South Africa is recognized as a site of both political turmoil and natural beauty, and yet little work has been done in connecting these defining national characteristics. Washed with Sun achieves this conjunction in its multidisciplinary study of South Africa as a space at once natural and constructed. Weaving together practical, aesthetic, and ideological analyses, Jeremy Foster examines the role of landscape in forming the cultural iconographies and spatialities that shaped the imaginary geography of emerging nationhood. Looking in particular at the years following the British victory in the second Boer War, from 1902 to 1930, Foster discusses the influence of painting, writing, architecture, and photography on the construction of a shared, romanticized landscape subjectivity that was perceived as inseparable from “being South African,” and thus helped forge the imagined community of white South Africa. In its innovative approach to South Africa’s history, Washed with Sun breaks important new ground, combining the persuasive theory of cultural geography with the material specificity of landscape history.
An important work: intellectually based, visually stunning and lucidly written. It should be consulted by all those who study South Africa.
Foster is illuminating on the connections between landscape, aesthetics, and white South African colonial consciousness. This subtly argued, innovative, and theoretically sophisticated study of space and place skillfully articulates issues of common interest to cultural geographers, historians, and art historians.
I recommend [Foster's] book . . . to anyone seeking to understand the complex, mutually constitutive interplay between land and Land.
Intelligent, appealing, and engaging. This well-written and richly illustrated work offers a sophisticated model for interpretation of identity and landscape. Indispensable for students of South Africa, and most useful for scholars of the cultural landscape. Essential.
One of the accomplishments of Foster's smart and thoughtful book is that it satisfies readers' desires to understand the historical roots of apartheid. . . . Foster's second and ultimately more important accomplishment is to make a case for the value of studying, as he does here, the corporeal, material nature of landscape experience and comprehension.
The strengths of the book lie at the points in which perceptual practice and historical positioning coincide. In this, Foster does not so much collapse the distinction between 'land' and 'scape,' but like the best sort of geography, communicates between the space of the body and the time of culture.
"Washed with Sun is an aggressive assertion of the power of place. It locates the formation of South African national character in a sophisticated analysis of the materiality of terrain and the appropriation of landscape to render mnemonic inscapes. This study of the making of an imagined community demonstrates that while the emergence of a putative white South African identity was not remarkable, the imaginative processes choreographed to achieve it were."
Jeremy Foster teaches architecture and planning at Cornell University. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Journal of Historical Geography, Cultural Geographies, and Journal of Southern African Studies.