Space is one of the most important categories of human life. Unfortunately many are not conscious of its significance, because there is a common conviction in Western society that space is a universally homogeneous condition which transgresses all material phenomena homogeneously and which is essentially of universal dimensions. Space is therefore considered to be a modern scientific concept attributed to physics and astronomy. It is therefore studied with highly specialised instruments allowing the observation of universal dimensions of space and its celestial contents.
This universal dimension of space and its dramatic history of discovery with all the famous names of the 16th and 17th century like Nicolaus Copernicus, John Kepler and Galileo Galilei and the struggles of those times whether the earth or the sun formed the centre of our planetary system have covered up the fact that space is also a topic of tremendous importance on the level of common daily life of all humans living on the surface of our globe.
Certainly in geographic scenarios it had doubtless some sighificance and maybe in urban or national planning institutes it has gained some importance to some extent in recent modern times. But, evidently, we rarely find it discussed in the framework of culturo-anthropological studies.
In the year 1963 an important book with the title 'Man and Space' was edited in Germany written by the philosopher Otto Friedrich Bollnow (1963). It fundamentally contradicts the modern concept of large scale space and maintains essentially that human space perception and space organisation evolved very early in cultural history with the evolution of the human habitat. Suddenly there was the hypothesis that the origins of human space are small scale, extremly small scale. It was quite some sort of a sensation in the field. Bollnow suggests that the German term "Raum" (space) evolved from the verb 'räumen' that means clear plants and other natural elements to prepare a place, a hut or a house for human dwelling.
This hypothesis is also confirmed by the etymology of corresponding words. The meaning of the Greek word 'kosmos' for instance, according to a study of Jula Kerschensteiner (1964), was related to local forms of spatial organisations in the small dimensions of a village in ancient Greece in presocratic times. It implied the nicely grouped order of a group of musicians or the like. Note that the word cosmetics has the same roots like 'kosmos' but in contrast to this word, which followed human cognition into macrocosmic dimensions, the word 'cosmetics' remained on the small scale of the human face.
It is evident that in the framework of environments related to human dwelling as dealt with by architecture, the characteristics of space play an important role. Bollnow's important theoretical concepts of space were used mainly in new movements of research in the architectural domain: architectural ethnology and architectural anthropology. See for instance the "Encyclopedia of vernacular Architecture of the World", a milestone of architectural ethnology considerably neglected by ethnologists proper! I have been co-working on it during the most interesting planning phase (Paul Oliver ed. 1997).
Recently Bollnow's book has been translated into English. It is published in the United Kingdom by the publisher "Hyphen Press". See:http://www.hyphenpress.co.uk/authors/o_f_bollnowhttp://www.hyphenpress.co.uk/books/978-0-907259-35-0
Below we give the text of the editor of the English publication:
Human space is an English translation of one of the most comprehensive studies of space as we experience it. Since it was published in Germany in 1963, Bollnow’s text has become a key reading in architecture, anthropology, and philosophy. In 2004 the German edition was issued in its tenth impression. The book is serious academic research and something more – showing a great sensitivity to the near and the everyday. The text is enlivened and illustrated with many quotations, principally from German and English literature. Our edition is translated by Christine Shuttleworth and has an introduction by Joseph Kohlmaier, who places the work in its context of philosophical and architectural discussion.
extent 300 pp
binding cased in cloth
Other books on anthropology of space:
Blum Paul, Mary A Peterson, Merrill F. Garrett
--Language and Space. MIT Press 1999
--The Berber house of the world reversed 1971, Hague, Monton
Cieraad Irene (ed.), foreword by John Rennie Short,
--At home. An anthropology of domestic space. 1st. ed. 1999; 1st paperback edition 2006
(contains various papers on space and rooms in house)
--Place, a short introduction. Blackwell Publishing US, UK, 2004
Levinson Stephen C.,
--Space in Language and Cognition - Explorations in cognitive Diversity. Max Planck Inst for Psycholinguistics Nijmvegen NL, Cambridge Univ Press UK 2003
Low Setha M. and Denise Lawrence-Zuniga,
--The anthropology of space and place: locating culture, Oxford: Blackwell 2003
(various studies in the framework of 'space and place network!)
--Spatializing Culture: The Social Production and Social Construction of Public Space, American Ethnologist 23(4): 861-879. 1996
--Space and Place: the perspective of experience (Univ. of Minnesota Press 2001)
Kosmos: quellenkritische Untersuchungen zu den Vorsokratikern. (Zetemata, Heft 30.) Pp. xi+245. Munich: Beck, 1964.