Year

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

In material terms the Illawarra Escarpment is a steep linear stretch of Australian schlerophyll forest, rainforest and sandstone cliffs. It is a major physical feature in the everyday lives of the 200,000 residents of the City of Wollongong, New South Wales. This research project sprang from asking how the Illawarra Escarpment is valued by residents. This project sought to go beyond gathering statistical information on use-categories, attitudes and values by asking what kinds of roles the Illawarra Escarpment plays in the everyday lives of people. Rather than conceptualising self and landscape as mutually exclusive, the primary objective of this research project is to illuminate the problem of assessing social value by probing the tensions and mechanisms of self-world relations. The aims of this thesis are therefore twofold. First, the thesis aims to contribute to recent debates in the geographic literature that redefine landscape, following John Wylie (2007), as ‘the creative tension of self and world’. Second, the thesis aims to contribute to methodological debates by exploring the use of diaries as a performative research tool. This was achieved through drawing on empirical materials gathered from a mixed-methods approach to closely examining the everyday encounters and mobility practices (different walking practices and train driving) of an illustrative sample of four residents of Wollongong. Empirical material drawn from four of 18 people who participated in this project forms the basis of this thesis. This allowed opportunities to explore the self-world tensions that are landscape. The empirical materials demonstrate how self and world are enfolded into each other in the process that is landscape. The mechanisms and processes of self-world relations are shown to be reliant on the qualities of difference, contrast, relief, and diversity.

Alert to the theoretical and conceptual debates arising from the re-materialisation of landscape in geography, the contribution from the personal geographies of the Illawarra Escarpment to the discipline are as follows. Methodologically, the key contributions of the thesis are (1) that different writing genres provided different insights into the self-world tension that is landscape that I term ‘sensuous’ and ‘reflective dialogues’, and (2) a method of analysing text that focused on the performative mechanics of the writing, in particular how writing momentum was generated and sustained, rather than on the posited meaning. Conceptually this thesis contributes to discussion through empirical examples that illustrate the everyday tensions of self-world relations and how they may be creative.

Here, I build on the concepts of ‘rhythm’, ‘attunement’ and ‘entrainment’. I argue that the rhythms of the body become entrained to, or synchronised with, multiple other rhythms that comprise the ‘event’ of landscape. Examining the processes of attunement/entrainment revealed the essential role of the breaks or gaps between engagements in enabling the iterative and incremental process of attunement and embodied learning. These processes also highlighted the effects of experiencing the flows enabled by the successful synchronisation of rhythms that may lead to the acquisition of skills, harmonies, realisations, transcendences.

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