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ECAS 2019. Africa: Connections and Disruptions

Space in time: changing patterns of land use, land rights, and landscape narratives
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
Sessions [TBD]


  • Giorgio Miescher (University of Basel) email
  • Luregn Lenggenhager (University of Basel) email
  • Maano Ramutsindela (University of Cape Town) email

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Short abstract

Rivers are in the centre of dynamic landscapes in Southern Africa marked by competing narratives of land use and land claims. The panel addresses continuities and ruptures of these changing uses and claims by exploring interdisciplinary archives of river landscapes in Southern Africa and beyond.

Long abstract

The panel explores the interlinkages of landscapes and archives along African rivers. Irrespective of how landscape is conceptualised, materially or discursively, landscape is always subject to change, and as such reflects continuities and disruptions: Natural processes (geological, fluvial, climatic) and human interactions (agriculture, settlements, mining, infrastructure) leave physical traces in the landscape. Whereas changing regimes of representations (paintings, maps, story-telling) generate new and often competing discursive landscapes. In other words, the panel asks how information stored in river landscapes allows for reconstructing narratives of the past. The panel hence welcomes papers that explore narratives lodged in river landscapes from diverse disciplines using and combining varieties of data, as well as theoretical contributions that seek to bring together competing narratives of river landscapes.

The panel convenors are involved in the interdisciplinary research project Space in Time that explores landscape narratives and land management changes along the Lower Orange River marking the border between Namibia and South Africa. This region's patterns of water and land use have experienced profound changes over the last centuries. Today, large-scale nature conservation and agriculture projects both benefit from the river (and the border) and are at the same time the driving forces behind a further restructuring of the region, in which large parts of the population remain poor. The panel seeks to broaden the regional, conceptual and theoretical scope of this project and invites papers that contribute to interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical engagements with changing patterns of land use, land rights and landscape narratives along rivers.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Through the Eye of the State: The Land Claim-Conservation Dialectic in the Richtersveld

Author: Kolosa Ntombini (University of Cape Town ) email
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Short abstract

Both land rights and nature conservation are objectives pursued simultaneously by the state. Often they interact antagonistically requiring mediation. Thus this study aimed to understand how the state mediates the conflicts using the in the |Ai|-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park as a case study.

Long abstract

Research on land claims and conservation in South Africa has largely occurred in

silos. This has resulted in literature not paying enough attention to the role of the state

in the land claim-conservation dialectic. Yet a closer attention to the role of the state

is crucial as it is the state, as the highest authority in the land that pursues both these

objectives simultaneously. These two objectives often interact antagonistically

requiring mediation, thus it becomes useful to understand how the state mediates this

conflict. The study has used the |Ai-|Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier as a case study to

understand how the state mediates the conflict between land rights and conservation.

By tracing the history of land dispossession and conservation in the study area, the

study found that the state's capital interests were pursued through mining and

conservation. Its desire for international prestige is visible in the ways it mediated

land claims, it pursued various conservation projects in the Richtersveld, and how it

managed the aspirations of marginalised local communities.

Reading unread/unreadable spaces: The case of Namaqualand in South Africa and Namibia on the Orange-Gariep River borderline

Author: Paballo Chauke (University of Cape Town) email
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Short abstract

There is an atrocious and violent history which has inscribed itself on the landscape of Namaqualand Orange-Gariep border between South Africa and Namibia. Both countries have been colonized at different moments in the past and this has a myriad readings and at times has proven almost unreadable.

Long abstract

The broader theme that this research forms part of is "Space in Time: Landscape narratives and land management changes in a Southern African cross-­­border region". This project is an interdisciplinary joint research endeavour, which aims at developing a feasible, interdisciplinary methodology that merges different data produced by distinct research practices (history, geography, environmental science, nature conservation, climate change etc). The project examines, firstly, the history of land use, land management and land claims and its changes. Secondly, the project examines how these changes inscribed themselves onto the landscape and how transformations of landscape reflected changes in land use. In essence, the project is attempting to read diverse landscapes in a multi-disciplinary manner. Pivotal are, for example, environmental changes, especially with regard to soils, vegetation and water resources. In order to account for these diverse short and long term transformations, and in an attempt to synthesise their analysis- by transcending disciplinary frameworks the project develops and deploys multidisciplinary methodological approaches for the purpose of theorising what we call integrated "landscape narratives". During the past year, seminars, workshops and such opportunities were held whereby different members of the group, researchers and students would present their ideas about what parts of the Orange-Gariep river they were reading, how and why. What sparked my interest was the lack of reading of the landscape done on the Namibian side and the hegemony of South Africa in the literature. My question is thus; how do we go about reading unread spaces and addressing the cognitive dominance?

Landscapes as Archives

Author: Giorgio Miescher (University of Basel) email
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Short abstract

The paper, discusses key concepts of how the disciplines of geography and history make sense of the complex relationship between space and time. We put these in conversation by exploring the lower Orange River as multi-layered landscape archives.

Long abstract

Theoretical concepts of landscape range from a material to a discursive understanding of the term. In natural science landscape is primarily understood as an objectifiable entity that can be decoded and mapped whereas in the humanities and social sciences landscape is increasingly defined as a distinctive way of representing and making space. The paper does not privilege a specific conception of landscape, but rather aims careful consideration of different approaches and their inherent theoretical implications.

Irrespective of how landscape is conceptualised landscape is always subject to change: Natural processes and human interactions.) leave physical traces in the landscape. Scholars from different disciplines use these physical traces as a basis for their definition and interpretation of change. The alluvium of the river attracts the soil scientist's interest because she can distinguish the individual spheres and their role in shaping the Earth's surface. For historian, the alluvium only becomes interesting, once they can link the traces to changing human activity. In all cases, scholars understand landscapes as archives storing information that allows for reconstructing narratives of the past and the present.

However, Landscape is also constituted by how people live in their physical environment as well as by the ways they imagine and narrate it. These changing experiences and regimes of representations generate new and often competing archives of landscapes. Researching the highly politicised and contested lower Orange River, demands that we take these competing narratives seriously and question how both archives, the material landscape as well its representations, are defined.

Understanding the Hazard Landscape: a preliminary Study on Flood Hazard and Risk in Tana Delta, Kenya

Author: Anita Nyapala Okoko (Norwegian University of Life Sciences) email
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Short abstract

The study aims to understand flood hazard and risk in order to address local community adaptation and resilience. It will explore relevant documents and records on Tana Delta flooding. It will apply landscape architecture theory and integrate concepts of vulnerability, adaptation and resilience.

Long abstract

Hydro-meteorological disasters have contributed to over 90% of global disasters over the last two decades.Of these, flooding accounted for 47% affecting over 2.3 billion people. However, despite the strong societal impact of these natural hazards, their documentation remains incomplete and current climate models are still not good enough at producing local climate extremes. Recent studies on flooding have concluded that it is necessary to continue examination of updated records of flood related indices, trying to search for changes that influence flood hazard and flood risk in River basins.

According to UNITAR (2018), the critical flood zone on River Tana in Kenya was in Garsen/Tana Delta sub-county with 15900 hectares inundated and approximately 17,300 people affected. ICPAC flood hazard and risks map (2018) indicates deep to medium flooding in this area over the past 25 years. Shallow flood areas are also scattered in the area. Lower Tana flood plain provides a unique case to understand the delta flood landscape.

This study aims to understand flood hazard and risk in order to address local community adaptation and resilience. The preliminary study will explore relevant documents and records on Tana Delta flooding in order to understand the documented progression of hazard characteristics, environment and exposure before commencement of fieldwork. This entails understanding the components of hazard in the context of space and time. It will apply landscape architecture theory and integrate concepts of vulnerability, adaptation and resilience.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.