Culture and Space: Conceiving a New Geography by Joel Bonnemaison

By Joel Bonnemaison

Drawing upon 30 years paintings which took him to Madagascar, New Hebrides, Australia, and New Caledonia, Joel Bonnemaison's paintings provides an unique and clean substitute to the extra conventional Anglo-American method of cultural geography. Bonnemaison offers a real form of anthro-geography as he explores questions round the geography of tradition and the anthropology of house.

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For example, the Maya were unable to solve the problem of soil erosion resulting from corn cultivation. Each step is guided by the previous one and can in turn lead to a domain of specialization. One invention leads to another, and so on. The invention of agriculture in Mesopotamia or New Guinea did not occur instantaneously but was set by the accumulation of experimental observations and small increments in knowledge. For instance, Mediterranean civilizations experimented with bread, wine, goat’s cheese, olive oil and linen and wool fabrics.

In an article in the journal Hérodote, ‘A bas Vidal, viva Vidal’ (‘Down with Vidal, long live Vidal’), Lacoste says that Vidal de la Blache was the first among French geographers to pay attention to politics – a precursor to geopolitics, so to speak, in particular as far as the urban areas of eastern France were concerned. Before criticizing Vidal, one should refer to the time frame during which his work was produced. Towns had not become the powerful regional poles which they are today. And Marxist critics oversimplify Vidal’s work, in so far as historical materialism does not deal with local history, environment, or culture but only with the economic substratum.

Geographers from the Berkeley school have published a number of fine works in this respect, such as an analysis of the spatial diffusion of the blowpipe from a single hearth (which has been rediscovered). Their research on American pioneer life is also well known. Early European settlers left concrete marks of their presence, some of which are still visible in today’s landscape. fm Page 33 Friday, April 15, 2005 4:05 PM REVIVAL OF THE CULTURAL APPROACH 33 Geographic aspects of invisible culture Geographers have neglected this field, which remains open to research and exploration.

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