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Revealing and Concealing: Architecture and Knowledge in Children’s Books

Abstract for a paper presented at the Masking and Unmasking interdisciplinary conference, Duke University, 12th September 2008:

Architecture, or the modification of one’s environment to construct shelter, dwelling or home, is contingent on the philosophical position that ultimately reveals and/or conceals the knowledge that generates cultural dispositions. In this paper, I present three literary examples of how architecture can expose the paradigms for the organisation of living beings and space, which can reveal or conceal how a people define themselves and their resources.

Tove Jansson, a Swedish author from Finland, presents a wide range of interaction with the environment and, in the words of anthropologist Tim Ingold, ways of dwelling in the world rather than inhabiting a confined and privatised/divided space. In her Moomin books, architectural practice is not static but, like entropy, is subject to the evolution of living and non-living matter that may use other living or non-living matter to dwell with/in. A Soviet author, Nikolai Nosov, in his trilogy on Mites in a Flower Town, presents architecture as artistic, technological yet organic, which connects the private, social, and natural worlds and reveals their political/economic models: Soviet, capitalist, utopian. On the other hand, A.A.Milne’s use of space in “100 Aker Wood” reveals the underlying monarchical and imperialist social relations, distribution of resources and the organisation of private and public space.

The three examples of architecture point to the basic knowledge underlying the definitions of subject and object that children uncover in their books.

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