P24
British landscape, heterotopia and 'new animism'

Convenors:
Jenny Blain
Robert Wallis (Richmond University)
Location:
Room 4
Start time:
14 September, 2011 at 9:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

Commonly, presentations of place deal in humanly-inscribed meaning, in viewing, shaping, protecting landscape. This panel invites discussion and theorising of places and component beings as creators of meaning and change, asking what anthropology brings to understanding of other-than-human agency.

Long abstract:

Conventional portrayals of landscape, seascape, townscape within Britain, present either a 'wild' unpopulated, mysterious and 'unspoilt' tourist destination, or a human-created, moulded place be it of farmland, town centre, suburban garden. Viewers are invited to look, to explore, to protect, to preserve, to restore, to further shape: agency here lies with the architect, planner, tourist or tour guide, farmer, promoter, heritage manager, in short with human people. Heterotopic spaces are ones in which humans, in such human-centric focus, inscribe multiple or changing meanings. Sacred landscapes, however, in other discourses may have their own agency, as may other-than-human people within these - trees, ancestor spirits, reindeer, rivers. They call to some people, exclude others, and have their own being and historical trajectory to which human activity may be peripheral. We ask here, what anthropologists can bring to an exploration of agency of these landscapes of Britain, or of how the slow pace of life of a yew tree, the swift pace of a goldfinch creates its own context and meaning. The panel invites presentations of how landscape or its components engage with humans; including exploration of (human) discourse on what Harvey (2005) terms 'new animism', and theorised discussion of tensions between discourses of protection and discourses of 'being changed' by place.