Photo credits: Connor Hagen

Unmastery — 12th April 2024

Narayan Subramoniam
6 min readApr 12, 2024

Hello! I forget what the structure of these blogs were meant to be but let’s try having three sections:

  1. Past two weeks, if anything happened
  2. Human geography topics (besides my research)
  3. The Road Ahead + biweekly quote and article

It was quite terrible, then something great happened

I’ve always thought of myself as a lucky person. I’ve met most of my best friends from random events (sat next to each other in Econ 101, a spontaneous hike, a failed road trip). I’m in my current field because I happened to use Audacity in a night school music production class. I met my partner because my friend from a part-time job needed an emergency plus one for a party. And, y’know, being alive with my close family also claiming that gift. But fuck if 2024 is messing with that belief.

I don’t want to list out the negative events but trust me when I say there are at least a dozen events this year that each left me pining for a one way ticket to Alaska. All of this shittiness culminated in a shitstorm last Tuesday. But the shitstorm is clearing, the poop fog is lifting, and by golly do I feel I am wresting my luck back from the bottom of the septic tank that is 2024.

There were many things I did (and my friends did) to help with this ascension from a fecal plane. Listening to me bitch, going online with me to search for some opportunities, and eating good food. But I have to pour one out for the Universe for the big help: a Total Solar Eclipse.

Sure, there are great videos out there that spread the gospel of Totality (example). But do you know what it does to a dude’s psyche to be in the dumps for the entirety of Q1, to contemplate dropping out, to yearn for Imposter Syndrome because at least that’s a societal role, and then to see this:

Photo credits: Ari Baird

Wonderful things, I tell you. The internet told me that the temperature would drop, but it didn’t tell me how quick it drops. How you immediately miss the Sun and its warmth and realize how sliver is a generous description for the size of livable space we have in the universe. Videos said I’d hear evening life come out, but I didn’t expect to hear a crowd of people gasp at the same time. To hear everyone whisper, to understand the silence of your friends. Up until the eclipse, I didn’t have one single experience that I could chalk down to transformative. I was searching for one, and there it came, there it always was going to be. Thank you to everyone that helped make this experience possible, and weirdly, thank you Universe. I needed that.

“I saw the face of God”

- fellow eclipse watcher

There’s no way to segue out of this, next up is a cool thing in human geography.

Why do we care about place?

The last time I studied geography before doing a Master’s in it, was in Grade 9. I remember colouring the map of Canada with recognizable Provinces (B.C, ‘Berta, Ontario, Quebec), curiously cute ones (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, … the eastern ones), and the Northern ‘Territories’. These were places in Canada, as Canada is a place in the world, and Earth is a place in the universe and so on. Place also existed outside of geography and in the realm of common-sense. Real places: by the entrance of Fairview Library; made-up places: Roshar, in Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive; small places: my desk in a nook of my bedroom; places as an idea: my place in the world.

I somehow look older there, 9 years ago

Places are everywhere, they are almost everything, yet you and I know what’s a place and what isn’t. Or do we? Is a tract of endless canola field you pass by on a road trip a place? Is the image of home in your mind’s eye a place? Can each of us have a well defined place in society?

So places are complicated to define, but they are everywhere, and it is perhaps undeniable that some places give us meaning. When I wrote “Fairview Library” up there, it’s a real place for me. It was my go to spot after school, when I was not keen to go back home and wait alone for my sister to return from uni. The library was a place of comfort, a place where I wasn’t forced to do anything besides exist and be a good citizen. I can still walk down the stacks of Fairview in my mind. I still can imagine my favourite spot on a cushy chair close to a power outlet by a window.

Any library could offer these services, but a particular library, a particular place is what makes it special to me. Why does this place give me meaning? Are there other places that give meaning? Does that change for other people? Human geographers are interested in these questions — and more! — about place. There are tons of Human geography books about place since the 1950s and the place as an object of study (in Western schools) dates back to at least the First Century AD (Cresswell, 2004). I’m currently reading Place: A Short Introduction by Cresswell and enjoying its beautiful turn of phrases, the way it changes how I think about simple things, but 80 pages in I’m still asking: Why do we care about place?

An empty room for you

To be continued, or if you’d rather read source material then check out Cresswell (2004) or if you’re really motivated Cresswell (2014).

The Road Ahead

Flying out to Bahrain! Technically the motherland for me since I was born there. The next issue of Unmastery will be written and (inshallah) posted from there.

This biweek’s article is actually one of my most used reference websites: It’s an encylopedia of exercises grouped by muscles with extensive videos and instructions.

This biweek’s quote is from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. A book I’m not sure I’d recommend (unless it was in a book club ;)):

“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.”


Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Despite the title, the books offers a comprehensive introduction to the notion of place, how it is implicated in processes of identity formation, and how it also intervenes to normalize and naturalize identity. The final chapter contains a list of useful resources for students.

Cresswell, Tim. Place: An Introduction. 2d ed. Malden, MA, and Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

An accessible entry into the ways in which place as a concept helps humans better understand their relations to the world of which they are a part. It enables readers from all disciplines to get to grips with the slipperiness and versatility of the term.