Geographical Ontology

Levinas, Sacred Landscapes and Cities


  • Douglas Ezzy University of Tasmania



Levinas, nature religion, geography and religion, ontology


Cities inscribe on the earth a text of human being-in-the world. They contain, repress, facilitate, control and decimate nature. Put another way, the geography of our being-in-the world profoundly shapes human experience of nature. This article proceeds through a dialogue between my own mystical experiences in nature. and a rereading of Levinas's account of face-to-face relations with the Other through which I argue that nature can be understood as Other. However, beyond a romanticised conception of nature as harmonious and ecologically balanced, a sophisticated Levinasian reading of face-to-face relations confronts us with the disruptive, violent implications of proximity to nature. This also provides an account of the violent, suppressive and distancing response of humans to nature. Further, the conceptualisation of nature as Other suggests some alternative urban experiences that may be seen as part of the human encounter with nature. In particular I examine human mortality as an aspect of nature. Finally, the sacred is found, both in urban and rural contexts, in that moment of transcendence when human responses to the Other of nature take them out of, or beyond, their ontological being to an ethical moment of relationship.

Author Biography

  • Douglas Ezzy, University of Tasmania
    Douglas Ezzy is senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Tasmania, Australia. His books include Qualitative Analysis (Routledge, 2002), Practising the Witch's Craft (Allen & Unwin, 2003) and the forthcoming edited collection Researching Paganisms (with Jenny Blain and Graham Harvey, Alta Mira Press). His most recent research is an international study of teenage Witchcraft with Helen Berger (West Chester University).


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How to Cite

Ezzy, D. (2007). Geographical Ontology: Levinas, Sacred Landscapes and Cities. Pomegranate, 6(1), 19-33.