachment that the Incas have with the land and how they utilize space.

The whole concept of the sacrifice revolves around the land. The land is a central focus of the Incas and it must always be taken into consideration.

Instead of looking at the sacrifice with questions, one has to understand how the ceremony plays within their world and the heavy relation to land and nature. It is a way to involve nature in their creations, just like aligning a building to fit with the solstice or aligning the walls to fit with the four cardinal directions.

phenomenology

In the most simplistic form, phenomenology is the study of conscious phenomena, and analysis of the way in which things or experiences show themselves (Sanders, 1982). Although phenomenology can be found in the works of many individuals, the founding father of the phenomenological movement was German philosopher Edmund Husserl (Embree, 1997). Phenomenology is abroad broad stream with many current, but is derived from the Greek verb which mean to appear or to show one’s self (Sanders, 1982).

Husserl explains phenomenology as something more than a descriptive psychology, due to the fact that it is concerned with essences (ideas or form) which are derived from an intentional analysis of the correlation between the object as perceived and the subjective object (Popkin, 1999). Husserl’s conception once again expands when he figures that consciousness is intentional, and uses the term intentionality to refer to the connection between the object and the appearance of the object to one’s consciousness (Popkin, 1999). That means any description of it must also encompass its object and how they are intended (Popkin, 1999). In a more simple form, intentionality refers to the total meaning of an object, which is always more than what can be seen from a single perspective. He discusses that phenomenology is an eidetic psychology on the interpretation that essences are discerned by an eidetic institution rather than an empirical observation (Popkin, 1999).  He argues that phenomenology is the study of all modes of possible objectivity for consciousness and not just consciousness (Popkin, 1999).

The basis of phenomenology has two distinct features: the eidetic reduction and bracketing (Popkin, 1999). Eidetic reduction is basically the process of shifting the reflective focus from facts to essences, it is going beyond the conventional patterns of though and action (Popkin, 1999).  The second being transcendental reduction which brackets the existence of objects of consciousness in order to consider them strictly as meanings. Using his doctorate in math to good use, he used the term bracketing to describe this process “If one wants to bring another part of an equation (or observation) into focus, other parts are bracketed, leaving them constant but out of consideration. The bracketed matter does not cease to exist; rather, it is temporarily put out of action” (Sanders, 1982, 355).

Although Husserl was persecuted by the Nazis and died in 1938 for being Jewish, numerous disciplines have used and built upon Husserl’s idea of phenomenology including the field of archaeology (Popkin, 1999).

A successor to Husserl, Heidegger’s perception of phenomenology is much more useful in archaeology. He recognized the importance of an embodied experience of the world, his challenge to the Cartesian spilt of mind and body, of nature and culture, his conceptualization of being in the world and of dwelling (Tilley, 2006).

With Heidegger’s work on phenomenology, there are three points that can be accepted into archaeology: (Barrett, 2009, 280)

  1. The archaeological record cannot be understood without a human presence. Meaning arises in a human engagement with material conditions.
  2. The body is the medium through which this engagement occurs
  3. By using his or her own body as the medium of engagement, the archaeologist can encounter a past Being-in-the-world

Phenomenology works with archaeology because it involves the understanding and description of things as they are experienced by something or someone. The subject is consciously aware of its surroundings, as Tilley describes in the way one observes landscapes, looking for clues which may provide the subject with ‘meaning’ of the past (Tilley, 2006).

Phenomenology is heavily connected with philosophy, so for this term to be used in archaeology, one had to avoid the technical aspects and look at landscapes as the main study (Barrett, 2006). The archaeological approach is defined more by two rejections rather than what is adopts (Barrett, 2006)). Firstly, one has to reject the methodological consensus of a scientific archaeology (Barrett, 2006). In realizing that past history is a cultural product of the present, it is important to understand that they must be implicated in the making of the present and future (Barrett, 2006). The second rejection is that mechanisms of history are reducible to a series of general processes that operate cross-culturally (Barrett, 2006).

By relating phenomenology back to the course in which we talk about time, space, and place and how it is all connected within the landscape, one uses the term phenomenology in that there is never a dull moment that we are separate from the work in both past present and future. “It is the phenomenologist that have most carefully theorised the distinctions between space and place, and between place and landscape, suggesting on the one hand that space cannot exist apart from the event and activities within which it is implicated- that is derives its meaning from particular places, and on the other that: A landscape is a series of names locales, a set of relational places, linking by path, movements and narratives” (Tilley, 2006, 306).

Barrett, C.J. (2006). A Phenomenology of Landscapes. Journal of Social Archaeology, 9(3), 275-294.

Embree, L. (1997). What is Phenomenology? The Encyclopedia of Phenomenology, 18, 1-10.

Popkin, H.R. (1999). The Columbia History of Western Philosophy. Columbia University Press.

Sanders, P. (1982). Phenomenology: A New Way of Viewing Organizational Research. Academy of Management Review, 7(3), 353-360.

Tilley, C. (2006). Handbook of Material Culture. SAGE Publication Ltd.

February 6th Readings

This blog will focus on one of the readings assigned this week by Keith H. Basso ‘Wisdom sits in places, notes on a Western Apache Landscape’

Place names because of their attachment to specific localities may be used to summon forth a large range of mental and emotional associations- associations of time and place, history and events real or madeup, of persons and social activities and their capacity to evoke and consolidate so much of what a landscape may be represented in personal and cultural terms. Place names acquire a functional value that easily matches their utility as instruments of reference. The people of Apache’s conception of wisdom, manners, and morals and of their own history are intertwined with place. Basso expands our awareness of what place can mean to people.

Places have a way of triggering self-reflections, memories from the past, present and future. Basso states that ‘when places are actively sensed, the physical landscape becomes wedded to the landscape of the mind, to the roving imagination, and where the mind may lead is anybody’s guess’. He takes the readers on a journey that Dudley talks about with the past, and how his family would constantly point out places and say ‘you should think about this place’ ‘remember what I told you’.

Basso makes a crucial point in that sense of place is socially distributed and for an outside it is sometimes possible to gain an understanding of another person’s sense of place by listening to them talk about place or by watching them. Basso argues that sense of place cannot be just an individual or personal reaction.

“For it is simply not the case, as some phenomenologists and growing numbers of nature writers would have us believe, that relationships to places are lived exclusively or predominantly in contemplative moments of social isolation. On the contrary, relationships to places are lived most often in the company of other people, and it is on these communal occasions-when places are sensed together- that native views of the physical world become accessible to strangers.”

He relates back to the time where Dudley told him about the Trail Goes Down Between Two Hills. Through the story of the Old Man Owl, Bassos perception of the tree had changed and through the story telling he could almost see the Apache sisters laughing at Old Man Owl. Dudley’s narratives have transformed a geographical site into a place that people can experience both in the past and present.

This article made me think of place and sensing of place in a way which I never originally thought of and after reading Basso’s article a question that came to mind was what you think of the phrase ‘wisdom sits in place’ and how it can relate back to space and place?