EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Futurities, on the temporal mediation of landscapes.

Location Biol B37
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam) email
Maarten Onneweer (Leiden University) email
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Short Abstract

This panel will explore how landscapes are used or mediated to refer to other (distanced) places and times. In the mediations we address, temporalised images, signs, maps, advertisements, artefacts and places are seen as ways to come to terms with or strategically establish landscape futurities.

Long Abstract

Recent decades have witnessed a growing concern in anthropology with topics such as landscapes, media, time, space and material culture. This panel aims to engage in this debate from a specific angle, exploring how spaces or landscapes are constituted through mediation, and how, in these mediations, shifts in temporal registers are often used strategically, to grasp or establish particular kinds of futures. Landscapes are never self-evident, they must be conveyed to come into being. We are concerned with how landscapes are communicated, how certain objects or activities are employed and, particularly, how a future temporality is put to use in this process. Invoking a landscape often involves invoking a reference beyond its actual time. Anthropologists have addressed this issue in terms of memory, tradition or nostalgia. We hope to show in this panel that there is as much "forward looking" through the use and construction of landscape, as there is nostalgia. These exposures of the future in and through landscapes can be invoked in the present through different means, termed media in this context. These media can range from policy papers depicting solutions for green environmental problems in the future positive, to landscapes featuring in Indian wedding souvenirs promising future love, to signposts in Dutch nature reserves announcing what the visitor will be viewing in the future. One of the aspects we wish to explore is the role of the mediators through which these futurities in the landscape are conveyed. It is our hypothesis that to a certain extent, these media are the message, or at least shape a considerable part of it. We aim to show that landscape futurities can be studied by analysing the media through which they are evoked and communicated. This also shows that futurities are socially biased to include some and exclude others. The issue of futurity is simultaneously pertinent and fleeting. Futurities can be invoked in or through the landscape, but the particularities of this temporal scale are not easily grasped by ethnographic research. As yet, anthropologists have displayed limited concern for futurities. We hope that our focus on the media through which landscape futurities are established will open up this debate.


Constructions in and of Berlin: plans, empty spaces, and contested futures

Author: Gisa Weszkalnys (London School of Economics)  email
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Long Abstract

Berlin is a city that has been busy re-inventing itself for more than a decade. It seems to be at once a place that has fulfilled its purpose and a place of new beginnings. Pipes, cables, roads, and train lines have been reconnected; plans and schemes have been thought up to bring Berlin's future into being. What is to be materialised in the city's landscape is a vision of unity and prosperity. I focus on the planning for Alexanderplatz, a controversial square in East Berlin. In the 1960s, Alexanderplatz was rebuilt as the apogee of 'really existing socialism', foreshadowing a future socialist society. Today, this future does not match planners' vision for a central square in the German capital; and a new one is to be built in its stead. The paper considers various media, including plans, models, and participatory procedures, but questions how successful these are in inculcating in people a specific perception of the future Berlin. I highlight the significance of incomplete and postponed landscapes, and discuss the ways in which people invoke Berlin's unfinished constructions and empty spaces to speak of futures yet to come.

'Teotihuamart': Mexican futurities evoked by past and present power mongers

Author: Alexander Geurds (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

In Latin American nations, pre-colonial monumental architecture often forms the context of struggles related to land property issues as well as identity-driven discourse on the supra-local national and international level. This paper examines discourses related to the construction in 2005 of a supermarket owned by the Wal-Mart Corporation in the direct vicinity of the pre-colonial archaeological site of Teotihuacán, Mexico. A large urban conglomerate occupied between 100 BC and AD 650 and covering 22 km², contemporary Teotihuacan can be seen as an architectural nexus of traditional regulated by supra-local mediators such as the national government and the UN, al of which impose a futurity of heritage on the site. Today, it is the quintessential materialization of Mexico's indigenous past, and 100,000s of national and international tourists visit this locality each year. Against the backdrop of heightening integration with the US, the location chosen for Wal-Mart subsidiary Bodega Aurrera generated a conflict, much-publicized on online, between the numerous stakeholder groups in Mexico's material past These include locally affected communities; the national archaeological institute (INAH); the national government; UN, as well as Mexican immigrants in the United States and the Mexican population at large. An analysis is given of how meanings regarding this pre-colonial material heritage are engineered and mediated in this context.

'A heritage for the future': building and imagining a Portuguese horizon of expectations

Author: Ivan Arenas (Seattle University)  email
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Long Abstract

Writing against Western society's faith in unlimited progress, Walter Benjamin stressed the contingent and open nature of the future amidst its multiple pasts. Yet, while the modern present is saturated by the past and pregnant with a future, it remains the ground through which both the past and future are mediated. Given that modern perception is as much an activity of exclusion as it is of inclusion, foregrounding the active making of meaning encourages us to look at how future horizons are being constituted and reconstituted today. That particular futures are highlighted and others are rendered seemingly impossible is often highly consequential.

World expositions have often been taken as paradigmatic sites of progress materializing a vision of tomorrow. However, their landscapes and visions are themselves sites of negotiation, struggle, and tension. The landscape may mean, but what it means and by what means is subject to revision. If meaning is made from and through, and is not simply found in or on landscapes, how memory work takes place (and how place makes memory work) in sketching out future horizons becomes highly relevant.

Celebrating the theme of "The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future" 500 years after Vasco da Gama placed Portugal at the height of the Western World, but occurring also 24 years after the revolution that ended a long dictatorship as well as the Portuguese Empire, and only 12 years after Portugal joined the EU (however now at the bottom of the European hierarchy), Lisbon's Expo'98 offers important lessons into the imagined, discursive, and material work that it takes to navigate the past enroute to making and managing the future. Expo'98 underscores how the temporal and spatial horizon of memory stretches both forwards and backwards as it selectively mediates the discursive, material, and embodied markers that make up the past, present, and future imagination of what it means to be Portuguese.

Global environmental ideoscapes, blighted cityscapes: city, island and environment in Jamaica and Curaçao

Author: Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

Islands such as Jamaica and Curaçao are recognized for the intrinsic value of their diverse ecologies, while their tourism-based economies are strongly dependent on pristine natural landscapes and an Edenic image of the Caribbean that can be traced back to colonial times. This paper examines the clash between the 'green' global ideological landscape of NGO and government actors attempting to preserve paradise, and the contradictory idea of blighted cityscapes as experienced by residents in polluted urban areas. An analysis is given of the ways in which different actors have made strategic use of various media to impose their visions of the city and the island.

Representation, futurities, and a colonial frontier: on the mediation of landscapes of power in the Ecuadorian Oriente

Author: Elke Mader (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper will investigate how representations of space, landscape, and history in schoolbooks are used strategically by settlers (colonos), the Nation State, indigenous communities (the Federation of the Shuar and Achuar), and NGO`s to design images of the past and the future. It will concentrate on visual representations of landscapes and historic events in the province of Morona Santiago (Ecuadorian Amazon region), and analyse maps, photos, drawings and emblems of various districts and towns. This region has been marked for several centuries by conflictive interests of colonial enterprises and indigenous life worlds, as well as by hybridization and the continuous negotiation about space and culture involving changing actors and interests. In such a setting various groups of people produce divergent sets of meaning that are related to particular aspects of power relations in the region.

I will argue that the representations of landscape form important elements in the production of meaning in the context of the struggle about land and power in the arena of a colonial frontier. They are connected to specific interests in and perspectives on this space, and are closely related to the communication and mediation of differing futurities.

Southeast Asia's green renaissance, and other self-Orientalist futures

Author: Bart Barendregt (Leiden University)  email
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Long Abstract

The current presentation is part of a larger project, The Poetry of Portable Places, which deals with the rapidly changing landscape of 21st century Indonesia and particularly how such changes are reflected and fed by various media practices, the arts and ecological activism. Within the Indonesian context it has become apparent how over the past decennia disintegration of the nation state has led its citizens to question how cultural landscapes other than those propagated by 35 year Suharto regime might be instrumental in re-imagining the nation. New order rhetoric habitually employed the metaphor of a shared Water-Land (Tanah Airku) urging its people to respect Mother Earth (Ibu Pertiwi), while at the same time constantly exploiting its natural resources for the sake of development. In Post Suharto Indonesia this ambiguous attitude towards the environment is increasingly being questioned.

Here I will focus on one particular case, which consists of a new sort of Green Thinking which presently circulates in many of Southeast Asia's metropolises but particularly gains momentum against the background of wider Indonesian political developments. The New Green thinking consists of a vastly increasing environmental awareness, ideas on using natural resources in alternative ways but also reflections on a future post national landscape that yet has to be realized. These ideas are commercially exploited in advertising, media, even fashion and are thus contributing to the lifestyle toolkit of Indonesia's growing middle class. Beng Huat (2003) and others have shown how throughout Asia the resurgent middle class is identifying itself with a new cosmopolitan consciousness which is no longer solely fixed on duplicating and incorporating Western culture. In this case a new green lifestyle is loosely composed of health spa's, new age like harmonious sounds and slow living Asian style: a bricolage of re-invented and 'real' but often romanticized Oriental traditions that ironically enough are not seldom imported through the West. In the aftermath of much discussed Asian Values, or as some argue amidst an era of Asian Renaissance, the new green thinking seems one of the most successful ways of celebrating an imagined regional identity and a Neo Asian futurist landscape that is composed and experienced throughout the media.

Minority cosmopolitanism, a revival of ancient cosmologies or merely fashion?: this paper will conclude by looking at the possible local effects of Asia's Green renaissance.

Where angels rest: space and time in Dublin's cemetery landscape

Author: Chiara Garattini (Intel Corporation)  email
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Long Abstract

Encounters with death are moments of cultural and psychological adjustment and are often marked on landscapes. In this paper, I explore one particular and striking example of this: the death of infants. When a child dies parents adjust to loss, including the unfulfilled potential of a life that was not lived. Thus, there is a temporal problem marked by a lack of shared memories, which parents attempt to resolve. The problem, if not the resolution, is often articulated through objects and the cemetery landscape itself. The example that I employ is Dublin's Glasnevin National Cemetery. I set contemporary trends in memorialisation to the backdrop of Irish cultural history: a history encompassing the exclusion of the unbaptized and "illegitimate", of disciplinary regulation of the cemetery landscape and, more recently, the accumulation of material culture and the elaboration of visiting rituals.

Today, parents bring gifts to the Angels' plot—as the area dedicated to children is known—often on occasions in which the children would have received them had they been alive. Children's spirits are imagined to grow, play together and keep company with each other. The landscape is alive in the temporal imagination, as reflected in hundreds of wind chimes and windmills left by visitors that animate the otherwise-still landscape with movement and sounds.

'Welcome to the slave market': signboards and the re-creation of a historical landscape in Ghana

Author: Katharina Schramm (University of Bayreuth)  email
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Long Abstract

In the wake of increasing international attention to the history of the slave trade and recent African American heritage tourism to West Africa, the Ghanaian state and local entrepreneurs alike have begun to identify more and more landmarks as part of the slave route network. Natural features such as rivers, trees or rocks, which in themselves cannot be clearly distinguished from their surroundings by the uninitiated, now become explicitly associated with camp-sites, slave markets or places of refuge. Along the roads throughout the country one finds signboards that point out formerly hidden or forbidden places to potential tourists. They form part of a pilgrimage circuit by which the contemporary landscape is assigned deep historical significance. At the sites themselves, other signboards have been erected which serve to interpret the landscape along the lines of a dominant tourism narrative. This narrative is mainly aimed at African American visitors. It is presented in such a way that the more recent experiences of inner-continental slave-raiding and -trading appear as part of the transatlantic slave system and therefore as relevant to Diasporans.

This paper examines the processes through which meaning is created and mediated through signboards and oral narratives for both visitors and local communities at those former slave sites. It looks at the way in which different "futurities" become associated with the sites - ranging from the potential healing of psychological wounds to prospects for investment and community development - and asks about their mutual overlapping and fierce contestation.

Landscapes already spoken for: on the compartmentalisation of memory and ecology in the Netherlands

Author: Maarten Onneweer (Leiden University)  email
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Long Abstract

Spatial planners in the Netherlands continuously face new demands and priorities for the designations of the land. Besides the usual controversies over infrastructure, agriculture and urbanisation, the role of nature areas have began to play a particular part. In their quest for an ecologically sound country, nature conservation and governmental organisations are constructing a Main Ecological Structure, a sort of nationwide interconnected 'nature web' in which 50.000 hectares of 'new nature' should interconnect and expand existing nature reserves. This new nature is often a recreation of 'primordial nature' inspired by the 'original' situation in the Netherlands before human habitation. Agricultural lands reengineered, the topsoil is removed, 'natural gradient' is created and afterwards, special large herbivores (konik horses or highland cattle) are introduced to maintain the vegetation. Besides this reinvented primordial nature, areas that are seen as 'agricultural nature' (peat meadows, chalk meadows etc) have come to be seen as a romantic artefact of history with additional natural value. Different stakeholder groups (ecologists, farmers, animal right movements) are continuously at loggerhead with each other over what kind of nature should be implemented where.

In my presentation I will focus on a particular outcome of these contestations, notably through which media the ideas on nature and the landscape are conveyed. As I will show, nature areas are to an increasing extent signposted with boards and banners that aim to inform people what they ought to see and experience. In stead of the usual 'nature reserve, no free access', signs now contain comprehensive statements that convey to the visitor that the area they are watching is in a certain way related to a larger whole and how all sorts of elusive ecological processes are occurring or are about to occur. Hereby the areas themselves are presented as the unfinished or partial instance of more encompassing and abstract futurities.