When you think of fear, you don’t automatically think “geography”, which poses the question, “why would geographers be interested in fear? In this essay I will unwrap this conundrum but firstly we must establish what “fear” is and understand its geographical context. Pain and Smith say “fear cuts across the personal and societal, welfare and commerce, the emotive and the rational” (p.1, 2008). Whereas, Wurff and Stringer say “the perception of a threat to some aspect of well-being, concurrent with the feeling of inability to meet the challenge” (p.136, 1989). Geography “is an attempt to both understand and meet the world” (Bonnet, 2008, p.122) this includes the knowing and making sense of the dangers of our human and physical environment (Bonnet, 2008), as humans we naturally fear “danger” which is why geographers are interested in fear, as it is influenced by our human and physical environment.
Secondly it is important to understand the primary reasons why geographers are interested in fear. Fear is a major geographical shaper of people’s behaviour and choices, which are inherently influenced by the political nature of the constitution and structuring of the city for example Haussmann restructured Paris as he was fearful of a revolutionary threat in the narrow streets and tenements around the city centre (Bannister, Fyfe, 2001). Geographers may also be interested in fear because safety is perceived through peoples physical and social surroundings, examples can be seen in a city, such as if a woman see’s graffiti, litter or vandalism on a street it is a sign of incivility where such behaviour occurs (Valentine, 1989), whereas if a street is neat and clean it is perceived as the opposite, increasing the inclination to walk down it, as it holds no scars of threatening behaviour, thus not provoking a reason to be “fearful”.
My second paragraph will consider why geographers are interested in what makes us fearful. My third paragraph will look at the impacts fear has on our lives for example its impact on women. Fourthly I will evaluate how well the field of geography covers the concept of fear, and consider alternative options. Lastly I shall conclude my ideas.
So far we have established that fear is at times irrational, interpretive and not limited to specific things, but ultimately it is personal, every person is different therefore it is reasonable to think that anything if perceived in a fearful context by someone, influences fear. For example it is irrational to fear clowns as they are supposedly funny, but I was always scared of the clown hanging up in my room as a kid, now I’m older I no longer have this fear, because I now realise it was partly because I always looked at the clown (which was out of place anyway) when it was dark. Doreen Massey and John Allen call the second relationship of human geography as between “the social and the natural” (p.1, 1987), socially clowns are normal in the context of a circus for example, so outside of a circus such as in someone’s bedroom it is not. Therefore feelings’ of anxiety are felt, in term of the wonder of what this clown (or in a more real case graffiti) is doing out of its societal context, thus provoking fear of the unknown, as this contextually alien object could pose a threat for someone to be fearful of. Similarly, darkness is associated with the unknown and uncertainty due to not being able to see your surroundings very well, so for example when I saw the clown which was out of place (in society) and scary in the context of my bedroom, I was irrationally fearful of it. Not because I had anything to be scared of but because of my surroundings i.e. the nature of darkness and how I perceived it, and the presence of a clown outside of its normal societal context. Hence geographers are interested in fear, as understanding it will as Bonnet (2008) suggests, allow geographers to comprehend how we are influenced by our