Perceptual Geography

TODAY, WITHIN THE GEOGRAPHER’S profession, the concept of landscape is recognized as a changing and mobile one. Moreover, amongst geographers landscape is increasingly regarded as a perceptual concept and a multiplicity of landscapes are recognised. The idea of landscape as a ‘way of seeing’ has overtaken the positivist idea of landscape as reducible to a series of objective physical traits. As Cosgrove has remarked:

“Landscape is not merely the world we see, it is a construction, a composition of the world. Landscape is a way of seeing the world.”[i]

And Yi-Fu Tuan notes whereas “in the early 1960s a new way of doing human-cultural geography emerged… it now goes generally by the name of perceptual”.[ii]

In the 1960s perceptual geography came of age. David Lowenthal, for example, argued that :

“Essential perception of the world , in short, embraces every way of looking at it, conscious and unconscious, blurred and distinct, objective and subjective, inadvertent and deliberate, literal and schematic. Perception itself is never unalloyed: sensing, thinking, feeling, and believing are simultaneous independent processes.”[iii]

[i] Cosgrove(1984) Social and Symbolic Landscape, 13.

[ii] Yi-Fu Tuan, ‘Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative-Descriptive Approach’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, v.81, 4 (1991)’, 697.

[iii] David Lowenthal, ‘Geography, Experience, and Imagination: Towards a Geographical Epistemology’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, v. 51, no.3, September (1961), 251.