Accepted Paper:

Narratives of temporality in the making of a vanishing landscape  

Author:

Anne Brydon (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper concerns narratives of loss manifest in Iceland’s debate over hydroelectric dams, heavy industry, and the future of the highland. They exemplify how pasts and futures fold into the experience of the present: as loss or gain, but also as contingency or necessity, rupture or continuity, chaos or order.

Paper long abstract:

Environmental politics constellate diverse experiences and conceptualizations of temporality, yet tropes of loss have brought forth moments of conjuncture between their different constituencies. This paper emerges from the conjuncture of several narratives of loss manifest in Iceland's debate over hydroelectric dams, foreign-owned heavy industry, and the future of the country's highland moors and rivers threatened by both. Loss of habitat, diversity, wilderness landscape, and history are projected into the future, countering the modernist trope of (monetary) gain through progress and development. These narratives exemplify how pasts and futures can fold into the experience of the present: as loss or gain, but also as contingency or necessity, rupture or continuity, chaos or order. The projection of loss made visible to urban Icelanders the little-known landscapes of Eyjabakkar and Kárahnjúkar, two sites of hydroelectric development, and in so doing instigated the country's first environmental movement. Artists critical of the changes wrought by dam projects have attempted to make loss a palpable presence for urban audiences in such diverse locales as Reykjavík, Venice, New York, and Winnipeg. The art object thus becomes a possible site for the experience of the presence of an absence, yet to experience it as such remains contingent upon the recognition of mutual concerns within transnational ecological thought. This paper examines how time and narratives of loss figure in the making of landscape, political consciousness, and art.

Panel W082
It's gone - an anthropology of loss