Landscapes of blindness and visual impairment : sight, touch and laughter in the English countryside
Through ethnographic research acting as a sighted guide for members of specialist walking groups who visit areas of the Lake District and Peak District, in this thesis I illustrate how people with blindness experience and talk about their landscape encounters. Building on work on landscape and the body, in the wake of `nonrepresentational theory', a distinct approach to interpreting landscape experience is advocated, where these experiences are understood to exist in reciprocal `becomings' which draw variably from the possible material, embodied and discursive domains of landscape. Attention is also given to limits of personal testimony about embodied experiences of landscape and the contribution that neurobiological research might make to better understanding embodied experience. These dynamics of interview testimony and processes of landscape experience are illustrated in the thesis through recourse to interview material, ethnographic field-notes, photographic, video data and secondary research material. Specific attention is given to the inter-corporeal and inter-subjective processes of vision, touch and laughter which are found to be key elements in blind walkers' encounters with and talk of, the material landscapes of the Lakes and Peaks. These representations of blind walkers' landscape experiences are important because they help to off set the rather `ablist' literature which has tended to be evident in representations of countryside users and representations of landscape as a form of distant and objectifying visual apprehension.