The Tent Culture : 3 Ways that Tents are Symbolic of a Nomadic Lifestyle and Cultural Independence

June 10, 2017

Whether we are thinking of the traditional wagons of the nomadic gypsy clans of Romania or the tipis of the hunter gatherers of the American plains, it is obvious that the portable, temporary shelter is an icon of independence and self-sustenance.

This has reflected to a great sense, in art mediums that have become prevalent since the 1960’s. Silvia Bottineli, author of the work The Discourse of Modern Nomadism: The Tent in Italian Art and Architecture of the1960s and 1970s, makes this observation:

“In the 1963 essay “Nous les nomades?” (We the nomads?), he, (Georges-Hubert de Radkowski) observed how contemporary subjects did not attribute centripetal value to a fixed home and were open to considering a number of different sites as possible temporary habitats. The new approach resulted in a more decentralized map of cultural geography, which made travel, along with the opportunity for communication, the very essence of life.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari later pushed the idea of nomadism beyond the anthropological study of historical change. They used this term to define an archetypical and dialectical pattern, in which nomadism is seen as a fluid, dynamic, antagonistic force in contrast to the establishment, and thus one that undermines preexisting power structures. This reading of nomadism, which they also define as “war machine,” recognizes nonhierarchical forces that stand in contrast to the stability of the state, or status quo.”

It is this theme, in a nutshell, which pretty much sums up the notion that with mobility comes independence and even anarchy. Because in the commitment to a wandering lifestyle, a clan does not hold allegiance to any beyond itself, and the whole idea of the “tragedy of the commons” fades into non-existence. It is to this lifestyle that G-d committed the Hebrews after liberating them from Egypt, to make them strong enough to inhabit the Promised Land. Here are three ways that tent living represents strength and independence.

1. Mobility. One of the aspects of freedom is that you are free to move about the landscape and do as you please. With a tent or other type of portable shelter, you have the option of gathering your home together and moving on if you are unhappy with the environment.

2. Secrecy. With the ability to move about the landscape, the presence of cowens and eavesdroppers will be greatly decreased, therefore, fewer people will have the opportunity to know your business or to interfere with your affairs.

3. Allegiance to none. When you are fluid in your lifestyle and able to flutter from one environment to another, you are not dependent on any other entity for resources.

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