May 15, 2020


Decided to wait until after I’d submitted my revisions, but I can now say that I officially pushed my dissertation over the finish line. I defended in Lexington this past March, coming in right under the Covid-19 wire… it was about a week after my flight back to Boston that the lockdowns began.

The abstract goes like this:

This dissertation examines geographic forms of evidence in the practices of landscape architects and geographers. I analyze evidence not only as an epistemic phenomenon, but as an aesthetic one, as well. Convincing an audience that the world is (or should be) one way and not another requires that knowledges be stacked, extended, and stitched together in a manner admissable to an audience. In the first two chapters, I use the case of the landscape architect Ian McHarg to examine how his approach to integrating scientific knowledge—a aesthetic response to what I theorize as ‘ought anxiety’—grew alongside the environmental bureaucracy in the 1960s, but fractured and collapsed in the 1980s. I examine his approach using two generative figures: the layer and the globe. In the first chapter, I examine McHarg’s attempt to expand the knowledges considered salient to planning practice, represented as vertically arrayed layers. I argue that this form of holism draws a surprising line through the history of GIS that ties geospatial technology—its aspirations if not its actuality—to mid-century conservationism and the early stirrings of bureaucratic environmentalism. In the second chapter, I narrate McHarg’s horizontal upscaling of ecological planning’s unit areas: from physiographic regions to the globe. In the final empirical chapter, I return to the discipline of geography to argue that a particular epistemic aesthetic—the bridge—and its impracticability played central roles in the elimination of the department of geography at the University of Michigan.

If you are interested in spending a few hundred pages with me at my most characteristically digressive and multi-vocal, you can find the complete document here…

Eric Robsky Huntley. 2020. “Reserved for the Whole Earth: Forms of Evidence, Ought Anxiety, and the Futures of Geographic Inquiry.” DOI: 10.13023/etd.2020.206

Thanks to my endlessly-patient advisor, Matt Wilson, and my endlessly patient committee, Matt Zook, Betsy Beymer-Farris, Anna Secor, and Jenny Rice.

  • Eric Robsky Huntley
  • They/them/theirs.*

  • Eric Robsky Huntley is a Lecturer in Urban Science and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and a Visiting Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    Huntley is a GIScientist, geographer, and designer who builds mapping tools in collaboration with and …