Nature and Culture

Roslynn D. Haynes


Roslynn D. Haynes

Distributed for Reaktion Books

248 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 x 8 1/4 | © 2013
Paper $24.95 ISBN: 9781780231693 Published December 2013 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $24.95 ISBN: 9781780232089 Published November 2013
 Sand. Cacti. Lizards. Mirages. Deserts call to mind exotic places, a sense of adventure and freedom, but also thirst and desolation. In Desert, Roslynn D. Haynes takes a fresh look at this geographical feature and cultural entity as it becomes an increasingly threatened environment.
Considering the immense geographical diversity of deserts from the Sahara to Antarctica, Haynes explores the intriguing and often bizarre ways plants and animals adapt to such a hostile environment, as well as the diverse peoples that have inhabited deserts and evolved unique lifestyles and cultures in response to their surroundings. She asks why Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all originated in the deserts of the Middle East and traces the connections between the minimalism of desert existence and the pursuit of a spiritual dimension. Finally, she describes the allure deserts have exerted on the West, the significance of desolate landscapes in literature and film, and the revolution in artists’ responses to the desert as an empty space and as an inspiration for new visual techniques with which to view it. Ending with a look at how commercial and military interests threaten desert ecologies, Desert casts new light on our view of these seemingly barren places.


The Diversity of Deserts

An Armoury of Adaptations

Desert Cultures Past and Present

Museums of Our Ancestors

Desert Religions

Travellers and Explorers

Deserts of the Imagination

Deserts in Western Art

Exploitation and Opportunity

The World’s Major Deserts



Select Bibliography

Associations and Websites


Photo Acknowledgements


Review Quotes
Geographical Magazine
“The word ‘desert’ evokes a place of wearying nothingness, devoid of life, culture, or fertility. But, as shows in this beautifully written and sumptuously illustrated new book, the reality is very different. . . . Haynes surveys the astonishing adaptations made by plants and animals for desert life. Everywhere there is cause for wonder.” 
“This beautifully illustrated volume reminds us of the natural and cultural riches of those parts of the world with 250mm of annual precipitation or less.”  
“By weaving together science and culture, Haynes . . . utilizes her lifelong passion for synthesizing numerous disciplines to skillfully present the compelling topic of deserts. . . . lively and engaging, [deserts are presented] through a thoroughly academic lens without losing accessibility. Desert serves as an interesting introduction to the multilayered influence of these geographical landscapes. A truly enjoyable read. Highly recommended.”  
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