Emeritus professor Yi-Fu Tuan has been chosen as the laureate of the Vautrin-Lud international geography prize, which will be presented to him during the International Festival of Geography on the 13th of October 2012, from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM, in the salons of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges Town Hall.
Born in China in 1930, Yi-Fu Tuan lived and studied in the Philippines, Australia, United-Kingdom and the state of California before being appointed professor of Geography at Indiana University in 1956. Except for two years spent at the University of Toronto (1966-1968), all his career took place in the United States.
Yi-Fu Tuan’s researches cover a very large thematic spectrum, going from physical geography to cultural studies, from the hydrologic cycle to identities and lived spaces, from desert landscapes to the more intimist spaces of everyday life, combining a large and cosmopolitan view and a shrewd understanding of places and spaces. Yi-Fu Tuan also tackled other innovative subjects such as religion, morality and imagination, nature and culture, aesthetics and ethics, the love of places (topophilia) and emotions (fear, affection, avoidance, which are a foundation for policies and for the poetry of everyday life. His numerous works have been the subject of many translations in Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
At the University of Wisconsin (Madison) where he spent 15 years, Yi-Fu Tuan is considered as an exceptional teacher and an expert in the research field. The Wisconsin students association elected him “best teacher” in 1992. The same year, Yi-Fu Tuan received a “gratitude certificate” from his peers of the Universities Council and the Panhellenic Association. On the professional level, Yi-Fu Tuan has played an active role in the Association of American Geographers (AAG), where he has been the delegate at the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). He has also been advisor at the Fulbright grants committee, at the Wenner-Gren Foundation for anthropology, and at the Baltic Institute for Ethnic Studies.
Yi-Fu Tuan has received many awards and has been the subject of many honours: the Guggenheim grant (1968-1969), an honour from the AAG for his outstanding contribution to Geography (1973), the Journal of Geography prize (1985), the Cullum Geographical Medal from the American Geographical Society (1987). In 1986, he received the grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He received an honoris causa doctorate from the University of Guelph (2002) and was elected to the chair commemorating Frank Updike by the Phi Beta Kappa Society (2002-2005). He has been the Honour Laureate of the International Geographical Union (2000) and has been a laureate of the Roan and Littleton author prize (2000).
Yi-Fu Tuan can really be considered as the “Petit Prince” of geography. His words, judiciously chosen, tried to “tame” a generation of colleagues infatuated with logical positivism and quantitative spatial analysis. Yi-Fu Tuan captivates minds and hearts beyond assertions of objectivity, revealing a multifaceted subjectivity in the analysis of conventional models in social sciences. He reminds us of the rigorous demands of critical reflection over the biases and prejudices that often lead our lifestyles and thoughts.
Emeritus professor of Geography, University College, Dublin.
President of the Vautrin-Lud International Geography prize panel of judges.