Inimkond: Current Issues in Anthropology and Beyond
February 27, 2013
The Landscape Playground
Tallinn University, Estonia
Some years ago, Marc Antop (2005) listed urbanisation and accessibility as two of the main factors driving landscape change. Paul Claval (2005) has drawn our attention to the fact that cultivating the land – which once was the main activity for most of the people – is not seen any more as an act God would like. From an area of everyday hard work, landscape has turned into a playground in many senses. And tourism has a role to play here.
First of all, we are visiting places that formerly were beyond our reach. Due to that, places treated as hostile or useless are now seen as providing educational, scientific or even recreational value. This will be elaborated on with the example of boardwalks in Estonian bogs.
Secondly, landscape is being used for all sorts of recreational activities, games, adventures etc. Each of them creates their own sign systems in the landscape, invisible for an undedicated eye. Geocaching is one of such games. In this sense, landscape acts similarly as in many aboriginal cultures – there are places that are allowed for everyone and there are places, the secrets of which are known only to the initiated ones. The initiation rites differ, though. And from here there is a link to maps and mappings.
Finally, Olwig’s (2004) ideas about circulating reference will be dwelled upon: tourism creates images of a landscape and those images start influencing the "reality". Where is the real landscape after all?
Hannes Palang is the director of the Tallinn University Estonian Institute of Humanities, and he heads the Centre for Landscape and Culture at Tallinn University. With degrees from Tartu and Amsterdam, he is professor of human geography and involved in a large number of research projects, editorial boards and professional and expert bodies; for example, he is President of the Permanent European Conference for the Study of the Rural Landscape. His past research ranges from landscape diversity indexes to local participation and time layers. He has been involved in many applied projects in planning valuable landscapes and assessing their values.
The series of seminars "Inimkond/Humankind - Current Issues in Anthropology and Beyond" features speakers from anthropology and related fields, and fosters discussion of their research with an interdisciplinary audience. It aims to contribute to the culture of academic scholarship and debate at Tallinn University. Speakers include local researchers as well as guests from a variety of background disciplines including those with different interpretations of anthropological theory and methodology. Presentations in the seminar series will be of particular interest to staff and students in anthropology, cultural theory, sociology, and history.