Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Listening landscapes, speaking memories
Location University Place 3.204
Date and Start Time 08 Aug, 2013 at 11:00
What are the particular examples of listening and speaking landscapes and what do their memories convey? This panel invites ethnographic contributions to the research of landscapes as cultural processes important to the reflexive and shifting 'lives of memory'.
Can landscapes listen? Can landscapes speak? What is their relationship with memory? Arguing for an 'Actor-Network Theory', Bruno Latour proposes that 'non-humans' may have an active role, and not be 'simply the hapless bearers of symbolic projection' (2005: 10). Are landscapes merely heuristic devices in processes of memory or their inextricable parts with certain levels of autonomy in human experience? Building primarily upon Cruikshank's (2005) explorations on Athapaskan and Tlinglit 'listening' glaciers, as well as the bulk of research in anthropological studies of space, place and landscape, this panel invites ethnographic contributions to understanding of non-human agency as it pertains to human lives.
What are the particular examples of listening and speaking landscapes and what do their memories convey? While they manage to transmit and reassert values, the idea of 'unchanging landscapes' has been successfully dispelled, not least by anthropologists. We are now able to understand them as a 'cultural process' (Hirsch 1995: 23). Are 'landscaped' histories better suited to answer contemporary local and global challenges and what are the subtle methods needed to recognise such knowledge? Contributions on the roles of landscape and its ability to both accommodate new realities and preserve memory could engage with sacral geographies, post-war and war, urban, endangered, shared, lost and imagined landscapes, as well as a range of other ethnographically informed discussions.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Conducting the soul of the deceased to the abode of the dead in hudhud epics and epic-shaped ritual performances among the Ifugao and Yattuka (the Philippines)
The paper discusses the role of landscapes in funeral epic-shaped narratives of Philippine highlanders. Special emphasis is given to manipulating memory of the living and the dead in the process of leading the soul first through real, than through mythological geography.
Recent death jeopardises the boundary between the worlds of the leaving and the dead, which needs to be restored for the safety of the community. Among the Philippine highlanders residing in the Ifugao province this function is performed by the means of epics or epic-shaped ritual chants sung during funeral wakes. This genre bears a name of "the story of the dead" (hudhud di nate in Ifugao, hudhud ni nosi in Yattuka).
The soul of the deceased has to be conducted successfully from the village where the funeral rite takes place to the abode of the dead. That implies summoning the Conductor of souls, who helps the singers to let the soul refresh its memories first by visiting the places that played the crucial role in the life of the deceased person. After that the soul is 'pushed' downstream, first through real, than through mythological geography . Before the soul reaches the underworld, there is a possession. The soul talks to the relatives and is being persuaded to forget the way back.
The paper is based on the author's field materials collected in Ifugao province, including the funeral hudhud texts recorded in Asipulo, Kiangan and Lagawe municipalities in 1995-2012 and interviews with epic singers and shamans. Field data are compared to early records on rituals and beliefs of the population of the area that date back to the beginning of the XXth c. Of those R.F. Barton's writings are of crucial importance.
A Mexican Portraiture of Dorian Grey: Art & Icon in the Sites of Critical Theory
This paper investigates how the novel The Picture of Dorian Grey has become part of the central Mexican ‘conquest’ landscape and mythology. The analysis engages with local intellectuals whose theories embrace its moral portraiture within their own prespectivist topography.
Lacan observed in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, that 'As subjects, we are literally called into the picture, and represented here as caught' and themes of ontological incompleteness and being 'trapped in art' are also explored in Oscar Wilde's famous novel The Picture of Dorian Grey. This paper examines how this novel has become understood to members of a Nahuatl community in rural central Mexico where the events of the Spanish conquest are found frozen in time and place in features of the surrounding landscape. It discusses the moral portraiture made by decadent intellectuals who recursively 'splice' core themes of The Picture of Dorian Grey with the mythology concerning the 'face' of the conquistador Hernan Cortez that is seen on a large rock outcropping. The analysis engages a local critical theory embracing the prespectivist topography of this hybrid landscape.
Cracks in modernist certainties: the activity of seismic landscapes
Earthquakes literally “activate” landscapes. They are therefore ideal events for exploring the interaction between humans and their nun-human surroundings. Based on fieldwork in Van (Turkey), this paper shows how people’s transformed relation to the urban landscape both mirrors and provides potential for reworking anthropological theory.
If one is on the lookout for "active" landscapes, then seismic landscapes are probably good places to start with. In 2011 the city of Van (Turkey) was hit by two major earthquakes: events that have transformed the way in which Van's residents relate to the urban landscape surrounding them. Amidst hundreds of collapsed houses and cracks that mark the walls of almost every single building, the way people approach buildings has taken on a downright suspicious quality - an attitude, which in fact mirrors theoretical approaches that highlight the active nature of non-human objects.
I will approach the activity of seismic landscapes through the world of rumours and conspiracy theories that have been thriving ever since the earthquakes happened. This ethnographic material indicates that the seismic activity of the earth has alienated inhabitants from the urban landscape they previously experienced as largely passive. In a context where urbanization is perceived as development in a modernist sense, the urban space was seen as a passive foil open to human transformation. Yet with the earthquake, this modernist certainty has started to crack. What the ethnographic material shows, however, is that the new suspicion is only directed at certain objects, while others continue to preserve their image as stable and unmoving. It is precisely this selective process of seeing activity in some and passivity in other objects, which indicates the need to theoretically differentiate between degrees of activity and to investigate the mechanisms by which objects are being attributed different natures by our informants.
Symbolic landscapes of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo in Serbia
This paper explores the symbolic landscapes of refugee camps as new homes for many IDPs from Kosovo.It also sketches the imagined and lived religious landscapes through the celebration of the “family saint day” religious holiday,that is in Serbian Orthodox tradition closely connected to home and family life.
In Serbia, a country with ca. eight million inhabitants, are living approximately 200,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Kosovo, most of whom are ethnically Serbs, with an additional 15,000 to 20,000 being unregistered Roma, Ashkali, Gorani and Bosniaks (U.S. DOS 2008; IDMC; UNHCR November 2009). Many IDPs are living in collective centers (similar to refugee camps) with unresolved political, citizen and economical status and are often used from the Serbian nationalist as an example of the "Serbian eternal suffer(ing)". Most of these collective camps used to be holiday resorts during the time of the former Yugoslavia. In the nineties, their landscape changed as they became shelters for the refugees coming to Serbia from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. At a later stage, IDPs from Kosovo settled at these collective camps and continue to living there today.
This paper draws on ethnographical work and biographical interviews with Internally Displaced Persons from Kosovo living in Serbia and explores the symbolic landscapes of the above mentioned refugee camps as their new homes. Furthermore, it sketches the imagined and lived symbolic religious landscapes of the Serbian Orthodox Church through the celebrations of the Serbian family saint day tradition (in Serbian : slava) in the collective centers, as an important element for the preservation of religiosity and religious practices, through family and home life,among Orthodox Serbs.
Landscape as a stage of violence: Spatial imaginaries in oral narratives from Northern Ireland
This paper discusses spatial imaginaries in oral narratives in relation to the construction of collective memory. Examining narrative data from Northern Ireland, the paper argues that stories about violence spread within a community as its location appealed to people’s spatial attachment.
We exchange many stories about what happened to us in our day-to-day interactions, which forms the basis of our perceptions of appropriate social relations, micro politics, and sometimes history. This paper focuses on the spatial setting of those personal, but at the same time political or historical stories, and the work of visual imaginaries in the process of narrative transmission among people sharing spatial basis of their life. It argues that, when the story is set in a place to which one is familiar, it can evoke in the person images of the background landscape and the scene, to leave a vivid impression about the narrated event.
The cases examined are stories about political conflicts in the north part of Ireland. Due to its history of frequent and long-lasting conflicts, people in urban areas in Northern Ireland have had great part of their life within a specific range of ethno-politically divided network and residential zone. This has been a factor of the development of conflicted views about history and what constitutes violence. As the mundane landscapes such as street corners and local parks passed by on daily basis were narrated to have turned into a stage of violence, they came to represent both of the seemingly contradictory two marks, the homely and uncanny. With this subtle balance of verisimilitude and unlikeliness, those stories spread and were rumored, in the process of which what was witnessed by other community members fused into one's own memory.
Following Mountain Trails, Real or Imagined: Language, Walking, and Landscape in Byans, Far Western Nepal
In this presentation I demonstrate the seemingly static but ever-changing relationship people of Byans have had with landscapes, by combining linguistic anthropological analysis on spatial nominals and place names with ethnographic materials on real and imagined walking.
This presentation is an attempt to grasp the relationship people of Byans have had with landscapes. Byans lies in the uppermost valley of the Mahakali River that constitutes the western border of Nepal with India. As trans-Himalayan traders, the many inhabitants of Nepali Byans, who call themselves Rang, have moved between Tibet and southern hills of the Himalayas along mountain trails. I first present the system of Rang spatial nominals, in which a "relative" or "deictic" coordinate system merged with an "absolute" one, and argue that the system reflects, or is afforded by, the actual geographical features of Byans and adjacent regions. Then I show that Rangs often discuss a landscape as is composed of many named places, mutually connected by trails. Many of these named places are inextricably connected with, and materially transformed by their "traditional" subsistence activities (agriculture, animal husbandry, and trade). On the other hand a named place often reminds them of mythical and historical incidents that once occurred there, and/or some "supernatural" being(s) living there who should be ritually treated. The latter aspect is most clearly appeared in "se yamo", the long oral tradition recited in their traditional funeral rituals, in which the soul of the deceased is sent by words, within the actual landscapes and beyond along trails, to the ancestors' land. Lastly I argue that this apparently static but ever-changing relationship between Rangs and the landscapes can hardly be sustained without the experience of living and walking in the landscapes.
Floodplain memories and landscape change: 'conversations' with watery places
Based on ethnographic fieldwork among flood-affected residents in Gloucestershire, England, this presentation approaches people’s engagement with water and place as conversations with landscape.
In Gloucestershire, England, the flood of 2007 is remembered as an exceptional emergency. However, some floodplain residents, as well as flood markers, documents and photographs speak of a rather similar flood in 1947. People living particularly close to the river also remember high floods in the 1960s and 1990s. What is the relationship between recurrent floods, social memory and landscape?
Because floods are rhythmic phenomena, social memory and local knowledge play a crucial role in living on the floodplain. Stories, photographs and flood markers remind floodplain residents of the possibility of a generally dry landscape becoming wet at intervals. No two floods are the same, however, due to transformations in land use, hydrology, climate and flood management regimes. Therefore, improvisation emerges as a central aspect of coping with floods alongside the exact memory of previous floods.
As floodplain residents are aware of both the relative autonomy of flooding and the role human activities have in directing and exacerbating flood waters, living on the floodplain can be approached as a set of conversations with a responsive watery landscape. The element of water in the river, on the floodplain, and occasionally on the roads and in people's homes seems particularly apt for tracing these conversations, as it is as malleable as it is powerful and destructive. This presentation explores the metaphor of a listening, remembering and speaking landscape in the analysis of living and coping with floods three places in present Gloucestershire.
Idealized landscapes in the making of socio-environmental contention
The paper presents a case where the social memory of past environmental depredation framed a process of landscape idealization meant to strengthen the arguments of smallholder peasants against a mining company in a socio-environmental conflict occurred in the Portuguese inland between 1974 and 1980.
Considering landscape not just as mere representation detached from the environmental context that it is supposed to stand for, but as a socio-historical process deeply embedded in an engagement between humans and their surroundings, I mean to discuss some of the vectors that turn landscape into: a) a socio-historical process; b) an instrumental dimension used by individuals in the course of environmental conflicts. In view of that, can social movements make use landscape - as a socially and historically rooted category - incorporating it amidst the trends of social conflicts? The present paper discusses this question, focusing on the analysis of a conflict that opposed a group of smallholder peasants to a mining company in the Portuguese central inland following the 25th April 1974 Revolution. While fighting against the company's projected dredging of farming land, the opposing landowners recalled the environmental damages infringed by the multinational mining companies from 1912 until 1962. Challenging the mining company's pragmatism and rational argumentation, the local defiant peasants used environmental depredation and the pernicious effects of mining on landscape as symbolically charged argumentation against mining. In this sense, landscape surfaced in popular contentious rhetoric as an idealized pastoral meant to overstate the advantages of organic pre-industrial agriculture in opposition to the decadence and mayhem generated by mining. The conflict under scrutiny might add additional clues on how local collective resistance takes shape and how environmental issues, drawn from idealized landscape representations, take part in social protest, interleaving political, ideological and economic factors.
Pop, poetry and the gods: Landscape, beauty and spirituality in Sakha community life
This paper explores the changing integration of a spiritualised landscape into the celebration and reproduction of a non-Russian Siberian community. The Sakha people’s tradition of shamanic prayer accords their landscape its own agency and presence in their experience of national belonging.
This paper explores the changing integration of a spiritualised landscape into the celebration and reproduction of a non-Russian Siberian community - the Sakha people, of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The Sakha people's animist shamanic tradition did not die out during the Soviet period, and its post-Soviet revival is continuing despite the pressures of rapid social and technological change. Contemporary Sakha shamanic practice centres around two genres of shamanic prayer, the Algys and Ohuokhai, which consist largely of extensive poetic eulogies of the surrounding landscape and its spirits, sung by the specialists leading the prayer.
In the classical practice of Sakha shamanism, the aesthetic experience of the poetry and music of these prayers is a central aspect of the interaction between humans and spirits they instantiate. The poetic words are in fact bestowed by the upper gods and spirits, in an act of divine self-giving. The beauty of the prayer's poetry and music enable the ritual participants to contemplate the glory of the created order, including the spiritual entities who have set it in place, and the landscape they inhabit. In doing so, they perpetuate the Sakha people's experience and re-creation of their natural environment as a national homeland: the landscape, via its spirits, has its own agency and presence in the Sakha people's experience of national belonging. I suggest that the landscape maintains its potency within Sakha perceptions of community even for those who lack interest in classical Sakha shamanism, via the celebration of natural beauty in Sakha pop songs.
The wandering of the voice through imaginary and intimate landscapes in capoeira singing
Many songs that accompany the Afro-Brazilian bodily practice of capoeira tell of places which are settings for tales of legendary capoeiristas, and slavery. Mixing geographical imagination and reality, this articulated landscape evoked by the singing mixes features that are suitable to support memories of an unknown, but real and intimate past.
The lyrical repertoire that accompanies the Afro-Brazilian fighting dance, capoeira, is largely composed of songs about geographical places (Rêgo, 1968 ). Among these, some are imaginary, such as "Aruanda," an overseas site ‒ somewhere in Africa ‒ where, to many capoeira practitioners, the souls of Afro-descendants return. Many other places are real. Thus, foreign countries and continents (particularly Africa) and other Brazilian cities are evoked by the singer. Many songs explore the urban landscape of the city of Salvador (streets, places, paths, churches), as well as the surrounding rural villages and natural sites.
The sung narrative wanders from the imaginary ‒ even though it is highly meaningful and intimate ‒ and from faraway and unknown locations, to entirely concrete and familiar places.
This articulated landscape, built by sudden movements between imaginary and real places, seems particularly apt to confer plausibility and immanence to sung narratives about the past, especially about legendary old capoeiristas and slavery.
The shifting to places that are less and less alien to the singer's actual placement confers credibility to the narrative. The everyday landscape begin to echo echoing memories that are inaccessible to individual experience, but become more and more plausible and vivid, like a direct memory, born of individual experience.
Attending to the cultural landscape through sound
My research is on soundscapes and urban space. The paper will listen to the landscape's sound, trying to understand how memory and time constitute it; exploring their influence on the inhabitants of the space. My argument is for a multi sensory imagination, tailored to depict a changing society.
My work addresses the question of how an attention to the sound and the exploration of an area through sound helps access individual experiences of city life that are, otherwise, often lost in the kind of cultural and ethnic block thinking that community studies is very much prone to.
I have found that our ears are far more accurate than what we are consciously aware of. I have experienced that by having an accident that has left me partially blind. Ironically, this has become an interesting tool for my research. This paper will exemplify this aural mode of attention and how the cultural landscape emerges through sound.
This paper will listen to the sound of the landscape, wanting to reach an understanding of the layers of memory and time that constitute it and explore the affect and effect it has on the inhabitants of the space. Mine is an argument for a multi sensory imagination, potentially more adapted to the depiction of contemporary society.
I will focus on a comparative analysis of two case studies. Firstly, I will examine how the fragmented, cultural and ephemeral of the area emerges in their discourse. Then, I will analyse their intake on everyday cultural practices.
This mode of attention provides a platform for the surfacing of the rhythms of the area. I will argue that listening to those rhythms helps access a more diverse range of mainstream cultures and subcultures that coexist in a geographical space.
Valleys, Myths and Territories: Bosnian town of Gacko between Cosmology and Violence
In Gacko, a small town on the south-eastern border of Bosnia, layers of history and cosmology operate towards the imagination of two markedly different places - of landscaped-memories and memorialised landscapes. This paper questions the vitality of non-humans in the reconstruction of a post-war society.
'Human places become vividly real through dramatization', Tuan notes (2005: 178). Everyday lives of people in the Bosnian valley-town of Gacko are drawn into a repetition of sacral and political rituals. Their performance is not completely separate and they customarily rely on points in mythical time and space. However, the critical difference lies in the direction of their communication with the land. The nationalist modus operandi is territorial. By taking the human individual as its starting point and projecting fears of uncertainty, it subdues land into bastions of exclusivity. The cosmological approach functions in reverse. As neither certainty nor uncertainty originate from people, the agency of land-God appears as the life-moulding force inclusive of the totality of human experience. The associated ritual practices and oral history celebrate and revere this vernacular lex terrae, as the cohesive element of both synchronic and diachronic plurality. The sacral calendar of Gacko's Christians, Muslims and Roma is a shared knowledge of immersed placedness which stands in stark contrast to the violence of modern divisions. The rituals extend through a range of relationships, from weddings and funerals to traditional forms of medicine, economic exchange and athletic competitions. The paper builds upon my ethnographic explorations in the town of Gacko and raises questions on the vitality of non-humans in the reconstruction of a post-war society.
Interaction between landscapes and historical memories of the Boorana, southern Ethiopia
In this paper, I would like to present a local view on how landscapes covey historical memories, using the example of the Boorana in southern Ethiopia.
The Boorana have preserved "oral chronicles" based on their own time concept and a system of ordering the course of local history ("gadaa calendar"). In their oral chronicle, the Boorana systematically mention places whose names are referring to a specific characteristic of the landscape. Those names of places tend to be linked to histories of conflicts between the Boorana and neighboring ethnic groups, and also with migration history and with their customs of religious ceremonies and of political meetings.
In this paper, I will focus especially on the relation between landscapes and historical memories of conflict, the landscapes not being only bearers of the historical memory but - according to oral accounts - influencing both the historical event itself and influencing the way it is memorized. I would like to show several oral histories as example and suggest that landscapes convey 1) memories related to battles, specifically to battle fields, their location, situation and landscape context, 2) memories on routes, especially those related to battle fields, 3) memories on the boundaries, separating the Boorana from "other" groups, defined as "other" also through a definition of a landscape which is "ours", and "theirs", 4) memories on territories "owned" by the Boorana.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.