Lecture 2. The Built Environment in Oral Societies

This lecture focuses on how architecture and landscape have functioned in oral societies. For this we roam not the world but instead concentrate on different people of the Colorado Plateau in the Four Corners area in Western United States (at the intersection of the states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona). Oral societies have created a different system of knowledge than literate societies; they do not see the nature-culture, and epistemic-technic divide at the heart of cultures with scriptures; science and cosmological belief bleed into one another; art, architecture, and construction was a form of prayer, living human’s facilitation of the Sprit with its magical powers; it was communication across different dimensions of consciousness (eg living & dead; animate and inanimate; human & animal). This lecture takes two tacks for explaining how different typologies of art, architecture, and landscape invented by oral societies in Colorado Plateau are motivated and mobilized. a) Detail the properties of different typologies. b) Study specific examples of specific typologies Talk of typologies has the danger of making oral cultures look ahistorical. Case studies ensure specificity of time and space; uniqueness of an example; continuity and innovation. We reject the term “prehistory” used to talk about the material culture and systems of knowledge of all cultures without writing, while reserving the word “history” only for written cultures.

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Lecture Notes

Lecture Abstract