The book starts by discussing the significance of walking for the experience of being human, including a comparative study of the language and cultures of walking. It then reviews in detail, relying on archaeology, two turning points of human history: the emergence of cave art sanctuaries and a new cultural practice of long-distance ‘pilgrimages’, implying a descent into such caves, thus literally the ‘void’; and the abandonment of walking culture through settlement at the end of the Ice Age, around the time when the visiting of cave sanctuaries also stopped. The rise of philosophy and Christianity is then presented as two returns to walking. The book closes by looking at the ambivalent relationship of contemporary modernity to walking, where its radical abandonment is combined with attempts at returns.
The book ventures an unprecedented genealogy of walking culture, bringing together archaeological studies distant in both time and place, and having a special focus on the significance of the rise of representative art for human history. Our genealogy helped to identify settlement not as the glorious origin of civilisation, but rather as a source of an extremely problematic development. The findings of the book should be relevant for social scientists, as well as those interested in walking and its cultural and civilisational significance, or in the direction and meaning of human history.
"This book takes quite an original approach. I enjoyed reading it."
Jean Clottes, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Archaeology, University of the Witwatersrand.
'This book is a tour de force; a beautiful, poetic, scholarly and sensitive archaeology of walking in human history that builds upon the authors’ experience of walking together and their combined theoretical and methodological body of work – a meeting of historical sociology and political anthropology to walk the reader "back towards ourselves". A must-read for all interested in walking as experience, practice, method, art, and pilgrimage.'
Maggie O'Neill, Chair in Sociology/Criminology, University of York, UK, author of Walking Methods: Biographical Research on the Move.
'Walking into the Void by Agnes Horvath and Arpad Szakolczai is one of the most beautiful and fascinating books ever written on walking. Walking is outlined as much more than a means of transportation, or an activity among others. It is an experience; an experience that intensifies our aesthetic relationship to the world, hollowing that essential void out of which forms and meanings become ordered. In this book, the most archaic conditions of our culture are the subject of investigation, at the same time as the transgression of modernity is exposed as a disaster.'
Frédéric Gros, Professor of Political Philosophy, SciencesPo, Paris, editor of the Collège de France lectures of Michel Foucault, author of A Philosophy of Walking.
Part I Walking into Sense
1 The Experience of Walking
2 The Language and Culture of Walking
3 The Dilemma of Representing the Void: Michel Foucault and Francis Yates
Part II The Flourishing and Demise of Walking Culture
4 Chauvet: The Cave of Wonders, or Representation as Transgression
5 Pergouset: The Cave of Monsters, and its Aftermath
6 Natufian Settlement: Technology, Representation, Standing Reserve
7 Göbekli Tepe: Sanctuary as Trickster Bestiary, or the Revival of Transgression
8 Çatalhöyük: The Culmination of Settlement
9 Tassili: Incubating Transformation, Or A Training Ground for The Magi
Part III Returns to Walking
10 Walking in Philosophy and Religion
11 Walking in Mountains: The Vocation of Losing Oneself
12 Experiencing Walking
This series constitutes a forum for works that make use of concepts such as ‘imitation’, ‘trickster’ or ‘schismogenesis’, but which chiefly deploy the notion of ‘liminality’, as the basis of a new, anthropologically-focused paradigm in social theory. With its versatility and range of possible uses rivalling and even going beyond mainstream concepts such as ‘system’ ‘structure’ or ‘institution’, liminality is increasingly considered a new master concept that promises to spark a renewal in social thought.
In spite of the fact that charges of Eurocentrism or even ‘moderno-centrism’ are widely discussed in sociology and anthropology, it remains the case that most theoretical tools in the social sciences continue to rely on taken-for-granted approaches developed from within the modern Western intellectual tradition, whilst concepts developed on the basis of extensive anthropological evidence and which challenged commonplaces of modernist thinking, have been either marginalised and ignored, or trivialised. By challenging the assumed neo-Kantian and neo-Hegelian foundations of modern social theory, and by helping to shed new light on the fundamental ideas of major figures in social theory, such as Nietzsche, Dilthey, Weber, Elias, Voegelin, Foucault and Koselleck, whilst also establishing connections between the perspectives gained through modern social and cultural anthropology and the central concerns of classical philosophical anthropology Contemporary Liminality offers a new direction in social thought.