SIEF2019 14th Congress: Santiago de Compostela, Spain
14-17 April 2019

Landscape - the instructions manual: Negotiating the meanings of landscape [SIEF Working Group Space-lore and Place-lore]
Location Room 18
Date and Start Time 17 Apr, 2019 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Jiří Woitsch (Czech Academy of Sciences) email
  • László Mód (University of Szeged) email
  • Karolina Pauknerova (Charles University) email

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Chair Karolína Pauknerová - Jiří Woitsch

Short abstract

The meaning of landscape and its sensations are mediated by various actors and various media, both by official authorities and informal actors. The theme of the panel is transformation processes and actors in negotiating and/or producing the meanings of the landscape.

Long abstract

When defining landscape, it is possible to stress its physical features or to deal with it as an ideological project. Our definition is close to John Wylie´s: "[…] landscape is not just a way of seeing, a projection of cultural meaning. Nor, of course, is landscape simply something seen, a mute, external field. […] landscape might best be described in terms of the entwined materialities and sensibilities with which we act and sense." (Wylie 2005, 245).

Starting from this and based on ethnological and anthropological knowledge, the panel addresses how landscapes are transformed, described, introduced or even produced by both official authorities and informal actors when presenting the particular landscape to public.

We intend to focus especially on current use and transformation of "traditional" agricultural, natural and urban landscapes into zones of recreational use, tourism and free-time activities. During such a transformation, landscapes and their history, importance, meanings and even materialities are represented in various media (e.g. tourist brochures) and equipped with a specialised infrastructure (e.g. educational trails) in order to give "users" of the landscape a particular type of pre-understanding.

In the panel we welcome papers on transformations of landscapes with the attention paid to the processes of negotiation of their meanings, e.g. in tourist guides, online presentations, and educational trails, in various events and new landscapes such as re-cultivated environments or various types of protected landscape areas or natural parks and the like.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The Contemporary Negotiations of the 'Kalevalaic' Landscape in the Context of Intangible Cultural Heritage Discourse in Finland

Author: Heidi Haapoja-Mäkelä (University of Helsinki) email
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Short abstract

In my paper, I will discuss the negotiations of intangible cultural heritage and the contemporary constructions of the national 'kalevalaic' landscapes in Finland. The representations of landscape will be examined in respect of nationalism, power relations, and the European heritage discourses.

Long abstract

The UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified in Finland in 2013, and the process is put into practice by the National Board of Antiquities. In Finland the inventorying will be carried out in a participatory way: the cultural heritage is identified and produced by communities on an open, wiki-based inventory platform called 'Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage'. Submissions for the Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage have been collected since February 2016. The Wiki-inventory now contains over 140 submissions from approximately 200 communities.

In my paper, I will examine the Wiki-Inventory submissions that somehow discuss the national epic Kalevala (published in 1835/1849) and the so-called 'Kalevala-ness' (kalevalaisuus), which, in public speech, often refers to everything that is regarded as old and emblematically Finnish. In other words, 'Kalevala-ness' or 'Kalevalaicity' is an ideological and biased construct that still filters the public view on the national epic, Finnish mythology, and a purportedly shared national culture.

I will examine in my presentation how the idea of Kalevala-ness is negotiated in the contemporary Wiki-inventory submissions in relation to the constructs of canonical Finnish national landscapes or imageries. I understand the concept of landscape here as a material-discursive process, and I will study the representations of landscape (such as texts and pictures) in respect of nationalism, power relations, and the European heritage discourses.

Laponia - competing discourses in a museum exhibition

Author: Nika Potinkara (University of Jyväskylä) email
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Short abstract

In this paper, I explore the ways in which Laponia, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Northern Sweden, is represented in a museum exhibition - how the meanings of the landscape are negotiated, which discourses are foregrounded, and whose voice is heard.

Long abstract

Uninhabited areas in Northern Fennoscandia tend to be contested sites of meaning. Should these areas be considered as 'wild', natural environments that must be protected from all human influence, as places suitable for recreational activities, or as cultural landscapes bearing memories from human activity through centuries? Different perspectives on the landscape often conflict, and different discourses frame the landscape in very different ways.

In this paper, I focus on museum representations of Laponia, an area that consists of several national parks and nature reserves in Northern Sweden. After being inscribed on the World Heritage list by UNESCO in 1996, Laponia became highly contested. The local reindeer herders, suspecting that the nomination would lead to restrictions on their immemorial rights to utilize the area, saw Laponia as their heritage and demanded to have control over the future management. Their claims were not initially recognized by the local and national authorities.

When this dispute was still going on, a permanent exhibition presenting the area was opened in Ájtte, the Swedish Mountain and Sámi Museum. The exhibition can be seen as a contribution to the public discussion about Laponia; it presents the area from several perspectives but also indirectly takes a stand on the question about its management. By analysing the images, artefacts, texts and other elements of this exhibition, I explore the ways in which the area is represented - how its meanings are negotiated, which discourses are foregrounded, and whose voice is heard.

Building cultural heritage from the bottom up: The case of the town of Buštěhrad

Authors: Karolina Pauknerova (Charles University) email
Jiří Woitsch (Czech Academy of Sciences) email
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Short abstract

The paper presents an analysis of production of social and landscape memory. Using the case study of Buštěhrad and its two versions of an educational trail, the paper shows transformations of the meaning of the local landscape over the last 20 years.

Long abstract

The paper focuses on the production of social and landscape memory, or in the terms of Samuel Merrill it is a study of mnemonic structures and mnemonic actors (Networked Remembrance, 2017, p. 32-33) in the town of Buštěhrad. The presented analysis is based on interviews with local actors, content of the educational trail panels and additional materials related to the trail (leaflet and brochure).

The case study of Buštěhrad, a small town near Prague, shows transformation of the meaning of landscape in two versions of a local educational trail: the original one from 2002 and the renewed one from 2018. The trail connects the centre of the town with the local museum, devoted to Ota Pavel, a writer and journalist, and the history of Buštěhrad. Before 2018, the museum changed its location, and that is why the trail had to be prolonged. The old version of the trail was namely focused on the medieval castle of Buštěhrad. The new prolonged version added topics connected with modern history of the Buštěhrad region. Some of the new topics were specially researched for the trail. The trail as well as the museum were founded and are run by the local citizens' association Buštěhrad Sobě. The paper shows transformations of the meaning of the local landscape over the last 20 years.

Negotiating the "Endless Island." Beekeeping and landscape in Sardinia.

Author: Greca Meloni (Universität Wien) email
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Short abstract

The paper discusses how the landscape of Sardinia (Italy) is conceived from the regional authorities as an example of the "immutability" of the "Endless Island" of the Mediterranean, while in the perspective of the Sardinian beekeepers it is understood to be an endless process of transformation.

Long abstract

Over the past decades, landscape has gradually taken on a role of primary importance in the processes of heritigization often linked to claims of national identity all through Europe, also playing a pivotal role in the process of Europeanization in those regions that seek to become part of the European Union (Welz 2015).

In Sardinia (Italy), the discourses on the landscape produce conflicts linked to the juxtaposition of the environment perceived on one side as a wild space which biodiversity must be safeguarded with politics based on rigorous "scientific knowledge" and, on the other, a place which natural features testify the toils of humans through time (Heatherington 2010).

The paper analyzes the processes of construction and deconstruction of the meaning of the landscape connected with the image of Sardinia as the "Endless Island" of the Mediterranean. Thus, the paper highlights the diverging visions hidden behind the uses that the regional agencies and the beekeepers make of the adjective "endless" attributed to Sardinia. For the former, the adjective serves as a symbol of immutability and authenticity of a wild and uncontaminated island, of which landscape keeps its original authenticity since a thousand years. For the beekeepers, the term represents the endless process of transformation and co-operation of the past generations of humans that working together with their animals have contributed to creating the present-day Sardinian' landscape. Finally, the paper shows how different interpretations of landscape link with contrasting readings of "Sardinianess" and the concepts of autochthony, and biodiversity.

Contesting Minority Culture in Rural China: Landscapes of Plastic and Roses

Author: Seraina Hürlemann (University of Lausanne) email
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Short abstract

Planting roses in former agricultural fields and decorating them with huge plastic objects constitutes an abrupt break with the conventional tourist imaginary of the Lashi Hai (North West Yunnan) area. This paper analyses social processes behind the co- production of such tourist landscapes.

Long abstract

Back at my case study site last spring, I was puzzled by the newest infrastructure development: A several meters tall sculpture of a red high heel made of plastic in midst of a vast rose manor. In this paper I will explore co- production processes of tourist landscapes, in Lashi Hai, a rural area in North West Yunnan, China. The region's tourism sector has boomed during the last ten years, mainly relying on organised day trip tour groups of Han Chinese tourists. The fact that they are visiting an ethnic minority population provides abundant material for imagination: there are plentiful of images and stereotypes of ethnic minorities in media, cultural productions, tourist promotion on which to base one's imaginary of this region and its people.

Planting roses in former agricultural fields and decorate them with huge plastic object constitutes an abrupt break with the conventional tourist imaginary of the area however. I conceptualize landscape not as simply passive object but attribute a certain agency to it, in the sense that it has a capacity to structure social realities. Social interactions with landscapes represent processes in which culture and identity are contested and interests, expectations and imaginaries of different actors are negotiated. The physical arrangement of landscapes is thus considered as materialised results of such processes. If these results consist of roses and huge plastic objects - what social reality does that represent? Using data of ethnographic fieldwork, I will shed light the social processes behind the co-production of such landscapes.

Waterscape as a hybrid space of engagement: reconceptualising waterways through affordance theory

Authors: Maarja Kaaristo (Manchester Metropolitan University) email
Francesco Visentin (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) email
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Short abstract

The inland waters in the UK and Italy, once important transport links, are now places for dwelling, work, everyday life, tourism and leisure. Their meanings have formed through changing usage, embodied experiences and various narratives, resulting in waterscapes as hybrid spaces of engagement.

Long abstract

Fresh water is vital to the life on Earth, appearing in various shapes and forms from rivers and lakes to canals and reservoirs to water-bearings and glaciers. Water can evoke a vast range of emotions from joy and awe to fear and fright and humans engage with it in numerous ways, be it sensorial and bodily or in terms of meaning making and interpretation. The inland waters are places of scientific exploration, geopolitical territorialisation, romantic imagination and neoliberal exploitation as well as of everyday life, dwelling, work, tourism and leisure. In this presentation, we will re-imagine the waterscapes in terms of Gibson's affordance theory, renegotiating the dualism between nature as a universal given and society and culture as constructed through meanings. Positioning our research at the nexus of socio-cultural and natural, we focus on the hybridity of the land-water-scape, which comes to being through affect, materialities, narratives and mobilities. We will ask whether thinking about watery affordances could offer a way forward for a better understanding of water as a central materiality that carries us while we carry it with us both in our bodies and minds, so that we as humans are always already ecological beings. Based on our ethnographic fieldwork on the rivers and canals in the United Kingdom and Italy, we discuss whether the idea of affordances could offer a way forward in understanding waterscapes as spaces of entanglement and hybrid networks of relations between the human and non-human.

From Negotiation to Contestation: Understanding the meaning of wild landscapes in the Carpathians

Author: George Iordachescu (School of Advanced Studies IMT Lucca, Italy) email
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Short abstract

The intervention discusses the contentious negotiations around protecting and producing wilderness in the Carpathian Mountains. Based on ethnographic data and discourse analysis, the paper shows how culturally layered landscapes are erased in the active process of revamping them as untouched nature.

Long abstract

The current paper investigates critically the current contention around defining the wilderness areas of the Carpathians by transforming physically and discoursively culturally layered landscapes into untouched nature.

From the European Green Belt Initiative to the Wild Rivers of the Balkans and the newly established Endangered Landscapes Program, Eastern Europe is currently the focal point of many conservation initiatives advocating for a wilder future. Within these projects, extractive industries and traditional land uses are to be replaced by green businesses and ecotourism. However, this wilderness momentum, though manifesting differently across the region, has brought to the table a plethora of state and private institutions, investment funds and environmental NGOs, movie directors and PR specialists, farmers and mushroom pickers, affluent tourists and local villagers.

Using the case of a world-class conservation project developed in the Romanian Carpathians, the paper will analyze how new meanings of wild landscapes emerge, transform by circulating within the public sphere, and are contested by locals or, on the contrary, are advocated for by activists and wildlife photographers.

Based on ethnographic data collected over three years of fieldwork, on discourse analysis and ecocriticism, the paper will show how the active production of wilderness erases traditional ecological knowledge and local environmental history by constructing a staged atemporal and de-politicized authenticity that aids the development of ecotourism centered around leisure and passive contemplation of a wilder landscape.

Greeneering the mountains. The production of green landscapes by a ski station, wildlife conservation programs and farming practices in the Catalan High Pyrenees

Author: Ferran Pons (McGill University) email
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Short abstract

Baqueira Beret ski resort and conservation programs head toward greening the Pyrenean landscapes. Their interventions on the environment, though, require engineering processes. This paper seeks to understand both greeneering mechanisms as well as the role undertaken by farming practices on them.

Long abstract

In line with the formalisation of a Catalan conservation policy and the creation of a natural protected areas network in the mid-1980s, Baqueira Beret ski station undertook a crucial turning point in terms of landscape transformations. Modifications on mountains orography in the Summer were coupled with the sowing of seeds to produce and shape new green landscapes. An engineering shift that accomplished both a productive and an aesthetic function at once. The quality of skiing conditions as well as the visual scenery left behind by the interventions on the mountains 'improved'.

In the Pyrenean context, conservation programs undertook another turn at the end of the 20th century. Nature was considered to be actively managed through complex environmental engineering processes rather than just protected. Wildlife programs, and particularly the reintroduction of brown bears perfectly illustrates this shift. Devised as an 'umbrella species', the brown bear works as a paradigmatic biodiversity or green index to prove the environmental quality of the extensive habitats it dwells.

In parallel, dwindling farming practices in the Pyrenean mountainous areas are increasingly valued in terms of landscape and biodiversity parameters. Funded to maintain green mowing meadows they also undertake a relevant role to greening skiing landscapes.

This paper aims to explore both the differences between skiing and environmental processes in greeneering the Pyrenean landscapes and the role undertaken by farming practices in both cases.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.