Accepted paper:

Landscapes as Archives


Giorgio Miescher (University of Basel)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

panel Env09
Space in time: changing patterns of land use, land rights, and landscape narratives