Biennial Conference of the
Finnish Anthropological Society 2015
Landscapes, sociality and materiality
Helsinki, October 21–22, 2015
• Accepted panels and panel abstracts as pdf
• Arts of Noticing: Multispecies ethnography in anthropogenic landscapes
• Building the Self: Considering the Intersection of Landscape and Identity
• Children’s understandings of landscapes and environments
• Cities as Moral Laboratories: material change and social movements
• Ecological re-enchantment
• Ethnography of contemporary ritual landscapes
• Geographies of Capitalism and Landscapes of Globalization
• ICTs, wellbeing and development in Africa: Opportunities, potentials, and challenges
• Infrastructure and Mobility
• Landscape and memory
• Landscape and New Politics of Nature
• Landscape ontologies in collision: food, politics, and (non)human transformations in the neoliberal era
• “Promised land?” Churches, NGOs and contestation over land
• Sacred landscapes
• Utopian Enclaves and Moral Infrastructures
How might attention to anthropogenic landscapes foster transdisciplinary collaboration?This panel proposes that, while careful ethnographic attention to landscapes is nothing new for anthropologists, the push to take nonhumans seriously as social actors changes our approaches to landscape-based research. Ethnographic methods have traditionally trained our powers of noticing toward humans; now, we ask how we might craft new alliances with field biologists to develop descriptive practices that expand the range of anthropological methods to encompass the more-than-human.
The unit of the landscape, we propose, is an important boundary object for collaborations between what C.P. Snow has called the “two cultures” of the social and natural sciences. Landscapes demand simultaneous attention to what we tend to think of as “biology” and “culture” and show us their constant imbrication. As a result, they call us to work collaboratively across disciplines to bring together biology and ecology, human social formations and cultural histories. Landscapes incite overlapping curiosities among anthropologists, natural scientists, and other people who engage with them.
In this panel, we assemble papers that take up what we call a “rubber-boots” approach to transdisciplinary landscape-based research. We explore the new forms of noticing, description, translation, and politics that emerge when anthropologists collaborate with natural scientists and area residents in the field while exploring landscapes together. As we do so, we ask how attention to nonhumans and transdisciplinary collaborations transform social theory and ethnographic practice. Lastly, we also aspire to influence imaginations of how we might inhabit multispecies landscapes otherwise.
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Aarhus University
Although landscapes are commonly viewed as components of the physical world, the features that animate them and imbue them with recognizable significance in the minds of emic experiencers and etic researchers are rooted in conceptions about what marks something as semantically salient in a particular cultural environment. This cognitive foundation imbues landscapes with meaning and thus causes them to exist; it also indicates that landscapes are cognitively situated in the minds of their experiencers and extant only insofar as individuals possess the cultural knowledge necessary to recognize them. This overlaps with processes of identity formation, which are similarly rooted in the recognition and deployment of indicators showing affiliation with – and placement within – a particular cultural sphere. This session seeks to explore the material dimensions of landscape formation and consider how it overlaps with processes of identity construction. It aims to consider how classes of material things (buildings, ceramics, costumes, jewelry, etc.) contribute to the construction and marking of identities and to the development and reification of various landscapes associated with them. In particular, the session is concerned with the temporal dimension of the intersection of landscape and identity, and with how the elaboration and modification of materials and landscapes contribute to the continuous evolution of identity.
Kathryn M. Hudson
Department of Anthropology
Department of Linguistics
University at Buffalo
John S. Henderson
Department of Anthropology
Childhood studies emphasise that children are the best experts of their own lives. Anthropologists are always interested in the “natives’ point of view”, yet that point is often presented by adults. Landscapes and environments are not neutral but socially and culturally constructed and they are relevant also from children and youth’s point of view although their understandings may differ from those of adults. Children and youth may for example emphasise physical experiences with the environment. Their access to and use of certain environments may be restricted, which may lead to specific understandings of those places. On the other hand, they may be encouraged to use other environments. Children and youth may also express particular emotions, such as fear or joy, towards particular environments or landscapes. It is also relevant to ask how children and youth conceptualise and experience changes in environments and landscapes or how they contribute to such changes. This panel invites papers that discuss children’s and youth’s understandings and experiences of landscapes and environments, both of natural and built ones. Ethnographic accounts as well as other empirical reflections are welcome. Papers that use innovative research methods to reach the conceptualisations and experiences of children and youth are particularly welcome.
University of Tampere
Local mobilizations as well as spatially diffused social movements are drawing attention to rapid change in cities everywhere, in the global South and the North, whether growing or shrinking. Grassroots and do-it-yourself urban initiatives, small-scale entrepreneurial activities and political mobilizations proliferate, actively shaping landscapes. These activities are of growing interest across the disciplines and professions, with architects, designers, community facilitators and others collaborating with social scientists like anthropologists, and often activists themselves, to address urban problems.
Particularly where change is presented not merely as progress but as inevitable or urgent – as economic good sense, religious necessity or non-negotiable response to environmental doom – questions of legitimacy and morality are highlighted. Besides informal actors, the agencies responsible for urban wellbeing are also changing. Thus, where conventional urban governance articulates with new forms of austerity, environmental fears and economic opportunity, we can talk of emerging moral landscapes.
The panel invites perspectives from anthropologists and others on these moral landscapes. Topics might include, but not be limited to: protests at neighbourhood level; ideas of modernity and growth or the commons; the expert apparatuses responsible for producing change, and how they relate to residents’ everyday needs and feelings of worth. What about how city dwellers practice, imagine and talk about ‘the normal’ in the city, about decent environments? How do cultural practices, durable features of the city and moral frameworks connect? Do moral discourses take on particular importance when other resources for creating security and viable futures appear to be dwindling?
Spiritual beliefs and practices relating to landscapes have assumed a new environmental value. Perhaps the most pertinent example is the way how popular Western imagination perceives indigenous peoples as guardians of the environment. In this line of thinking peoples’ spiritual attachment to landscapes is thought to predispose them to live in harmony with the environment. Such notions have granted some indigenous groups an expert status in both local and global conservation programs and also provided new avenues for commodification of landscapes, for example, in the form of ecotourism. These developments stand in stark contrast to tenets of conventional modernization theory, according to which “pre-Newtonian” ideas concerning the physical world have inhibited people from exploiting their natural environment in the most efficient way possible in order to enhance their material well-being. Ecological stewardship based on religious principles does not belong exclusively to the tribal world. For instance, in recent years the Evangelical environmental movement has challenged secular environmentalism in the West by building a new conservation ideology from a biblical perspective. Consequently, it has been maintained that the disenchantment of nature, once seen as a fundamental aspect of modernity, is coupled with processes of re-enchantment. These processes, ideologies, and their local level manifestations are of obvious interest to anthropologists.
The workshop invites papers that explore issues related to the ecological re-enchantment in an ethnographic context. More theoretical contributions, discussing the notions of enchantment, disenchantment, and re-enchantment, are similarly welcome.
Social and Cultural Anthropology
University of Helsinki
‘Ritual landscape’ as a concept emerged in archaeology in the 1980’s. This panel looks at contemporary rituals and their way of employing certain places and spaces or thinking about its (non)human actors. We are interested in methods that create ritual landscapes, such as specific knowledge, sounds, smells, and visual elements. They may relate to the different ideas of materiality, subjectivity, and personhood of animals, plants, earth formations, ancestors, and objects that are addressed in ritual contexts. Moreover, urban and rural landscapes are created, transformed, perceived and experienced from a variety of ontological notions that are involved in ritual practices. Landscapes can have overlapping meanings in terms of religious socio-cosmologies. These landscapes can even become battle fields, when different actors aim to use the same places for their ritual purposes. We invite papers to discuss ritual landscapes through contemporary ethnography of rituals. We ask how do people’s ritual practices (re)produce landscapes? What are methods of producing ritual landscapes? How are ritual landscapes embedded into politics and economy and how do they produce ritual landscapes? How does historicity shape ritual landscapes? Furthermore, what can we say about landscapes in places where different religious ontologies coexist and merge, such as in the contexts of urban metropolises?
Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen
In this panel, we will explore “landscape” as the most significant connecting point between global and local processes of capitalism. Inspired by Anna Tsing, we see landscapes as spaces of exceptional diversity where a number of contentious encounters do take place. Landscapes can figure as conjunctures in which historical capitalist disturbances and current exploitations meet; they may function as spatial articulations in which global economic projects confront local power constellations. Landscapes are also spaces where both stark boundaries and fluid transitions between urban and rural, between industry and other economic forms, between uninhabited and occupied terrains can be found.
For our panel, we seek participants who will ethnographically explore various landscapes of capitalism. Heavy industries, mining, the extraction of oil and gas, and other forms of capitalist activity have turned entire regions into sites of growth and accumulation, which typically come with a significant social cost for those inhabiting the affected landscapes. The progressive “expulsions” (Saskia Sassen) of people amidst the “overheating” (Thomas Hylland Eriksen) of our globe is a key issue we want to address: land and water grabbing, migration for the sake of industry and jobs, or the rapid growth of informal settlements in previously scarcely populated areas may be some of the spatialized effects of rapid economic growth. In the hope of examining some of the frictions created by the volatility of the global neoliberal system and the versatile reactions to the concomitant rise of social injustice, we urge participants to interweave their small-scale ethnographic narratives with large-scale processes of global capitalism.
University of Oslo
University of Oslo
The widespread use of the internet and mobile phones in Africa has attracted studies of information, communication and technology (ICT) and development in African countries. Great focus has been on the ICT (including mobile technology) landscape as key to better healthcare delivery services in resource-poor settings in Africa, in business, gender, sociality, education and other areas of development. This panel seeks to bring together papers on new media and development in Africa concerning health, education/learning, commerce/banking, etc. The panel aims to focus on empirical and theoretical evidence of opportunities, potentials, limitations/challenges and complexities in use of ICTs to improve health outcomes, education, micro-entrepreneurship, etc. The panel intends to promote dialogue between research and policy-making, so, papers by both academic researchers and persons working or interested in policy and practice, e.g., representatives of governments, institutions and NGOs are welcome.
Papers may focus on (but are not limited to):
• ICTs in the health sector (m-Health/e-Health) concerning HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, and recently Ebola
• m-Commerce/m-Banking; e-Commerce/e-Banking
• The strengths and limitations of existing theories of mobile technology and development research
• Gaps in evidence on the effectiveness of ICTs and mobiles-for-development (M4D) strategies
• NGOs and civil society practice
• Policy issues and advocacy
• ICTs and social/political dynamics
• ICTs and gender
• The processes of change that have occurred or are occurring through use of ICTs in health, education, business and other sectors of development in Africa
University of Helsinki
perpetual.crentsil[a]helsinki.fi and perpetual.crentsil[a]yahoo.com
Infrastructure has emerged as a widely debated research field in anthropology. In this regard, Latour states that “flying is a property of the whole association of entities that include airport and planes, launch pads and ticket counters. B-52s do not fly, the U.S Air Froce flies” (Latour, 1999, 182).
Recently, and in line with Latour, Larkin (2013) described infrastructures as networks of material forms that enable the movement of goods, ideas and people. This panel aims to focus on infrastructure’s operational dimensions, meaning how goods, ideas and people are being moved. We wish to discuss the conceptual space that this focus creates, where assemblages of human and non-human actors that condition mobility can be considered. From this perspective, the attention is drawn to how mobility unfolds in different ethnographic settings. What technologies, institutions and actors are involved? How is the assemblage of the these technologies, institutions and actors facilitating and conditioning mobility? How do these assemblages shape human thoughts and experiences?
For this panel, we welcome papers that explore how various kinds of assemblages of human and non-human actors facilitate or hinder mobility. The focus lies on how mobility is conditioned; rather than on people’s trajectories and experiences of mobility. Furthermore, we encourage reflections about the analytical value of attention to infrastructures in mobility studies.
Department of Social Anthropology
Department of Social Anthropology
Landscapes anchor, embody and evoke social memory and are intrinsically tied to the formation of people’s identities. They are understood to do so not as passive platforms onto which meanings are pasted and through which they are articulated, but rather as themselves formed through engagement with particular people, their cultural practices and memories. In this sense landscapes may be regarded as mnemonic devices to recall a shared history and to act as moral guides. In remembering landscapes, natural elements – such as mountains, hills or rivers – or human built forms – such as ruins, shrines or monuments – may be used as mnemonic tools and arenas of moral debate that enable people to remember and talk about the past. For groups of people removed from the places they remember through migration or diaspora, this commemorative aspect of landscapes becomes particularly significant and may engender various kinds of pilgrimage and memory travel. Another area where the connection of landscape, identity and memory is pertinent is the debate concerning heritage. Heritage sites as loci of commemorialization often dramatize the history of a nation/place or commodify its past, while material objects like monuments and memorials are tied in complex ways to social discourses of remembering.
This panel invites papers that ethnographically examine issues related to the ways in which landscapes and their memories are tied to people’s identity processes as well as papers that explore the commemorative aspects of landscapes such as heritage, memory travel, or material triggers of memory. More theoretical analyses of the above issues are also welcome.
Social and Cultural Anthropology
University of Helsinki
Discussing the human-nature relations, politics of nature, and the production of nature, anthropologists have focused on the concept of landscape. In these discussions landscape is not merely a view, or stage for action, but a relational concept referring to configurations of humans and non-humans across a terrain. Landscape is then “the world as it is known to those who dwell in it”, and a “pattern of activities ‘collapsed’ into an array of features” (Ingold). These formulations of landscape stress the importance of process, power, activity and creativity in the making of environments.
The recent rush for land, forests, and minerals has created rapidly changing landscapes. These processes prompt us to ask not only what kinds of landscapes are produced, but also what kinds of actors produce them. We are interested in new forms of sociality and landscapes formed through the interaction between actors of different scales, such as transnational corporations and local communities. We ask, what is the role of humans, spirits, plants, animals, cash crops, and material in the making of landscapes?
By foregrounding these questions, the panel explores the theoretical debates of sociality and materiality: the claim according to which human consciousness and activity are informed by the distinct material properties of objects, resources, and environments. It also addresses the critical view in which the focus on materialities displaces and fetishizes the concern with human values and political agency. Furthermore, we ask what kinds of concepts (for example network, friction, ontology) are most productive for exploring new landscapes and sociality.
We invite papers that critically engage with the notions of activity, landscape, and the new politics of nature. Papers that are based on solid ethnography and case studies of particular landscapes are especially welcome.
University of Helsinki
Landscape ontologies in collision: food, politics, and (non)human transformations in the neoliberal era
Throughout the longue durée of human civilization, people’s ontological landscapes have (trans)formed, and been (trans)formed by, food production. ‘Traditional’ economic activities often translate into ways of dwellings, affective attachments to the land, and imaginations of the self. Plants and animals – primary sources of local food systems – are key contributors to the unmaking and remaking of people’s ethnic and communal identities.
Changes to this biocultural environment can have significant impacts. When large-scale neoliberal ‘green’ development targets the lands and natural resources of local populations, imposing other use-values to the same physical space, these overlapping ontological landscapes collide. The ensuing friction triggers unexpected or abrupt processes that compel people to resignify their relationships with place, dwelling, and nonhuman cohabitants. Being the source of material (biological and economic) sustenance, food has the power to mobilise bodily processes of identification and to radicalise political contestation.
This panel welcomes ethnographic contributions that help to understand the frictions arising from overlapping but divergent ontological landscapes and to explore the role of food in identity (trans)formation and political confrontation. In what ways do landscape interventions affect people’s ontologies and dwellings? How does a perceived threat to ‘traditional’ economic activities reinvigorate sensuous-affective attachment to landscapes and their nonhuman cohabitants? Can local food materialities shape cultural imaginaries that enhance a sense of belonging while challenging hegemonic development projects? Do foodscapes contribute to envision alternative futures and socio-political imaginaries? What is the role of bodily memories in the awakening of grass-roots resistance movements?
School of Anthropology and Conservation
The University of Kent
In many former colonies, religious institutions and NGOs occupy large tracts of land in places where land conflicts are becoming more and more pronounced. In many such contexts, the authorities that define legal ownership are plural – government, customary and religious. Land disputes are therefore not only sites for negotiating control over material resources, but also for negotiations over the right to claim belonging to particular landscapes. Exploring contests over land thus provides insight for understanding the relationship between socially and historically constructed landscapes, and physically demarcated –mapped, fenced off and ploughed– tracts of land.
This panel is interested to explore the role that non-state actors, including but not limited to churches, missionary organizations and NGOs, play in conflicts and contestations over land and property. In many post-colonial contexts, such actors play critical roles in the areas of education, health and service provision. They are major employers and have access to resources, and are in many ways engaged in popular mobilisation and local politics. Religious authorities are sometimes called on to act as mediators in disputes over land and property. This double role; as land owners and hence parties to conflicts, and as mediators in the disputes of others; makes such actors particularly interesting cases for exploring the overlapping claims to ownership, authority and belonging.
The panel organisers will themselves present papers exploring land disputes involving churches and faith-based organisations in contemporary Uganda. Papers are invited which explore similar themes, for instance through historical or contemporary case studies, in other contexts.
University of East Anglia
University of Copenhagen
University of Helsinki
Sacred landscapes are a well covered topic in anthropological literature. Sacredness of places and spaces takes many different forms, it may be a temporary effect periodically recreated in ritual, a permanent characteristic of a powerful place, or a way to claim authority in or ownership of contested spaces. A landcape’s sacredness, broadly defined, may be an aspect of the place itself, its human or non-human inhabitants, or action related to the place. Land itself may be considered an inherently sacred entity; ritual or religious acts tend to entail specific places and spaces designated as sacred. In this panel we would like to revisit this classic topic by considering sacred places and spaces in various ethnographic settings and from different theoretical perspectives. We invite papers that engage sacred places and spaces as dynamic entities that mediate and are mediated by socialities. Possible issues and themes include, but are not limited to, questions such as how is sacredness defined, understood, or acknowledged in different cases? How is the sacredness of a place or space created, maintained, or contested, and what effects does this have? What are the meanings attributes to sacred spaces, and what kinds of meanings are made possible by or within these spaces? How are sacred spaces sources of agency, or social agents in themselves?
University of Helsinki
University of Virginia
Literature on materiality and anthropology for the last decade has insisted on two important tenets; firstly that our relationship with the material world produces both the material world and ourselves, and secondly that the material world is not a mere epiphenomenon of the social. Using this literature to read landscapes, space, and place making is therefore a processual engagement since it asks that we understand power as not only an ongoing process but also as a property of materiality. In other words, landscapes become particular instantiations as well as perpetrators of power relations.
In order to provide an adjacent reading, this panel invites papers that ask about theutopian narratives that pre-empt place-making. If utopia is the persistence of a radically alternative way of life, then how does it make itself heard through landscapes, planning, infrastructure, and material life? How does one ask questions of infrastructure that take seriously the content of its stories? More importantly, does the notion of utopia function as a critique to guard against the imminently deviant outcomes of such projects? Alternatively, does it become embedded as a necessary function that will sustain the aesthetic future of an otherwise always already known disappointment?
We invite panelists from urban studies, anthropology, sociology, architecture, and philosophy to engage with ethnographic work on planned townships, cities, communities, communes, and developmental projects designed at producing a morally informed version of lived experience, and ask that they question said moralities, intentions, and outcomes through a reading of the landscapes they reference.
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences,
Indian Institute of Technology Madras