“Nature feels like home”: Feeling and Sensing in Western Discourses of Urban and Wild Nature

Authors: Jeffrey Hoffmann*, University of New Mexico, Mariko Oyama Thomas, University of New Mexico
Topics: Urban Geography, Communication, Environmental Perception
Keywords: Urban Geogrpahy, Urban Nature, Affective Communication, Human/Nature Binary,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study analyzes personal meanings regarding the term “nature” in dominant Western settings, and focuses on sensory and affect-based meaning concerning imagined and experienced spaces of “city” and “nature.” The study is based on free-write data from 311 participants from three largely Western countries (United States, New Zealand, and Australia). Our study supports Emily Dickinson’s work, demonstrating that understanding urban spaces as responsible, in and of themselves, for alienation in human-nature relationships is reductive, removes the human-nature binary from its cultural origins, and in doing so, reproduces the binary through band-aid solutions to deep spatio-cultural problems. We argue that participants’ personally relayed affective and sensory meanings about dwelling in urban and wild spaces offer insight into both dominant Western binary meanings of "the city" and spaces deemed “natural” or “nature,” and the under-explored ways that Western humans challenge the human/nature binary in their feelings, thoughts, and actions in and between urban nature and wild nature. Finally, we argue that participants’ ecocultural conceptualizations of “home” further complicate and, at times, transcend the human/nature binary in Western meaning systems, offering important insight into the kinds of urban spaces that ecologically feel more like “home.”

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