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The embodied spatialities of being in nature: encountering the nature/culture binary in green/blue space

Couper, Pauline R (2017) The embodied spatialities of being in nature: encountering the nature/culture binary in green/blue space. Cultural geographies.

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Abstract

The contact with nature provided by urban green and blue space is said to be beneficial for mental health, physical health, social contact and cohesion, and for learning and development among children. Yet the literature identifying these benefits fails to recognise that ‘nature’, as a category in binary relation with ‘culture’ (or ‘humans’), is a cultural construct. Acknowledging this inevitably raises questions about exactly what ‘contact with nature’ in such spaces might consist in. Taking inspiration from more-than-representational and more-than-human geographies, this article uses Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology to interrogate encounters with ‘nature’ through small boat sailing. I argue that being on a boat entails different embodied spatialities of being from terrestrial urban life, and that this heightens a sense of nature as Other. The nature/culture binary, while a cultural idea, is materially (re)produced through the ordering of space, particularly in dense urban areas. This implies that the significance of urban green/blue space may be not only the presence of non-humans (the green/blue), but also the nature of the space in which we encounter nature. There is, then, potential for cultural geography to contribute to a much more nuanced interrogation of how people experience urban green/blue space, foregrounding the cultural conditions that shape such experience.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Couper, Pauline, The embodied spatialities of being in nature: encountering the nature/culture binary in green/blue space, Cultural Geographies Copyright © [2017] (Copyright Holder). Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474017732978
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
School/Department: School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/2414

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