The International Journal of Ecopsychology (IJE)



In contrast to descriptions of a familiar and bonded-with “sense of place,” S. Freud employed a German definition of the term and experience as “unhomely” (Unheimliche) (1919, Das Unheimliche) -- “The Uncanny.” He argued that the uncanny is an intrusion of the dreadful into the familiar and thus, it is here proposed, signals a radical departure from known ground. Similarly, Kaplan and Kaplan (1974, 1977, 1989), in their studies of landscape preferences, employed the dimensions of ‘mystery’ and ‘complexity’ as a means for understanding an innate evolutionary rubric for assessing a given terrain in terms of its potentiality for survival. For example, landscapes which were rated high on two other dimensions, ‘legibility’ and ‘coherence,’ conformed closely to views of open savannahs and parks where water, shelter, and game could be easily found (Kaplan, 1975). Several authors have argued for an evolutionary basis for detecting “familiar” from “dreadful” (Dutton, 2003; Han, 2007; Falk & Balling, 2010; and Conesa-Sevilla, 2006 & 2010). In this framework, that which is perceived as “unhomely” has the potential of becoming the uncanny. These last two terms suggest a continuum between a familiar sense of place, not-home and infrequently traversed territory, and the uncanny as alien or “spooky” (Conesa-Sevilla, 2001/2005).


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