Observation: using direct sensorial observation to translate activity- movement, smell, taste, light, texture, feeling, hearing, etc. How does one experience environment? What are the limitations of these senses? How is observation subjective?



Landscapes are culture before they are nature; constructs of the imagination projected onto wood and water and rockā€¦ But it should also be acknowledged that once a certain idea of landscape, a myth, a vision, established itself in an actual place, it has a peculiar way of muddling categories, of making metaphors more real than their referents; of becoming in fact, part of the scenery. (Schama, 61)


I watch its colors: they always astonish me. When it is velvet green, friendly, with clear trails, people and animals are invited to climb, to walk, to breathe. When it is milky white it becomes the Indian goddess it used to be: a huge being with millions of eyes hidden beneath its skin, similar to the image of God I used to have in my childhood days. When it is purple, it radiates. (Adnan)


Why is my Wisteria floribunda, trained into a standard so that it eventually will look like a small tree, blooming in late July, almost August, instead of May, the way wisterias in general are supposed to do? The one that is blooming out of its natural season is blue in color; I have another one similar in every way (or so I believe), except that is should show white flowers; it doesn't bloom at all, it only throws out long, twining stems, mixing itself up with the canes of the Rosa 'Alchymist', which is growing not too nearby, mixing itself up with a honeysuckle (Lonicera) and even going far away to twine itself around a red rose (Rosa 'Henry Kelsy'). (Kincaid, 18)


In a Western scientific context, observation has been used as objective knowledge. Through the constraints of controlled testing, modeling, and trials, results have been seen as scalable and therefore applicable beyond the subjects of the observation results. Yet, what is actually witnessed is always isolated in the subjectivities of time, place, history, and body. Observation is not so much a way to discover truths, but patterns. When seen in this way, observation can lead to greater understanding of connections through similarities and particulars of individuals.

To observe is also to participate with one's own body, mind, and cultural attachments. It is essential to be reflective and consider how conclusions can be mirrors, and participation requires ethical cooperation and accountability.



Adnan, Etel. "Etel Adnan: Excerpt from Journey to Mount Tamalpais"., Accessed 25 June 2021

Kincaid, Jamaica. My garden (book):. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.

Schama, Simon. Landscape and memory. London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.


More Resources:

Canadian Environmental Law Association: Decolonizing Ecology: Presented by Gary Pritchard, Indigenous Engagement Specialist & Restoration Ecologist

Higher School of Economics National Research University: Faculty of Humanities: Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison: Objectivity and Beyond

Royal Roads University: Shawn Wilson: Research is Ceremony: Researching within an Indigenous Paradigm.