As my capstone and personal interests continue to evolve, there is an equal draw upon my past for information, clarity, and inspiration. As someone interested in the conservation of cultural landscapes, I am intrigued by the notion of designing with consideration of the ‘spectral traces’- the emotive unseen. To better understand the opportunities and challenges of such a view and in addition to my required landscape architecture courses, I am also taking an anthropology class. Making the Dead Matter, taught by Stuart McLean, seeks to elucidate the relationship between those of us who are alive and those who are, well, not so much. As so elegantly put by Friedrich Nietzsche ‘Let us beware of saying that death is opposed to life. The living is only a type of what is dead, and a very rare type.’
Having graduated in 2003 with a degree in anthropology from the University of New Mexico, I thought that though I might be a little rusty on anthropological theory, I could probably stay on top of things in this class. Thus far, I’m not so certain of that assumption.
Still, I think that the challenges of this class will make me better suited to the task of considering both nature and culture as I become more fluent in design. On a site such as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in Ohio where I am considering fixating my capstone, spectral traces are all around. Not only did these very landscapes develop as designed and constructed by a people now long gone from the physical place, but for many modern visitors there remains a spiritual palpability of their presence. As I think of ways to interpret some of what has been done here, understanding cultural connections between place and the living and the dead will be very useful. And if perhaps I thought it was my capstone that was going to kill me, maybe it will be Making the Dead Matter instead.