Undergirding every theoretical framework is a network of material referents upon which ideas collect, propagate, and disseminate. Academic discourses not only exert an influence on the world, but are themselves equally influenced by it: the egalitarian feedback loop between subject and object is dictated by the constraining fact that we are embodied beings in a physical milieu. Despite the seeming immediacy and intuitiveness of this statement, however, it is a well-worn adage that we must be mindful of the delicate balance of theory and praxis. This is not only a normative statement or an ethical injunction, but a methodological observation: from the intimacy of Platonic dialogues to Jane Bennett’s “thing-power,” the history of philosophy points not only to the value of lived experience on thought and reason, but also its inescapability.
While such a philosophical position is well accounted for in the abstract in contemporary literature—e.g., Donna Haraway’s notion of situated knowledge—the movement from “a conquering gaze from nowhere” into a place infused with tradition, language, and culture demands a robust understanding of what this really (perceptively and emotionally) looks like. In the spirit of intellectuals like Gaston Bachelard (The Poetics of Space), this investigation proposes use language as a springboard to enact a phenomenological ‘bracketing’ in the style of psychogeography and the context of Southwestern architecture, foregoing a symbolic unpacking of traditional cultural iconography in favour of narrowing in those distinctive features of regional design—from pastel hues to the unity of adobe walls—that give it a distinctive and influential ‘feel.’ We will therefore work to unbind the subject from its strictly intellectual tethers, transcending the liberal humanist subject and transforming it into something much more embedded in and indebted to the realm of the particular—the trance of our own material constitution.