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Cosmos and Hearth

A Cosmopolite’s Viewpoint

1999
Author:

Yi-Fu Tuan

Cosmos and Hearth

In a volume that represents the culmination of his life’s work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, eminent scholar Yi-Fu Tuan argues that “cosmos” and “hearth” are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human.

In a volume that represents the culmination of his life’s work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, eminent scholar Yi-Fu Tuan argues that “cosmos” and “hearth” are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human.

Yi-Fu Tuan, a distinguished and influential scholar, is also a citizen of the world in numerous respects. He is at home in several different pasts, in the complex cybernetic present, and feels a keen concern to prepare us all for pluralistic prospects in the future.
With graceful and engaging prose he now alters our notions of cosmopolitanism and provides a comparative perspective on ethnocentrism in the United States and China. Above all, Cosmos and Hearth offers a fresh (and personalized though not subjective) way to think about an enduring dualism: the relationship between things traditional and things modern. This is a stimulating, well-informed, and challenging book.

Michael Kammen, The Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture, Cornell University

In a volume that represents the culmination of his life’s work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, eminent scholar Yi-Fu Tuan argues that “cosmos” and “hearth” are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human. Illustrating this contention with examples from both his native China and his home of the past forty years, the United States, Tuan proposes a revised conception of culture, one thoroughly grounded in one’s own society but also embracing curiosity about the world. Optimistic and deeply human, this important volume lays out a path to being “at home in the cosmos.”


Hardcover:

In this moving meditation on the difficult choices facing humanity in the next millennium, celebrated scholar Yi-Fu Tuan reaffirms his faith in the value of a cosmopolitan worldview.

In a volume that represents the culmination of his life's work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, Tuan argues that “cosmos” and “hearth” are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human. Hearth is our house and neighborhood, family and kinfolk, habit and custom. Cosmos, by contrast, is the larger reality-world, civilization, and humankind. Tuan addresses the extraordinary revival of interest in the hearth in recent decades, examining both the positive and negative effects of this renewed concern. Among the beneficent outcomes has been a revival of ethnic culture and sense of place. Negative repercussions abound, however, manifested as an upsurge in superstition, excessive pride in ancestry and custom, and a constricted worldview that when taken together can inflame local passions, leading at times to violent conflict-from riots in American cities to wars in the Balkans. In Cosmos and Hearth, Tuan takes the position that we need to embrace both the sublime and the humble, drawing what is valuable from each.

Illustrating the importance of both cosmos and hearth with examples from his country of birth, China, and from his home of the past forty years, the United States, Tuan proposes a revised conception of culture, the “cosmopolitan hearth,” that has the coziness but not the narrowness and bigotry of the traditional hearth. Tuan encourages not only being thoroughly grounded in one’s own culture but also the embracing of curiosity about the world. Optimistic and deeply human, Cosmos and Hearth lays out a path to being “at home in the cosmos.”

Born in China and educated in Australia, the Philippines, England, and the United States, Yi-Fu Tuan is professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minnesota, 1977), Landscapes of Fear (Minnesota, 1982), The Good Life (1986), and Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture (1993).

Excerpt:

“Thinking yields a twofold gain: although it isolates us from our immediate group it can link us both seriously and playfully to the cosmos-to strangers in other places and times; and it enables us to accept a human condition that we have always been tempted by fear and anxiety to deny, namely, the impermanence of our state wherever we are, our ultimate homelessness. A cosmopolite is one who considers the gain greater than the loss. Having seen something of the splendid spaces, he or she will not want to return, permanently, to the ambiguous safeness of the hearth.”

Cosmos and Hearth

Yi-Fu Tuan is professor emeritus of geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Space and Place (Minnesota, 1977), Landscapes of Fear (Minnesota, 1982), and Escapism (1998).

Cosmos and Hearth

Yi-Fu Tuan, a distinguished and influential scholar, is also a citizen of the world in numerous respects. He is at home in several different pasts, in the complex cybernetic present, and feels a keen concern to prepare us all for pluralistic prospects in the future.
With graceful and engaging prose he now alters our notions of cosmopolitanism and provides a comparative perspective on ethnocentrism in the United States and China. Above all, Cosmos and Hearth offers a fresh (and personalized though not subjective) way to think about an enduring dualism: the relationship between things traditional and things modern. This is a stimulating, well-informed, and challenging book.

Michael Kammen, The Newton C. Farr Professor of American History and Culture, Cornell University

Yi-Fu Tuan is that rarest of fauna, a scholar with immense learning and an original point of view. His many studies in cultural geography have reinvented our notions of space and place, which he views as central to understanding the human dimensions of history. Cosmos and Hearth distills his lifetime of thought on changing East-West relations into a binary metaphor, home and the world, two regions that firmly anchor his ‘cosmopolite’ vision of the earth. This book ranges from ancient China to recent America, and it teaches us to read those lands in ways that will surprise and delight all readers, from policy makers to sometime travelers.

William Howarth, Princeton University

A wise and poetic discussion of the human condition within the geography of the modern world.

Religious Studies Review

Hearth, as defined in this erudite, provocative inquiry, means familial warmth, small-scale intimacy, hometown loyalties. Cosmos is the larger reality of society, civilization, world. Tuan, geography professor (Univ. of Wisconsin) and author of Landscapes of Fear-born in China, raised there and in Australia and England-brings a cosmopolitan perspective to his discussion of our need to balance the polarities of hearth and cosmos. The book’s centerpiece, a comparative analysis of China and the U.S., touches on the Confucian concept of cosmic harmony, China’s centuries-old clash with Tibet, modern China’s outward-directed modernization, and American immigrants’ struggles against oppression and bias. Championing both the hearth and cities as necessary crucibles of human development, Tuan suggests that we strive for a ‘cosmopolitan hearth’ by recognizing the importance of family and local ties while open-mindedly appreciating one’s culture without chauvinism or xenophobia.

Publishers Weekly

Can humans meld the desire for a cozy, immediate surrounding with the broadening aspects of cosmpolitianism? This is Tuan’s central question in a ranging, very personal study. Tuan’s credos are laudable and engagingly presented.

Kirkus Reviews

Tuan’s brief book is remarkably sweeping in its conception, and eschews easy answers in favor of a more sensitive probing of human culture. In the end he neatly comes down just to one side of the middle (hence the book’s subtitle) in his brief that Americans need to reestablish ties to the hearth, but only as a viable means of affirming diversity. Otherwise, we must also realize the ‘impermanence of our state wherever we are’-that we are never truly bound by a locale, other than our common membership in the cosmos. We are forever bound to look outward.

City Pages

Full of stimulating ideas about our global future.

The Reader’s Review

Tuan’s book is cogent and thoughtful, and worthy of lively discussion.

Pacific Reader

A timely book. Yi-Fu Tuan has been an intellectual force in contemporary cultural geography and environmental thought. Yi-Fu Tuan has refined this cosmopolitan vision throughout his long and distinguished career, which we may now understand, in part, as a personal and intellectual quest for cosmopolitan hearth.

Annals of the Association of American Geographers