EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Landscapes for life: integrating experiential and political landscapes

Location Victoria Harley
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Jo Vergunst (University of Aberdeen) email
Nicolas Ellison (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris/University of Aberdeen) email
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Short Abstract

Can the idea of dwelling enhance understanding of the making of political and economic landscapes? Conversely, can the analysis of aestheticisation and commodification help us to understand the everyday experience of landscapes?

Long Abstract

We invite participants to discuss and integrate different ways of understanding landscape in anthropology. Landscape has often been seen as a category of experience that was exported from Europe to the rest of world, in particular as a notion of wilderness or as a painterly aesthetic. This has led, in part, to national parks, the conservation of nature and the patrimonialisation of the environment. New forms of landscape commodity emerge both in symbols and in the incorporation of the land within wider political and economic processes. But at the same time, landscape could still be seen as the site of dwelling for all peoples, the locale for the activities through which meaning is made in and of the world. Martin Heidegger, for example, suggested that landscape is the earth gathered together through dwelling. From a phenomenological perspective, landscape thus appears to be a much more universal category: a condition of being rather than a culturally and historically contingent notion. We seek contributions that address these aspects of landscape. Could the integration of the different perspectives help reduce the confusion in and between the terms landscape and environment? Are processes of commodity and aesthetics radically different to dwelling, or are they part of the variety of ways of experiencing landscape? Among the empirical and theoretical issues that could help address these questions are: The colonial history of landscape in Europe and the rest of the world; Case studies of the lived reality of landscape; Routes, boundaries, journeys; Dwelling in urban and industrial landscapes; Belonging in a landscape; Social relations and the body politic; Taking decisions about landscape in traditional and modern settings; Landscape aesthetics.


Scottish land reform and the idea of 'outdoors'

Author: Jo Vergunst (University of Aberdeen)  email
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Long Abstract

There are two possible generic answers to a question at the heart of anthropological concern with landscape. The question is 'where is landscape?' and the answers are 'away from here' and 'all around us'. Landscape away from here, in conceptual terms, is the picturesque and the remote, which may be travelled to, recorded, mapped and objectified. This has been central to the Western idea of nature and its separation from society or culture. But landscape all around us, the world in which we move and carry out the activities of life, seems reluctant to give in to this discourse, and is constantly reinvented through its inhabitants' practices of dwelling. Kenneth Olwig's assertion of the political and legal aspects of landscapes provides a means of exploring the 'where is landscape' question in land reform in Scotland. Drawing on a Nordic tradition of common access rights, the new Scottish access legislation takes a radical 'all around us' approach to landscape, providing access to 'Scotland's outdoors' in its entirety. This undermines the historical emphasis on 'The Highlands', the mountain environments that have been the locus for the natural and national landscape. The paper reflects upon the first year of the new access rights, and includes case studies in north east Scotland.

The poetics of place

Author: Bente Sundsvold (University of Tromsø)  email
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Long Abstract

In 2004 the Vega Archipelago on the coast of Northern Norway was inscribed as a cultural landscape under the World Heritage Convention. The justification celebrates a peculiar relationship between a wild brooding bird and its caretaker, the very common eider and the now, 'endangered' fisherman farmer. The season has a local name, 'varntie', addressing the time when all the activities in the islets circle around the care and protection of the bird. Old protection acts and management practices have secured the peace and protection of the bird under shifting legacies, from the ancient landscape laws managed by the thing assemblies to the modern regimes of protecting species and establishing national parks.

The key issue of 'varntie' in light of the newly gained recognition of the World Heritage Status creates a paradoxical situation; whereas the prestigious inscription attracts new groups to the area; the traditional practice needs to keep up its exclusiveness in order to be maintained. Thus, when the core matter of the inscription is performed, it can never be subject to direct tourist mobilities and disturbances of visitors. How can this paradox be handled? I claim that in order to protect the traditional practice from the coming and wished pressure of tourist mobilities, there is need to explore and utilise its virtual aspects based on its practicalities, to explore a place's mode of abstractness through its concreteness, Heidegger, Bachelard, Casey.

The presentation will address some implications of this stance.

Land and sea: ecological representations in Kuna Yala (Panama)

Author: Mònica Martínez Mauri (University of Barcelona)  email
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Long Abstract

The kuna people (Panama) don't conceive their surroundings as "landscape". In this paper I will intend to reflect on the use of ecological representations in contemporary constructions of territoriality in Kuna Yala to show the relation between daily practice and ritual practices, the local-global interaction, as well as symbolic elaborations of spaces.

Living in the coffee-forest: interrelations of lifescape and landscape among the Totonac of Mexico

Author: Nicolas Ellison (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris/University of Aberdeen)  email
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Long Abstract

The term "landscape" is often used in a very general sense and with different implicit meanings in diverse fields of social science. This is also the case in anthropology, whether the interest focuses on the study of space in particular or on ecological representations in general. Yet, if we accept a strict definition of the term, most societies in the world do no conceive nor perceive their surroundings as "landscape" in the aesthetical sense of the word. Rather, in many societies such a "vision paysagère" (Roger 1997) is often a recent result of the interaction between local communities and international dynamics related to the phenomenon of extending patrimonialisation of the environment (Biosphere reservations, ecotourism, World Heritage programs, etc).

Based on my fieldwork in the Totonac region in central Eastern Mexico, this presentation will reflect on the interrelations between taskscape, political landscape and lifescape and suggests under which conditions the emergence of a scenic or aesthetic perception of the environment may be under way. To do so I will discuss Totonac attitudes towards their surroundings, mainly the affirmation of a special relationship towards wooded areas suggesting aesthetical valuations of these.

Landscape, risk, reputation and memory in industrial Ludwigshafen

Author: Peter Phillimore (Newcastle University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper explores the connections between landscape, risk and memory in an old industrial town in Germany. Ludwigshafen is associated with a single industry, chemicals, and to a scarcely lesser degree with a single corporation, BASF. Major arteries of communication - above all the Rhine, but motorways and huge pipelines too - themselves form part of an industrial landscape which nowadays has few parallels in Europe. The 'risk potential' of such a setting is enormous. Yet this is a town where risk concerns about chemicals are played down rather than magnified, and a striking confidence is apparent in the safety of an industry which elsewhere enjoys a dubious reputation. Building on recent work, this paper takes further an examination of the merits of Tim Ingold's dwelling perspective to make sense of this public mood, arguing for the importance of cultural memories of past 'taskscapes', with their associated risks and dangers, in reckoning the safety of home and workplace in the present. To date, little attention has been paid to the ways in which memory informs shared judgements about risk (Beck's work for instance highlights the relationship between present and future rather than past and present). Ingold's ideas provide a valuable key here to understand how familiarity across generations helps to render potentially unsafe landscapes safe.

The moral geography of the US/Mexico border

Author: Lawrence Taylor (National University of Ireland)  email
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Long Abstract

Using the contemporary, highly contested representations of the US/Mexico border landscapes and 'humanscapes,' this paper develops the theoretical concept of moral geography, exploring the cultural means by which moral valence is attributed to such terrains and the political consequences of these acts of symbolic politics. The paper draws on the sociological concept of moral entrepreneur, enriching it through an anthropological attention to landscape, material culture, and performance. Ethnographically, the paper is based on several years of fieldwork among a variety of often opposing constituencies, such as undocumented migrants, park rangers and border patrol, vigilantes, faith-based immigrant-aid groups, and religious pilgrims. All these groups move through, depict (visually and discursively), and in other ways contribute to rival cultural constructions of the meaning and moral complexion of this fraught region. While the case is perhaps unusual in its extremity, the cultural processes under investigation are certainly of comparative relevance.

Landscape and resistance: transformation of Saami common land from dwelling to political landscape

Author: Bjørn Bjerkli (University of Tromsø)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper is empirically based on a long contested common land between local Saami users and the Norwegian state in relation to usufruct and ownership rights. I will discuss how certain acts on the landscape in a context of contest may transform the value and meaning of it. Theoretically I base the discussion on the view that landscapes are constituted as meaningful entities through time and place/space producing events. However, different experiences, interests or agendas make the same landscape evolve as parallell entities. Hence, landscape at a particular time/space intersection may be conceived as discontinous or multiple in its appearance. Such multiple appearances may be the result of contest. I will show how acts on the landscape that can be understood as appropriation by dwelling becomes acts of resistance and eventually transformed to a mind conscious political landscape, partly related to an international rights discourse. As such the landscape considered may be reprodused as locally contested multiple entities.