Troping the Tropics: Reflections on Nietzsche's Geophilosophy and the Philippine Rice Terraces Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart

  • Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart Kinaesthetics, LLC
Keywords: phenomenology, deconstructivism, Nietzschean geophilosophy, art, cultural heritage


Following in the styles of Jacques Derrida (1998) and David Farrell Krell (1996), or from a different tradition, Gaston Bachelard (1994), I engage in a phenomenological and deconstructive meditation, arriving at my own construction of what could be called a Nietzschean geophilosophy. By that, I mean the deployment of Nietzsche's trope-ic army of metaphors and metonymies in relation to an analysis of connections that spread like tendrils over themes of space, time, and the flows of power, life, and beauty, among other motifs. Crucial to my meditation or analysis is my own positioning as a woman who lives crossculturally, both in terms of biological and cultural heritage, and in terms of professional training as someone trained as both a molecular embryologist and philosopher in the Philippines, England and the U.S. Just as crucial are my own experiences as a visual artist and dancer: one whose awareness of tyrannical binaries (‘cultured’ mind versus ‘primitive’ body; outside versus inside; West versus East) leads me to see that a Nietzschean geophilosophy results not in a modernist closure nor a nihilist refusal of all boundaries, but in a ‘mapping’ that resists closure: a space in between oppression and resistance, within which I personally ground myself as a philosopher-critic and artist. But I believe that this subject position – one I call an insider-outsider perspective – is one everyone lives, in that flux of contingency and necessity. Thus, in my own journey, a meditation on Nietzsche's geophilosophy leads to a reflection on the complex interplay of Apollonian (rational reflection) and Dionysian forces (primordial energies that foreground and transcend rationality) in artfully depicting the cycle of life (such as in a girl's transition to young womanhood), and to visualizing the Philippine Ifugao tribe's connection to myth, land, blood and sweat. The art form I use to depict this relationship between tribe and land, which harnesses pen and ink in a semipointillist fashion, appears a realistic and documentary portrait, but on closer inspection refuses fixture and closure, much as the Ifugao in perpetual transformation are shaped by, as well as resist, forces of tourism and neocolonialism. In other words, the Ifugao lifeworld, as mythically cast by Masferre's ‘documentary’ photographs (which have often become tourist mementos) and filtered through my own fine point pen and ink drawings in pointillist fashion, intersect with my subject position. My black and white images appear as photographs, and as such may seem to be ‘objective’ snapshots of cultural identity; yet closer inspection reveals not sculpted outlines but a mass of dots, hinting at the flows of power and cultural identity that render me, alongside all others, an insideroutsider.
How to Cite
Picart, C. (1). Troping the Tropics: Reflections on Nietzsche’s Geophilosophy and the Philippine Rice Terraces Caroline Joan (Kay) Picart. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 9(1), 72-80. Retrieved from