Yi-Fu Tuan Receives Inaugural AAG Stanley Brunn Award for Creativity in Geography
May 31, 2013
AAG Stanley Brunn Award for Creativity in Geography
The AAG Stanley Brunn Award for Creativity in Geography is given annually to an individual geographer or team of geographers that has demonstrated originality, creativity and significant intellectual breakthroughs in geography. The award includes a prize of $1,000.
For his immensely creative and significant intellectual contributions to geography, this 2013 inaugural award recognizes Yi-Fu Tuan, Vilas Research Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His erudite, personal and philosophical scholarship has transformed how geographers conceptualize place in ways that have not only reoriented the discipline but also drawn considerable attention from non-geographers. In the 1970s, Tuan changed human geography by challenging behavioral geographic research that sought to explain spatial behavior using ‘rational men’. He called attention to how people's affect, practice and positionality shape their attitudes toward and perceptions of place. Today his scholarly writings, creative essays and texts for artistic exhibitions continue to question empiricist accounts that treat places as mere sites or locations and demonstrate instead that the places we inhabit have as many personalities as those whose lives have intersected with them. Tuan has established a phenomenological and experiential philosophical foundation for scholarship on place, catalyzing the emergence of humanistic geography, with its emphasis on subjectivity, hermeneutics and understanding. Humanistic geography, in turn, created an intellectual place in which subsequent generations of cultural geographers flourished. Their interpretive, ethnographic and philosophical scholarship has culminated in cultural geographers’ current considerable influence in most subfields of human and nature-society geography. His creativity made this intellectual journey possible, even as subsequent cultural geographers departed in a variety of ways from his own scholarly and philosophical inclinations. Through engaging, accessible, self-effacing and quietly passionate, even humorous, monographs, Tuan has pioneered new themes that continue to resonate: what makes landscapes fearful; our segmented worlds and their relation to self; human-animal relationships; morality and landscape; art and place; cosmos and hearth; religion; and the goodness of life. Cutting across these themes has been a persistent concern with the concept of home. He defines geography as the study of how humans transform the world into a home, while consistently reminding us that placing worlds, making homes, and moving between constructed centers and places beyond, are necessarily contradictory processes. One aspect of our segmented worlds is the unequal ability and power that differently situated individuals have to leave home and enjoy the world. He also has taken the significant risk of reflexively turning his penetrating lens inwards, exemplifying the personal dimension that is central to phenomenological scholarship.