To be human is to experience fear, but what is it exactly that makes us fearful? Here is one geographer’s striking exploration of our landscapes of fear as they change throughout our lives and have changed throughout history. Yi-fu Tuan investigates landscapes of the natural environment which are threatening, and landscapes filled with the dark imageries of the mind; fears of drought, flood, famine, and disease, shared by all members of a community, and fears of the particular ghosts which haunt the individual imagination.
In this lucidly-written, ground-breaking survey, Professor Tuan delves into many cultures and reaches back into our prehistory to discover what is universal and what is particular in our inheritance of fear. Starting with fear in animals, he raises and explores a variety of questions: What is specifically human about fear? Is there or has there ever been a “fearless” society?
Professor Tuan examines the most specific forms fear takes in the mind of the child, among hunters and agriculturists, inside the walls of a medieval Chinese city, among Navaho Indians and American immigrants. He explores the ways in which authorities create landscapes of terror to instill fear in their own populations; and he probes that most basic of all contradictions between the need for human security and the fear of human nature. Professor Tuan particularly emphasizes how, in coping with fears of enemies, strangers, the insane, wolves, wind, witches, mountains, dragons, rain, or the terror that the universe itself might crumble, humans respond adventurously by creating “shelters,” ranging from fairy tales to cosmological myths. We watch as human beings continually draw and redraw their “circles of safety,” never feeling entirely at peace within them.