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Contested and re-imagined forests of the North
Jaana Laine (University of Helsinki)
Karoliina Lummaa (University of Turku)
Lotten Gustafsson Reinius (Stockholm University)
JoAnn Conrad (Diablo Valley College)

Short abstract:

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

Long abstract:

This panel explores the Northern Forest as a physical place and an 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 both 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 the 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, but one which is often 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 a deeper level, relationships between humans and the forest’s nonhuman denizens, such as trees, can create deep emotional and spiritual connectedness. By expressing these 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, individual and collective beliefs and also in practices and institutions. Can the forest still be imagined? Or can it be reclaimed as a space and place for alternate potentialities, such as sustainable coexistence and interrelatedness with the more-than-human?

We invite papers discussing the narration and imagining of forest spaces, particularly those that scrutinize the nature-culture interface, along with its binary and anthropocentric ontologies.