Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Reading signs, interpreting meaning & placing culture in the Budapest landscape
by Metro-Roland, Michelle Marie, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2008, 286; 3331272
Abstract (Summary)

This research addresses a fundamental epistemological question about landscape, that is, how do we educe meaning from the built environment. It does so by interrogating the basic concepts of landscape and place through the semeiotic lens provided by the sign theory of Charles Sanders Peirce. This act of meaning making, the linkage between mind and world, is the subject of this research which treats this process in the context of the tourist experience of culture within the contemporary urban landscape of Budapest, Hungary. Based upon a year of fieldwork, a complex portrait of the ways in which the landscape of the city yields up signification is laid out, set against the trajectory of Hungarian history. This research works at two scales, that of the city and of a particular site within, the Central Market Hall, a bustling food market which is also a popular tourist destination. Drawing upon participant observation and interviews, a semeiotic ethnography which shows Peirce's sign theory at work is presented. The market, as an iconic sign, appeared to offer visitors a glimpse into authentic Hungarian life. Their encounters with commonplace foodstuffs, such as tripe and radishes, revealed the ways in which the iconic nature of the sign-object relationship guided their understanding of Hungarian culture. In exploring the landscape of the city, participant observation, semi-structured interviews and photo elicitation were employed. Visitors and residents were given single-use cameras and asked to capture images of Hungarianness within the prosaic spaces of the city. Interviews and the resulting photos revealed the potency of geographic location as an index of culture. Objects from neo-classical facades to street signs were posited as examples of Hungarian culture by both foreign visitors and local residents. It is argued that the accretion of meaning which has naturalized these objects is a function of their embeddeness within the urban fabric of the capital. Taking Peirce's writings on the indexical nature of signs, the relevance of geography and location is teased out as a significant factor in shaping the experience of culture vis-à-vis common objects in the landscape.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Knudsen, Daniel C.
Commitee: Dwyer, Owen J., Greer, Charles E., Szegedy-Maszak, Mihaly
School: Indiana University
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography
Keywords: Budapest, Budapest, Hungary, Culture, Hungary, Landscape, Peirce, Charles S., Semiotics, Signs, Tourism
Publication Number: 3331272
ISBN: 978-0-549-89095-9
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