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Landscapes of Fear

Yi-Fu Tuan

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

I almost never read a book I have written once it is published, perhaps from fear that it may contain embarrassing flaws. When the University of Minnesota Press broached the possibility of reissuing Landscapes of Fear, I overcame my hesitation and started to read what I wrote more than thirty years ago. ...

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pp. xi-xii

Writing a book on fear should not be a delightful experience. But it was, for various reasons, one of which is the sheer intellectual pleasure of exploring a large array of sources, ranging from exegeses on fairy tales to treatises on criminal law. ...

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1. Introduction

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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; ...

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2. Fear in the Growing Child

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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. ...

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3. The Child as Unformed Nature

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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. ...

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4. "Fearless" Societies

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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. ...

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5. Fear of Nature: Great Hunters and Pioneer Farmers

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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? ...

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6. Natural Calamities and Famines

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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. ...

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7. Fear in the Medieval World

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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. ...

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8. Fear of Disease

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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, ...

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9. Fear of Human Nature: Witches

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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. ...

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10. Fear of Human Nature: Ghosts

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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. ...

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11. Violence and Fear in the Countryside

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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. ...

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12. Fear in the City

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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 ...

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13. Public Humiliation and Execution

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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, ...

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14. Exile and Confinement

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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). ...

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15. The Open Circle

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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. ...

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16. Fears: Past and Present

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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. ...


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pp. 219-244


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pp. 245-262

About the Author

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p. 276-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780816684946
E-ISBN-10: 0816684944
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816684595

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013