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June 24, 2013

Even the most culturally saturated place retains a sense of wildness

“Even the most culturally saturated place retains a factor of wildness, that is, of the radically amorphous and unaccounted for, something that is not so much immune to culture as alien to it in its very midst, disparate from it from within. We sense this wildness explicitly in moments of absurdity — and of “surdity,” sheer “thisness.” But it is immanent in every perceptual experience and thus in every bodily insertion into the perceived places anchoring each such experience. This ontological wildness — not to be confused with literal wilderness, much less with mere lack of cultivation — ensures that cultural analysis never exhausts a given place. Just as we should not fall into a perceptualism that leaves no room for expressivity and language, so we ought not to espouse a culturalism that accords no autochthonous being to places, no alterity. In the very heart of the most sophisticated circumstance is a wildness that no culture can contain or explain, much less reduce. The wildness exceeds the scope of the most subtle set of signifiers, despite the efforts of painters to capture it in images and of storytellers to depict it in words.”
–Edward S. Casey, “How to Get from Space to Place in a Fairly Short Stretch of Time,” in Senses of Place (1997)

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