Wisdom Sits in Places

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Although places are the backdrops for the activities of a culture, and place-names serve as reference points for these locations, both are socially constructed and this construction takes place in large part through language. Basso brings attention to the dialectic interplay between the construction of place and the definition of community for the Western Apache. While a relationship with the landscape exists to reinforce the cultural ideology of the Western Apache, such would not be possible without the same ideology shaping the perspectives of the landscape (how it is experienced and regarded by the people) in the first place. It is then understood that local conceptions of external realities are bound to and created by cultural concepts. To understand places and their names also requires a matter of understanding language as it conveys the shared ideas of the Western Apache community. At this point place-names are understood to be powerful instruments in social discourse and social reproduction within Western Apache culture. However the place-names came to be, they are mutually and cooperatively understood to be voiced and passed down by their ancestors. Place-names allow Western Apache individuals to evoke history, myths, and moral lessons from narratives bound to certain geographical points. They are not physically bound however, for uttering place-names or bringing attention to them in certain social situations allows for individuals to symbolically “travel” to these place and be consumed by the events that took place there so that they may relate it back to their lives. Storytelling has revealed the significance of place-names as symbols with which Western Apache are able to transcend the limits of space and time by fusing past and present, thus forging a connection to their ancestors and allowing for ties to the land and with each other to subsist. Place-names are cooperatively understood to hold compact amounts of information. For place-names to hold...
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