Being, place, resistance: Phenomenological and critical approaches

Plan Author

Christopher Lamb, 2018

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Culture and Ecology of the Western US
  • Course: Writing Seminar: Writing the First People
  • Tutorial: Native American Environmental Activism
  • Tutorial: Social Geography

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Kirsten Jacobson, University of Maine


The first paper in this Plan of Concentration is a reflection of my own personal, philosophical journey through place. It is an attempt to retain the philosophical and ontological importance of place while remaining open to the many ways in which place and space have been re-characterized by modernity. The second paper explores the ways in which maps have been instrumental to colonial conquest in the Americas. This paper was inspired by the work of Mishuana Goeman who explores the cartographic power of contemporary Native literature in her book Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping our Nations. My third paper draws upon internship experience with the Black Mesa Water Coalition in order to explore the role of ceremony and sacred land within contemporary Native environmental activism. The final component in this Plan of Concentration is a personal approach to photography.


Heidegger’s philosophy is part of a broader movement in twentieth century thought that retrieved place from the periphery of philosophical inquiry. This transition, widely referred to in the humanities as “the spatial turn,” made place a point of departure for thinking about ecological, political, and social challenges. Heidegger is thus one among many figures whose philosophy is fertile for thinking about the nuances of spatial and topological dynamics. Among those who have found his work particularly helpful are writers in the environmental humanities, who have emphasized place as a necessary concept for confronting climate change.

Recognizing maps as a form of power highlights the ways in which our conceptions of space and place impact our actual lived experience. If we understand space as a surface, as Massey suggests, we at once separate ourselves from the land while relegating it to the category of pure objectivity. Landscape becomes the theatre in which the social events and phenomena of life take place, but has no role in forming or shaping them. Borders and boundaries become purely arbitrary, while at the same time creating an imaginary of difference. In short, an abstract ideology becomes painted onto the landscape, pushing forth a certain worldview, making an argument about our relationship to the geographies in which we are situated and how we can—and cannot—navigate them.


I think the most interesting part of my Plan is how it reflects my personal journey as a student and individual as my time at Marlboro progressed. I’m thinking of the evolution of my ideas as I went through the writing process. For me, it is very much a personal, as well as academic, endeavor. I was inspired by my love for places, both urban and natural, and my desire to attain a richer understanding of what it means to be a human being on the earth.

The Plan work I have completed is the beginning of a process that I hope to continue working through in graduate school. I am still fascinated with questions of place, spatiality, and being, and will continue working through them for years to come.


A stone on a frozen lake.
A trail through the snowy woods.