Tao DuFour: Husserl and Spatiality: A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space

{~ '2022-11-28 00:00:00' | amDateFormat: 'D/M' ~} {~ '19:00' ~}

A lecture by Tao DuFour on his recently published book, Husserl and Spatiality: A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space. The book is an exploration of the phenomenology of space and embodiment, based on the work of Edmund Husserl. Little known in architecture, Husserl’s phenomenology of embodied spatiality established the foundations for the works of later phenomenologists, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s well-known phenomenology of perception. Through a detailed study of his posthumously published and unpublished manuscripts on space, DuFour examines the depth and scope of Husserl’s phenomenology of space. The book investigates his analyses of corporeity and the “lived body,” extending to questions of intersubjective, intergenerational, and geo-historical spatial experience, what DuFour terms the “environmentality” of space. Combining in-depth architectural philosophical investigations of spatiality with a rich and intimate ethnography, Husserl and Spatiality speaks to themes in social and cultural anthropology, from a theoretical perspective that addresses spatial practice and experience. Drawing on fieldwork in Brazil, DuFour develops his analyses of Husserl’s phenomenology through spatial accounts of ritual in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. The result is a methodological innovation and unique mode of spatial description that DuFour terms a “phenomenological ethnography of space.” The book’s profoundly interdisciplinary approach makes an incisive contribution relevant to academics and students of architecture and architectural theory, anthropology and material culture, and philosophy and environmental aesthetics.

The lecture is accompanied by an exhibition of black and white photographs from DuFour’s fieldwork, exploring the spatiality of a specific Candomblé ritual. The photographs were taken during DuFour’s fieldwork in the city of Salvador, Brazil in the summer of 2010. Photographic documentation constitutes an important, although latent, aspect of the book’s descriptive intention and argument. They offer photographically mediated insight into the lived experience of Afro-Brazilian religious praxes. Specifically, they document reuniões or “gatherings” that are part of the ritual structure of an Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomblé, in which entities called caboclos “manifest” as given in the bodily gestures and speech of women. The exhibited photographs capture significant aspects of lived experience in the field, and indicate certain methodological dimensions of DuFour’s research. They offer insight into the concrete workings of DuFour’s fieldwork and visual aspects of the practices themselves.

Tao DuFour is an architect and spatial theorist. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, and an assistant professor at the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. His work investigates questions of embodied spatial experience, intersubjective and intergenerational understandings of architecture, landscape and territory, and the ways in which these both constitute and are embedded in the historicity of environments. His interests are in the phenomenology of perception and corporeity, phenomenological accounts of the experience of spatiality, and their relationship to ethnographic descriptions of space. DuFour directs the Landscape and Urban Environmentalities Lab, an interdisciplinary collaborative research group that studies spatial and territorial relationships between cities and their hinterlands, including climate and atmospheres, industrial and agricultural landscapes, infrastructures, greenbelts, and forests. The Lab foregrounds problems of intersubjective and intergenerational environmental experience and imaginaries, employing geospatial mapping and drawing on literary and ethnographic sources and methods, including fieldwork and the use of visual media such as photography and documentary film. DuFour’s current research focuses on the regional context of the Caribbean and Guianas. He holds a BArch from The Cooper Union and an MPhil and PhD in the history and philosophy of architecture from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Husserl and Spatiality: A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space (Routledge 2022), and is guest editor for the forthcoming special issue of Future Anterior dedicated to the theme of “Space and Heritage.” DuFour is Co-PI with Natalie Melas of the project “Possible Landscapes,” a two-year research and documentary film project investigating environmental experience in the Caribbean with a focus on Trinidad & Tobago, funded by the Cornell Mellon Foundation Just Futures Initiative.

Image: Filha-de-santo being incensed at a ritual in the Centro do Caboclo Tupiniquim, Salvador, Brazil. Photo: Tao DuFour.


Vítkova 2, Prague 8
Czech Republic
WED-FRI 13-19, SAT 14-18