Geographies of Self

by Lena Pozdnyakova and Eldar Tagi

Geographies of Self is conceived as an environment that explores. In contrast with the concept of singularity, our hybrid identities shaping our presence in the world from an introspective yet interconnected and discursive perspective. This premise is grounded in the understanding that our selvesis a complex phenomenon influenced by a multitude of factors—information inherited, absorbed, and integrated (including but not limited to environmental and situational conditions, genetic inheritance, and biological characteristics) without our conscious control, yet, with consequences of these coming together becoming accessible to us for exploration as the notion of self with roles and identities that that it undertakes.
To navigate this complexity, we advocate for the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves attentiveness to the phenomena in the world, including our own actions and reactions. This approach has been long studied by the Eastern contemplative traditions and meditation practices that have carefully documented these practices.

By embracing mindfulness, individuals gain an opportunity to explore the intricate web of connections within their own identities. This exploration is akin to a discovery of a person revealing their ancestral roots hidden in our DNA – with numerous network of different identities spread geographically and culturally through ancestral roots. Just like DNA contains genetic information passed down from generation to generation, providing clues about one’s heritage and revealing connections to various identities and geographies that have contributed to their existence in the world, Geographies of Self contains various patterns of affiliations, connections to different cultures and sites wihtout discriminating or judging any of those.

We are convinced that as individuals discover this multitude of geographies and identities, they recognize the diversity within their own story and body—a branching and diverse network mirroring the geographies and identities of other people – they become more accepting towards others and themselves in numerous expressions of selves. This is associated with our shared humanity, our existence in the world, and our reliance on the legacy of our ancestors form the basis of Geographies of Self, that regardless of our backgrounds, allows for people to find a common place of humanity. We hope that this exploration of Geographies of Selfs sparks dialogue on topics such as interlinking identities, patterns of migration that have been shared and experienced, living conditions that vary and continue to transform, family histories that are full of adventures and challenges, cultural affiliations that find common traits that unite people and not divide, and connections to ancestral roots that are a complicated and hidden foundation that has a potential to spark a discussion on difficult by necessary topics.

The central premise of shared identities and roles explored within Geographies of Self aligns closely with the concept of translocality. Translocality, studied in social science and anthropology, describes how social, economic, and cultural activities transcend local and geographical boundaries. It acknowledges that individuals and communities can maintain connections to multiple places simultaneously, shaping their identities and interactions through a broader network of locations. With this, translocality is inevitably associated with hybrid identities, cultural exchange, and interconnected networks. Geographies of Self embodies these same concepts through personal and embodied experiences, knowledge gained through practice, movement, and various forms of histories, including oral traditions and cultural knowledge dissemination.

We find, that in today’s interconnected world, where mobility, communication technology, and interconnectivity prevail, the notion of Geographies of Self becomes particularly relevant. It serves as a platform for discourse on our shared well-being, encompassing planetary, environmental, sociopolitical, and multispecies-centered concerns. And by doing so, this introspective and yet discursive environment gains even more prominance, as the discussion on rapidly changing world, requires an honest conversation on what roles and cultural traits and other descriptions that we identify with, will have to change and transform.

These discussions are associated with a specific terrain encountered as we embark on a journey of selfdiscovery within the Geographies of Self environment. This terrain(s) are called Moral Landscapes.
Conceptually, Geographies of Self is directly intertwined with the idea of Moral Landscapes. Within this framework, the Geography of Self contains numerous moral landscapes for individuals to discover and observe in their journey of self-inquiry. These Moral Landscapes, as we envision them within Geographies of Self, represent terrains that can transform and change when approached with awareness. Their discovery often occurs during discussions about complex topics that challenge existing perspectives, prompted by an embodied understanding of personal responsibility for ones actions and their consequences, by the their roles in affiliated groups and comunities. Often discovery and working with Morla Landscapes requires awareness, openness to change, determination to gain knowledge, capacity to embody and practice absorbed knowled, but more than anything – the sense of response(ability).

On a macro scale, Moral Landscapes involve reevaluating stances on political, social, cultural, and environmental issues. On a personal level, they manifest as individuals scrutinize their everyday habits, influenced by inherited dietary choices, consumer behavior driven by capitalist systems, political actions inherited from family and societal systems, and outdated practices rooted in traditions ill-suited to a changing world.
The term “The Moral Landscape” draws inspiration from Sam Harris’s book of the same name, where he advocates for a science-based approach to morality. Harris argues that moral questions have objective answers rooted in empirical facts related to the well-being of conscious beings. He distinguishes between the descriptive understanding of moral behavior and the prescriptive determination of moral rightness. Harris believes that science can and should focus on the latter, despite challenges such as cognitive biases and human limitations.

Precedents and other associations:
A great inspiration is this the book “Home/Bodies: Geographies of Self, Place, and Space,” (2006) ed. Wendy Schissel.The geographies that the writers in this collection explore are more often metaphorical than physical. The essays that follow are about how we live in and through identities, bodies, places, and spaces in non-linear, incoherent, and fragmented ways.

Published 09/15/2023