Emplacing Our Lives: Executive Summary
By John Benson, PhD.
Presentation at FIGT 2004 Conference
This paper is based on an essay I wrote on the meaning of place for missionaries and missionary kids, and then adds additional material on the impact of place on military brats and diplomats' kids.
- Participants were asked to write about a childhood place, an adult place, and where they would describe home.
- I discussed Yi-Fu Tuan's ideas of being a cosmopolite: someone who has been influenced by many different places and sees the strength of both the "cosmos" (the outside world) and the "hearth" (our home places).
- I shared William Casey's idea of place: "'Place,' on the other hand, is the immediate ambiance of my lived body and its history, including the whole sedimented history of cultural and social influences and personal interests that compose my life-history."1
- I discussed the memoirs of six authors who had discussed the importance of place in their lives and how they tried to make those places important in their lives:
1. Mary Clearman Blew;Lewiston, MT and ID Childhood: Shared History and Family
2. Deborah Tall;Ithaca and Geneva, NY Adulthood: History � Community
3. Scott Russell Sanders;Bloomington, IN Childhood & Adulthood: Ecological Connections
4. Sharon Butala;Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan Adulthood: Nature and Spirituality
5. N. Scott Momaday;Rainy Mountain, OK; Shiprock, Hobbs, and Jemez, NM Childhood and Adulthood: Ecological and Cultural; Adulthood: Movement
6. Pico Iyer; England, California, and Japan Childhood and Adulthood: Global In-Betweenness
- In looking at the lives of the missionaries I interviewed and their connections to place, I felt that they did not fit any of the patterns of connections to place I had seen in these authors. Instead they fit Tuan's ideal of a true cosmopolite whom he describes as "'free spirits' whose emotional center or home is a mystical religion or philosophy, an all consuming art or science."
- I looked then at the lives of the missionary children who lived both in Tanzania and the United States. Out of the six authors listed above, I felt N. Scott Momaday's ideas of place best fitted how missionary children viewed place.
- In comparing Military Brats to Missionary Kids, I used material from books by Mary Ellen Wertsch and Mary Truscott. I concluded that military personnel formed deeper attachments to place than their children, but still the rituals of military life have helped the children to form some attachment to the notion of a military base. The Military Brats have a notion of place that would be more similar to Pico Iyer's sense of place rather than any of the other authors.
- Diplomats' kids have less attachment to particular places, but fit Tuan's cosmopolitan ideal and fit into Pico Iyer's notion of place.
- Finally, I concluded by noting the missionary ideals of parents in all sectors and their cosmopolitan nature, and contrasted that with the relativistic ideals of the children's generation and our sense of exile from our childhood places.
John Benson Ph.D
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Dept.
Minnesota State University Moorhead
Moorhead, MN 56563
- Casey, Edward S. "Body, Self, and Landscape: A Geophilosophical Inquiry into the Place World." Textures of Place: Exploring Humanistic Geographies. Ed. Adams, Paul C., Steven Hoelscher, and Karen Till. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. 403-425.
- Blew, Mary Clearman. All but the Waltz: Essays on a Montana Family. New York: Viking, 1991. ---, Balsamroot. New York: Viking, 1994. ---, Bone Deep in Landscape: Writing, Reading, and Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.
- Tall, Deborah. From Where We Stand: Recovering a Sense of Place. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1993.
- Sanders, Scott Russell. Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993. ---, Writing from the Center. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
- Butala, Sharon. The Perfection of the Morning: An Apprenticeship in Nature. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994. ---, Wild Stone Heart: An Apprentice in the Fields. Toronto: HarperFlamingo Canada, 2000.
- Momaday, N. Scott. The Way to Rainy Mountain. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969. ---, The Names. NY: Harper & Row, 1976.
- Iyer, Pico. The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
- Tuan, Yi-Fu. Cosmos and Hearth: A Cosmopolite's Viewpoint. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.