Reply To: Mon 14 Apr: The Perception of the Environment

Author Replies
Sabbath Sunday # Posted on April 15, 2014 at 09:45

Seminar 6, Mon 14th April:
Landscape, history and ethnicity
Reflections by Sabbath Sunday

Tim Gold’s articles ‘Ancestry, generation, substance, memory, land’ and ‘The temporality of the landscape’ both from his book: ‘The Perception of the environment’, has been a good choice for the debate about the theme; landscape, history and ethnicity. From his perspective of anthropology and archaeology, Tim’s argument is bent on ‘relational ecological development’ with the aim of displaying how humans are related to their environments as they struggle to eke out their existence. In due process, humans develop cultural awareness that enables them to claim identity based on their ‘dwelling’ stature.

In chapter eight which is entitled ‘Ancestry, generation, substance, memory, land’, Tim Gold argues that the above terms he has chosen are linked together in what he calls a genealogical model. He indicates that land is a platform from where humans undergo their social dynamics that help them to transcend generations through experience and ‘cultural memory’ that is passed on through language. Tim Gold argues that there is always a relationship between the original inhabitants of land and the current dwellers. The passing of continuous generations does not affect the dwellers claims of belonging and status. In my opinion, such humans who may also be known as the indigenous dwellers have got a ‘sense of place’ which they attach to their ancestral connections with their current land which is be quite essential for natural conservation. Tim Gold puts the indigenous dwellers in a political concept of oppression and marginalisation, and that they are limited in articulating their aspirations within hegemony of the state. However, he does not articulate how these indigenous people can be essential for ecological conservation, given their traditional environmental knowledge.

Chapter eleven, ‘The temporality of the landscape’ is another of Tim Gold’s discussion about ecological anthropology. His argument is based on the fact that, human and non-human activities on the landscape are continuous processes that give it shape and definition at a given time. He demonstrates his argument with the imagery of music and a painting to enable the reader to understand how temporal, landscape processes work. When music is playing, not all instruments are heard but each one comes up at a moment where it is designed to appear and this does not affect the intended harmony but improves the final presentation. Similarly in the farmers’ painting, many activities are shown and not all people are doing the same job. There is even one who is asleep under the tree after his job is done but all in all, work is finally done. In this case Tim Gold argues that while geological processes like erosion, river and sea action continue to shape landscape, also human activities or ‘taskscapes’ also contribute to the process of landscape modification which is never completed. Human ‘taskscapes’ carry with them a lot of symbolism with foot prints of how far they have adapted themselves to their environments through their culture. I am convinced that this view is very instrumental in enabling humans to jealously guard what they have created for themselves during their ‘taskscapes’, thus living sustainably with nature.

Finally, an issue came up during our seminar discussion about whether or not humans attach consciousness to their environment in their process of modifying the landscape. My later insight and also from one of Tim Gold’s introduction of his book, it is argued that human to human and also human to environment relationships are deeply embedded in consciousness such that even the so called modernity derive it from the indigenous dwellers. This a good beginning for sustainable development while landscape continues to take different shape and appearances.