Reading Comprehension – As defined by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan


Slot – 1 – RC

As defined by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan – Video


As defined by the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, topophilia is the affective bond between people and place. His 1974 book set forth a wide-ranging exploration of how the emotive ties with the material environment vary greatly from person to person and in intensity, subtlety, and mode of expression. Factors influencing one’s depth of response to the environment include cultural background, gender, race, and historical circumstance, and Tuan also argued that there is a biological and sensory element. Topophilia might not be the strongest of human emotions— indeed, many people feel utterly indifferent toward the environments that shape their lives— but when activated it has the power to elevate a place to become the carrier of emotionally charged events or to be perceived as a symbol.

Aesthetic appreciation is one way in which people respond to the environment. A brilliantly colored rainbow after gloomy afternoon showers, a busy city street alive with human interaction—one might experience the beauty of such landscapes that had seemed quite ordinary only moments before or that are being newly discovered. This is quite the opposite of a second topophilic bond, namely that of the acquired taste for certain landscapes and places that one knows well. When a place is home, or when a space has become the locus of memories or the means of gaining a livelihood, it frequently evokes a deeper set of attachments than those predicated purely on the visual. A third response to the environment also depends on the human senses but may be tactile and olfactory, namely a delight in the feel and smell of air, water, and the earth.

Topophilia—and its very close conceptual twin, sense of place—is an experience that, however elusive, has inspired recent architects and planners. Most notably, new urbanism seeks to counter the perceived placelessness of modern suburbs and the decline of central cities through neo-traditional design motifs. Although motivated by good intentions, such attempts to create places rich in meaning are perhaps bound to disappoint. As Tuan noted, purely aesthetic responses often are suddenly revealed, but their intensity rarely is longlasting. Topophilia is difficult to design for and impossible to quantify, and its most articulate interpreters have been self-reflective philosophers such as Henry David Thoreau, evoking a marvelously intricate sense of place at Walden Pond, and Tuan, describing his deep affinity for the desert.

Topophilia connotes a positive relationship, but it often is useful to explore the darker affiliations between people and place. Patriotism, literally meaning the love of one’s terra patria or homeland, has long been cultivated by governing elites for a range of nationalist projects, including war preparation and ethnic cleansing. Residents of upscale residential developments have disclosed how important it is to maintain their community’s distinct identity, often by casting themselves in a superior social position and by reinforcing class and racial differences. And just as a beloved landscape is suddenly revealed, so too may landscapes of fear cast a dark shadow over a place that makes one feel a sense of dread or anxiety—or topophobia.

Q.1 Which one of the following comes closest in meaning to the author’s understanding of topophilia?
  1. Nomadic societies are known to have the least affinity for the lands through which they traverse because they tend to be topophobic
  2. The French are not overly patriotic, but they will refuse to use English as far as possible, even when they know it well
  3. The tendency of many cultures to represent their land as “motherland” or “fatherland” may be seen as an expression of their topophilia
  4. Scientists have found that most creatures, including humans, are either born with or cultivate a strong sense of topography.
Answer: 3

Q.2 In the last paragraph, the author uses the example of “Residents of upscale residential developments” to illustrate the:
  1. social exclusivism practised by such residents in order to enforce a sense of racial or class superiority
  2. manner in which environments are designed to minimise the social exclusion of their clientele
  3. sensitive response to race and class problems in upscale residential developments.
  4. . introduction of nationalist projects by such elites to produce a sense of dread or topophobia.
Answer: 1

Q.3 Which of the following statements, if true, could be seen as not contradicting the arguments in the passage?
  1. The most important, even fundamental, response to our environment is our tactile and olfactory response
  2. Patriotism, usually seen as a positive feeling, is presented by the author as a darker form of topophilia
  3. New Urbanism succeeded in those designs where architects collaborated with their clients.
  4. Generally speaking, in a given culture, the ties of the people to their environment vary little in significance or intensity.
Answer: 2

Q.4 The word “topophobia” in the passage is used:
  1. to signify the fear of studying the complex discipline of topography.
  2. to represent a feeling of dread towards particular spaces and places.
  3. as a metaphor expressing the failure of the homeland to accommodate non-citizens.
  4. to signify feelings of fear or anxiety towards topophilic people.
Answer: 2

Q.5 Which one of the following best captures the meaning of the statement, “Topophilia is difficult to design for and impossible to quantify . . .”?
  1. Architects have to objectively quantify spaces and hence cannot be topophilic.
  2. The deep anomie of modern urbanisation led to new urbanism’s intricate sense of place.
  3. Philosopher-architects are uniquely suited to develop topophilic design.
  4. People’s responses to their environment are usually subjective and so cannot be rendered in design.
Answer: 4
Explanation: The passage is about geographer Yi-Fu Tuan’s interpretation of Topophilia which he defines as the emotional bond that people have for a particular place. This bond varies greatly from person to person and its intensity is dependent on factors such as cultural background, gender and race. There is also a biological and sensory element to topophilia.
Emotional bonds between people and place may be due to aesthetic appreciation for a certain landscape, an acquired taste for a landscape that one knows well or this bond may even be tactile or olfactory.
Topophilia has inspired architects to create new suburbs in neo-traditional design motifs but this effect has been disappointing. Topophilia is difficult to design for and impossible to quantify and human-inspired topophilia does not match up to the bonds inspired by natural landscapes.
Although topophilia has a positive relationship between people and place it has often been used for darker motives, such as war and ethnic cleansing. Upscale developments deliberately cast some people in a superior social position. The passage ends with an antonym of topophilia – topophobia – which is dread or anxiety for a particular place.

Solution 1: According to the passage, topophilia is the affective bond between people and their physical surroundings. This bond may be aesthetic appreciation, acquired taste for certain landscapes or even a tactile or olfactory attachment. It is different from topophobia – meaning feeling a sense of dread or anxiety about a place – since topophilia connotes a positive relationship.
To sum up, topophilia is the positive attachment to a certain physical surrounding.
A topophobic state of mind does not indicate a positive attachment to a particular place. Eliminate option 1.
Topophilia is about the physical landscape only. Eliminate option 2.
Option 4 is mentioned in the passage but does not give the meaning of topophilia. In fact, it does not offer any meaning at all. Option 4 can also be eliminated.
Option 3 comes closest in meaning to topophilia because the meaning of topophilia – a positive attachment to a certain physical surrounding – is reflected in people referring to their country as “motherland” or “fatherland.” These two terms have a definite, positive connotation. Hence, the correct answer is option 3.

Solution 2: The passage mentions, “Residents of upscale residential developments have disclosed how important it is to maintain their community’s distinct identity, often by casting themselves in a superior social position and by reinforcing class and racial differences.” This clearly implies social exclusivism based on racial or class superiority as stated in option 1.
Option 2 contradicts the passage. Upscale developments are designed to reinforce racial and class superiority from other people and not to minimize them. Eliminate option 2.
Option 3, too, is contradicted by the passage. Upscale developments exacerbate race and class divisions. They are not sensitive to race and class in the slightest.
Option 4 is not borne out by the passage. Upscale developments are not “nationalist projects” at all. Secondly, they do not produce a sense of dread or topophobia but reinforce class and racial superiority.
Hence, the correct answer is option 1.

Solution 3: “Not contradicting” is a double negative. Therefore, the question can be reworded as “Which of the following statements, if true, could be seen as agreeing with the arguments in the passage?” We have to identify the statement which agrees with the arguments in the passage.
Option 1 is not borne out by the passage. The passage gives several factors for peoples’ attachment to a particular place but it does not rank them in importance or degree of intensity. Therefore, we cannot conclude that the most important, even fundamental, response to our environment is our tactile and olfactory response. Thus, option 1 is eliminated.
Option 2 is true according to the passage. The following extract, “Topophilia connotes a positive relationship, but it often is useful to explore the darker affiliations between people and place. Patriotism, literally meaning the love of one’s terra patria or homeland, has long been cultivated by governing elites for a range of nationalist projects, including war preparation and ethnic cleansing.” This extract from paragraph 4 is in conformity with option 2.
Option 3 is also not borne out by the passage. Paragraph 3 talks about the architects’ attempts to replicate topophilia with neo-traditional design motifs in new suburbs but the passage goes on to say that its effects were disappointing and not up to the mark. Secondly, and most importantly, the passage does not mention that architects’ ever collaborated with their clients. Thus, option 3 is eliminated.
Option 4 is also not true according to the passage. The following extract from paragraph 1, “His 1974 book set forth a wide-ranging exploration of how the emotive ties with the material environment vary greatly from person to person and in intensity, subtlety, and mode of expression” contradicts option 4 completely.
Hence, the correct answer is option 2.

Solution 4: The following extract from paragraph 4, “And just as a beloved landscape is suddenly revealed, so too may landscapes of fear cast a dark shadow over a place that makes one feel a sense of dread or anxiety—or topophobia” gives the definition of topophobia. Therefore, topophobia is a feeling of dread towards certain landscapes or spaces and places. Thus, option 2 is the correct answer since this meaning is in conformity with the meaning expressed in option 2.
Option 1 has not been mentioned in the passage at all. The passage is about topophilia and its antonym topophobia and the term ‘topography’ has not been mentioned in the passage. Eliminate option 1.
The term ‘topophobia’ has not been used in a metaphorical sense in the passage. The passage has only given the literal meaning of ‘topophobia’. Thus, option 3 is eliminated.
“Topophobia” signifies feelings of dread or anxiety towards certain spaces and places and not towards any set of people. Thus, option 4 is also eliminated.
Hence, the correct answer is option 2.

Solution 5: Refer to paragraph 3. The paragraph mentions that architects’ and planners have attempted to create topophilia by building new suburbs in neo-traditional design motifs. Its effects have rarely been long lasting in terms of intensity or affinity among people. Different people seem to develop a sense of topophilia for different spaces such as “Henry David Thoreau, evoking a marvelously intricate sense of place at Walden Pond, and Tuan, describing his deep affinity for the desert.” Therefore, peoples’ sense of affinity is deeply personal or “subjective” with different people having an affinity for different spaces and this factor cannot be accommodated for by architects. This points to option 4 as being the correct answer.
Option 1 does not give the meaning asked for nor can it be implemented. It contradicts the passage. If architects build spaces objectively, (that is with a basis in observable facts rather than feelings or opinions) then they would probably have to ask each and every individual residing in a new suburb (for example) about their likings for particular landscapes. Since different people have an affinity for different landscapes (as shown in the extract above) it would not be possible for architects’ to be able to accommodate every type of landscape asked for. Therefore, architects cannot design their spaces objectively. If they could, that would imply that their creations would be topophilic. Thus, option 1 is eliminated.
Option 2, too, does not give the meaning asked for in the question. “Anomie” means “social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values.” Thus the meaning of option 2 as implied is: The deep social instability of modern urbanization led to urbanism’s intricate sense of place. This meaning contradicts the meaning asked for. The passage clearly mentions that modern architects failed in designing places that people would have an affinity for while option 2 suggests that the architects succeeded in building spaces that were topophilic. Thus, option 2 is also eliminated.
Option 3 may be true but does not give us the required meaning asked for. The passage mentions the fact that philosophers are the best interpreters of topophilia but implies that architects are not. This option does not give us the meaning asked for as to the reason Topophilia is difficult to design for and impossible to quantify.
Hence, the correct answer is option 4.



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