engagement and dwelling perspective

On Tim Ingold’s concept of the dwelling perspective and implied notions of engagement:

… Ingold is drawing on James Gibson’s argument, that perception “is not the achievement of a mind in a body, but of the organism as a whole in its environment” (Gibson cited in Ingold, 2000: 3). From this starting point, he pictures a unifying approach combining efforts of relational thinking in anthropology, ecological thinking in psychology and, what he coins, ‘developmental systems’ thinking in biology.  The relational perspective arising from this ‘organism-person-in-its-lifeworld’ point of view feeds into a relocation of the living body in lived-in space. Ingold writes (ibid: 4-5):

“Crucially, such a synthesis would start from a conception of the human being not as a composite entity made up of separable but complementary parts, such as body, mind and culture, but rather as a singular locus of creative growth within a continually unfolding field of relationships.”

One of the implications arising from this location of organism-persons within a system of manifold ecological relations is the underlying perspective of the organism-person “in the context of an active engagement with the constituents of his or her surroundings” (ibid: 5). He presents this grounded dwelling perspective in strong contrast to what he refers to as ‘building perspective’, i.e. the perspective inhabitants of culture and society have on the world if it is assumed that they first “must perforce ‘construct’ the world, in consciousness, before they can act in it” (ibid: 153). In other words, with the notion of the dwelling perspective Ingold refers to the organism-person’s position in the world characterised by the understanding that both the awareness of the world and the activity in the world are rooted in the immediate engagement with this world (ibid: 5).

Tim Ingold. The Perception of the Environment, Routledge, London, 2000.


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