Sunday, August 2, 2009

Shared history? Or not?

The second week's readings for the Landscape and Architecture class focused on fostering an awareness of various cultural stereotypes of gender, race, and socioeconomic class and how they have changed over time; and understanding how those assumptions affect our interpretations of the built environment. The additional readings discussed ways in which idealized regional or national landscape concepts take root, as well as some of the origins of the values we assign to physical places and an attempt to define and understand the implications of the concept of "the community."

When I was growing up my father was in the Navy and we moved (usually from coast to coast) every year or two, so I was always the new kid at school until my last two years of high school. My older brother and I were very much a part of the "military brat" culture. We remember when events in our childhood happened by reference to which house we were living in or which school we were attending at the time. In fact, it's hard for me to imagine how people who grew up living in a single place can ever remember what happened when.

It was only fairly recently that I realized in conversation with my two younger brothers that they have an entirely different view of what life was like in our family. We moved for the last time when my older brother and I were 18 and 14 years old and my younger brothers were 8 and 9 years old. They were young enough then that they have very little memory at all of growing up mobile. In fact, you'd think we grew up in two totally different families. With hindsight, it's easy to understand the dynamics that created the two points of view, but before we had that conversation it had never occurred to any of us that we didn't all share the same basic family culture.

If it takes as little difference as this to create such widely different perspectives of a shared history, it's not hard to imagine the differences in perspective from generations separated sufficiently by time that they have no direct first-hand knowledge of each other's daily lives or cultural assumptions.

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