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Bouldering in Yosemite: Emergent Signs of Place and Landscape

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  A representationalist–constructivist bias is prevalent in contemporary anthropological research on meaning making, particularly research on large-scale domains of human life. This bias assumes that conceptual and imagined forms of sign processing originate and determine all significance manifesting in environments signifying as greater than local. Lived experience, however, also can originate and influence, if not fully determine, large-scale processes of meaning making. The case of rock climbing in Yosemite National Park illustrates the inscription and the processual emergence of symbolism into and out of bodily experience. Climbers internalize technical disciplines preconceived by translocal—in some respects, market-driven—multinational interests and emplace them into the Yosemite landscape while simultaneously originating significance via bodily encounters that are unmediated by conventional symbolic processes. Postphenomenological frameworks foreground how climbers’ unmediated bodily encounters bring into being generative lines of symbolism capable of reconfiguring previously established translocal structures of representation.

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