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The Palenque Paradox: Beyond Nature-To-Culture

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Chapter Summary

The urban environment is seen as the consummate cultural landscape, and opposite of pristine Nature or wilderness. The 'jungles' or 'bush' of Central America, Southeast Asia and Africa are home to the most impressive remnants of urban civilizations, including Palenque in Mexico, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. Premodern societies 'lived by Nature' and they were sustained within the bounds of their natural environment. War and population dislocation led to the recolonization of the Okalongo wilderness, it had an opposite effect north of Okalongo on the Angolan side of the border with Namibia. San communities in eastern Ovamboland temporarily abandoned their settlements for the duration of the dry season to follow migrating wildlife. The situation is ironic because in a Nature-Culture dichotomy, colonialism is the mechanism for dislodging 'non-Western' societies and environments from the grip of Nature, and launching them toward development on a Nature-to-Culture path.

Keywords: Africa; Angola; Central America; Namibia; Nature-to-Culture; Okalongo; Ovamboland; Palenque paradox; San communities



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