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PHum06a



 
Contested and re-imagined forests of the North I 
Convenors:
Jaana Laine (University of Helsinki)
Karoliina Lummaa (University of Turku)
Lotten Gustafsson Reinius (Stockholm University)
JoAnn Conrad (Diablo Valley College)
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Chairs:
Jaana Laine (University of Helsinki)
Karoliina Lummaa (University of Turku)
JoAnn Conrad (Diablo Valley College)
Lotten Gustafsson Reinius (Stockholm University)
Stream:
Posthumanism
Format:
Panel
Sessions:
Monday 21 June, 16:15-18:00 (UTC+3)

Short Abstract:

We invite explorations into the beliefs, practices and relationships associated with forest-human interfaces and ask participants to re-imagine forest as space for alternate potentialities and coexistence. Can multi-disciplinary perspectives challenge the anthropocentric Nature/Culture divide?

Long Abstract

Panel explores the Northern Forest as physical place and imaginary space, alongside the wide variety human engagements interconnected with them.

Narratives are one mechanism through which we seek to define and make meaning out of the forest. In folklore, encounters with supernatural forest custodians and other uncanny presences hold the potential for great gain and for immeasurable loss. What is the interrelationship between supernatural and natural worlds in these encounters and what role do such depictions play in opening of forest landscapes for resource plunder and habitat destruction? How can we understand their currency today in art and in popular culture?

Forestry institutions and professionals provide another understanding of the forest, which often is strongly and emotionally contested by urban dwellers and forest owners unfamiliar with the economic use and management of forests. They contest the existing rules and power structures of forest management, and these new hybrid understandings are transforming and diversifying human-forest and community-institutional relationships.

At deeper level, relationships between humans and forest's nonhuman denizens, such as trees, can create deep emotional and spiritual connectedness. By expressing affections, people challenge societal rules and are, at times, thrown into direct conflict in relation to conflicts concerning society, technology, industry and the natural world.

Cultural and social meanings of forests are woven through popular culture, art, beliefs and in practices and institutions. Can the forest still be imagined? Can it be reclaimed as space and place for alternate potentialities, such as sustainable coexistence and interrelatedness with the more-than-human?

Accepted papers:

Author:

JoAnn Conrad (Diablo Valley College)

Paper short abstract:

Neo-Romantic images of the magical Forest were coincident with exploitation of actual forests. Such images are commoditized in the contemporary imagination. How has this distantiation of the Forest reified the rupture between Culture and Nature and normalized the exploitation of one over the other?

Paper long abstract:

At the end of the 19th century in Sweden, a neo-Romantic resurgence significantly linked illustrated fairy tales and nation formation, while at the same time the economics of the nation was based on rapid industrial expansion at the expense of vast forestlands. The artist John Bauer was uniquely situated at the intersection of these two phenomena. Bauer's dark imaginings, his Trolls and his knights and princesses are part of the national heritage, but his work also hardened the distantiation of the Forest, facilitating (and inviting) its exploitation. Bauer's work continues to circulate in unexamined adulation, for example in the current exhibit of his works at the Waldemarsudde in Stockholm which depicts Bauer's subject as "Magical, animated nature with deep, mysterious forests."

This paper re-examines Bauer's work and his subsequent rise to 'beloved Swedish artist' status to suggest his images might be read as metaphors for the conquest of the forest by industrialization, resource exploitation and settlement, while they served to distance and distract from the actual violence. Knowing, in hindsight, that the aggressive plunder of the forests has led us to the brink of environmental annihilation, how might the human/Forest encounter be revisited to explore potential alternatives that do not depend on the unforgiving Nature/Culture divide? Or are humans doomed to experience the "revenge of the Trolls"?

Author:

Tora Wall (Åbo Akademi University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I aim to analyze how contemporary notions about a utopian past, the forest as an animated space and dreams of the future are expressed in the context of the tourist attraction The Enchanted Forest (Trolska skogen) in Sweden.

Paper long abstract:

The Enchanted Forest (Trolska skogen) is a tourist attraction in Hälsingland, Sweden. Families come there to experience an interactive fairy tale adventure and to meet creatures inspired by Swedish folklore. As they enter The Enchanted Forest the visitors, especially the children, are asked for help to save the forest for some sort of danger and are sent out on an adventure by one of the forest beings. On their way they meet different characters, played by actors or created by artists, for example: a wizard, the little people, a dragon, a witch, trolls, the elf queen and so on. The Enchanted Forest is presented as a place, at the same time physical and imaginary, where the forest itself has a soul, feelings and a consciousness.

In this paper, I aim to analyze how contemporary notions about a utopian past, the forest as an animated space and dreams of the future are expressed in the context of a tourist attraction. This will be discussed from an interdisciplinary point of view with theoretical set out from folkloristics, religious studies and literary studies but with special focus on a theoretical approach inspired by Christopher Partridge´s ideas of the correlation between re-enchantment and popular culture and Graham Harvey´s perspective on new animism.

Author:

Heidi Henriikka Mäkelä (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The forest yoga phenomenon is a new well-being trend in 2020's Finland. Drawing from the fields of folklore and religious studies, I will analyze the relationships between the forest landscape, the forest yoga practitioner's body and the imagined 'Kalevalaic' past's presence in the practice.

Paper long abstract:

The forest yoga phenomenon is a new well-being trend that has taken shape in 2010's Finland. This branch of modern yoga is based on well-known hatha yoga poses and meditation, but the practitioners link it with Finnic oral traditions, for example by renaming the yoga poses after the characters of the national epic Kalevala or by associating features of the forest landscape with certain 'Kalevalaic' images. The forest yoga practice refers to the transnational new spiritual trends that are gaining popularity especially among urban and middle-class women globally.

Through scrutinizing field work materials and the book Metsäjooga (Jokiniva 2018), I will analyze the relationships between the forest landscape, the yogi's body and the 'Kalevalaic' past's presence in the practice. In forest yoga, forests are seen as transtemporal spaces in which the materiality of the forest is interpreted as an interface that connects the space and the yogi's body to the imagined distant and 'Kalevalaic' past of Finnishness. Furthermore, the forest landscape is interpreted as having otherworldly dimensions such as connections to the 'underworld'. I argue that the image of the forest in these kinds of new spiritual practices is highly influenced by the transnational flows and tendencies to sacralize nature and 'self' (e.g., Lynch 2007). The images are thus deeply affected by the romantic views on nature and selfhood as well as the British-American (colonialist) ideas of 'wilderness spirituality', transnational environmental and neopagan movements, and popular culture.

Author:

Krister Stoor (Umeå University)

Paper short abstract:

In northern Fennoscandia has the Sámi people always been a part of the landscape. Yoiking (singing) its land, the forest, lakes, mountains, rivers is to be connected with history and ancestors. How can we use old recordings to do analysis of what music and text really tell us.

Paper long abstract:

The Sámi of northern Sweden has lived for generations in the Arctic and sub-Arctic area, subsisting on traditional hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry. During the 19th century the competition of land with newcomers and settlers arise. Due to legislation 1886, Sámi lost their land (skatteland) they had paid taxes for centuries and the culture were under pressure, the language lost its position as a major communication between people. New lifestyles were enforced. In the 20th century extractive industries like mining companies, forest industry and tourism increased, affecting traditional livelihood. However, thanks to 20th century researcher like the first Sámi professor Israel Ruong we have a rich archival material as early recordings of stories and songs in the native language. This paper proposes to discuss how we can use sound recordings and careful analysis of both music and text, I intend to demonstrate the role of individual creativity in the yoik – the Sámi chanting, and by implication, the place of creative improvisation in the traditional genre of the yoik as a whole.

Author:

Flora Mary Bartlett (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper uses photography to explore hunting practices and networks of forest encounters in Arjeplog, Sweden. Hunters imagine a symbiotic coexistence with the forest, and they position this as antithetical to Stockholm in discourses of resource use, climate change and sustainability.

Paper long abstract:

This highly visual paper explores how moose hunting practices in Northern Sweden activate relations across intertwining networks: hunter-animal, person-forest, and ultimately rural-urban in discourses of climate change and sustainability. Based on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Arjeplog, this paper uses extensive photographic imagery alongside traditional anthropological methods. I first examine how local hunters imagine the wild moose meat as being 'of the forest,' therefore natural and clean for the body. I discuss further how person and forest forge a reciprocal relationship: the hunters aid the growth of the forest through keeping the moose populations to a sustainable level, and being 'in nature' means they are motivated to keep the forest clean. Thus, the hunt is imagined as the means to both bodily wellbeing and to the future of the forest in a symbiotic network - what I argue is bodily and moral personhood in relation to the trees. Finally, these networks are actively engaged in reinforcing rural-urban division. Locals with whom I worked positioned their emplaced practices as antithetical with Stockholm in national discourses of resources, climate change and sustainability. These relations in and of the forest thus constitute alternative possibilities for sustainable coexistence among my participants. Photo-elicitation allowed a collaborative exploration of landscape during fieldwork, and the images work here to visualise these networks and complicate the nature/culture divide in the forests of Arjeplog.

Author:

Lotten Gustafsson Reinius (Stockholm University)

Paper short abstract:

A recent wave of Nordic Noir has been invaded by spiritual stewards of nature. Similar folklore motifs are evoked locally through rite and narration in the wake of forest fires. The paper discusses how processes of re-enchantment shape imaginary and physical forests in the context of Anthropocene.

Paper long abstract:

The Scandinavian scenes for contemporary art and popular culture have recently been invaded by spiritual stewards of nature and other magical presences. These super natural beings are often portrayed as hidden survivors of another time in late modernity and/or as revengeful protectors of nature. A striking return of folklore themes thus seems to relate to the threats of climate change and challenge clear cut dichotomies of evil and good, nature and culture, humanity and "the rest".

In the unusually hot summer of 2014 a devastating forest fire scarred the Swedish landscape of Västmanland: a region just off the tourist trails of Dalarna and with a high rate of unemployment, growing political polarization and a history of resource extraction that historically as well has led to deforestation.

This paper explores the potential of folklore to local communities and curious "forest fire tourists" who seek to re-orient in the wake of the recent loss.

I will examplify how folklore themes, similar to those of highly profiled Nordic Noir, materialize beyond the urban art scenes. How does the interplay of rite and oral history in small scale communities relate to the threats of Anthropocene? Is it possible that mourning local agents and visitors to this region unite in the evocation and/or reinvention of the haunting presences of burned forest?