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Elevation and emotion: Sven Hedin's mountain expedition to Transhimalaya, 1906-1908
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.
Number of Authors: 12020 (English)In: Centaurus, ISSN 0008-8994, E-ISSN 1600-0498, Vol. 62, p. 647-669Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The role of verticality in 19th- and 20th-century fields of knowledge-making has received increased attention among historians of science. Correspondingly, cultural historians have explored the growing importance of a bird's eye view in popular culture throughout the 1800s. The elevated positions created in science and public discourse have both contributed to a modern ability to see the bigger picture. This article investigates how the Swedish geographer Sven Hedin produced an elevated view through his expedition to the Karakoram mountain range in Tibet between 1906 and 1908. Focusing on his travel narrative as a place where the elevated view was created and defined, I interpret Hedin's expedition as a part of initiatives in geography, at the turn of the 20th century, to find a vertical means of representing the world. In particular, this article demonstrates how the overview, both literally and metaphorically, became an ideal in Hedin's narrative. Moreover, I argue that Hedin's elevated view contributed to an emotional economy of elevation. The alleged rational gaze of the overview was combined with emotions and experiences of cold climate, thin mountain air, vertigo, and awe. This article indicates how affective states were included in the collection of data, even when they threatened to blur the sensorium of the observer. Third, through the analytical lens of an emotional economy of elevation, I argue that Hedin's elevated view mimicked the affective language of a Humboldtian tradition, while at the same time it contributed to the popular culture of the late 19th century with its fascination for ascents and bird's-eye views. As a European celebrity, Hedin reached massive crowds and contributed to the establishment of the outlook from above as a crucial technique for understanding nature.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2020. Vol. 62, p. 647-669
Keywords [en]
early 20th century, elevated view, emotional economy of elevation, history of geography, Sven Hedin, Tibet
National Category
History and Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-186427DOI: 10.1111/1600-0498.12298ISI: 000566663000001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-186427DiVA, id: diva2:1492956
Available from: 2020-11-04 Created: 2020-11-04 Last updated: 2022-03-23Bibliographically approved

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Bergwik, Staffan

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