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From Space to Place:

Politics of meisho in Hokusai’s Representation of Landscape. 

Ewa Machotka
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies 

Globalization, a staple term of todays politics and socio-cultural analysis, is commonly charged for progressive homogenization of cultural experiences and increasing placelessness (E. Relph), which reduce particularity of places into an detached unidentified space. Despite their uneven effects across the globe (F. Cooper), these processes trigger defensive reactions, which seek to maintain or recover place diversity. It has been suggested that vital role in this endeavor is played by so-called “the fields of care” (Y. Tuan) that result from people’s emotional attachment.
This place-connectedness can be constructed by variety of social relations but in this paper I will focus on visual representation as a means of transforming unidentified space into territories of meaning. I will approach pre-modern processes of identification targeting the space, which physical geography and today’s politics define as Japan. It is a commonplace of cultural history that Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) played a significant role in the process of visualization of Japan as a certain geographical and cultural entity – a fact attributable to the overwhelming iconic power of his images of Mt. Fuji as a meisho (famous place).
But in my talk I will focus on the processes of construction of meaning and explore the role of classical poetry in the transformation of unidentified space into meisho or a well-defined object of topophilia. The investigation of the cultural practices transforming spaces into places will contribute to better comprehension of the notion of territorial belonging as one of the ways of individual and collective identification exercised by contemporary world as a counter-reaction to global homogenization. 

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