Lost in Place

| March 30, 2001

Lost in Place, Peter Monoghan, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan may be the most influential scholar you've never heard of, writes Peter Monoghan in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In an absolutely exquisite profile, Monoghan describes Tuan's humanistic approach to geography--a belief that landscapes are as much about psychology as they are about materiality. In lieu of focusing on the physical world itself, Tuan centers on the way human beings inhabit that physical space. And, in contrast to many poststructuralist geographers, he is interested in what 'being-in-the-world' actually feels like. The personal, to Tuan, is definitely political. Ironic, perhaps, because Tuan's own personal life as an academic is rather forlorn and empty. The seventy-something professor is a lonely man who believes life has passed him by. 'I have skipped two critical stages of life -- marriage and parenthood,' he says. 'I have grown old without having grown up.' Even more heartbreaking though, is Yi-Fu Tuan's recent admission, unknown even to his longtime colleagues, that he is a homosexual. Having repressed his physical desires and urges for more than seven decades, Tuan claims that it is simply too late for him. He speaks of his 'aching desire for the warmth of another human being's body' and points out that he lacks the 'one thing that ought to be every human being's birthright -- namely, a beloved person to share cookies with before turning in to bed.'
--Anjula Razdan
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