Start › Forums › Courses › Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History › Mon 14 Apr: The Perception of the Environment
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|April 14, 2014 at 15:13 #12326|
Post reflections on today’s seminar
|April 14, 2014 at 15:19 #12327|
Nik Petek – Reflections on seminar 2014-04-14
I was introduced to Tim Ingold’s work very early on in my studies in archaeology and anthropology. In the UK, teaching archaeological theory, his work on ‘The temporality of the landscape’ and on ‘Weaving the basket’ is considered in most cases course reading, as it exemplifies how the landscape is in fact perceived and lived in, or how no shape is pre-determined in the mind. This was not the first time, then, that I’ve read Ingold, or these particular articles. I’ve had to read them a handful of times, and I ended up consistently agreeing with him on every point he makes. His points are further substantiated through his other essays in ‘The perception of the environment’ as he puts other examples forward on how people ‘dwell’ in the landscape and are entangled with other beings, be they animate or inanimate (according to the “western” perception).
We all dwell in the landscape. No one is disassociated from it, no one floats above it, and you cannot escape it. The landscape is everywhere around you, constantly, and it changes with every step you take; your perception changes and your relation to it too. It is true that academics study the landscape and its components as things that can be divided into parts that have clear boundaries, and have no effect on each other. You are also able to impose these divisions on the landscape. However, this division is only possible in our minds. Ingold clearly shows throughout his book how everything is connected, and how we, when we walk through the landscape cannot be above the landscape as our actions impact the grass we step on and the noises the landscape contains. The reason for completely agreeing with Ingold comes from personal experience. The first time I read ‘The temporality of the landscape’ I went out to the meadows just outside my student hall and walked around. All the while I was thinking about what Ingold said and I could not disagree.
Moreover, much of his reasoning comes from phenomenology. Phenomenology made it clear to me how humans relate to the world and how they construct the world around them. We are always in a certain relation to our world and it is through these relations that we get to know the world and create experiences, which then form part of our cosmology. Heidegger gives a simple, yet brilliant, example of how we only know what a hammer is through the way we use the hammer and the qualities it exemplifies. Through the way we use it, and through its qualities, we also get to know what other objects are appropriate to be used in the same way.
Ingold also wants to make his work relevant to archaeologists. From a theoretical perspective he succeeds, as it can and does give us a framework within which we can construct an idea of how people moved through the landscape, related to it, and shaped it. Applying it practically is a different story, unfortunately. Because the theory of his work is framed in phenomenology, and phenomenology is so subjective (each subject constructs his own world through his own relations with it), any interpretation of the archaeological record with this framework will not be objective. Due to the archaeologist not being a subject of the time period and landscape he is studying, he cannot objectively form a description of the area and its people. Archaeologists have tried it before and it resulted in ‘A phenomenology of the landscape’ by C. Tilley. This book shows the results of the extreme use of phenomenology in archaeology and (in my personal opinion) this is all that it is useful for. The question then still remains, how archaeologists can use Ingold’s work. For now, the best thing is to keep his work in mind when doing research and writing on landscape.
|April 15, 2014 at 09:45 #12339|
Seminar 6, Mon 14th April:
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.
|April 15, 2014 at 10:36 #12340|
Ingold Reflection by Morag Ramsey
I find Tim Ingold to be an academic who offers interesting and somewhat challenging perspectives and thoughts on somewhat controversial subjects. This reflection will focus on chapter eight from his book, which deals with the categorization of indigenous people by the United Nations, and thus by the Nation State.
In this chapter Ingold begins by quoting an excerpt from the UN that categorizes indigenous people as people occupying a land before the arrival of settlers. He points to the inherent contradiction found in a categorization that places emphasis on descent, and yet, bases its claims on the habitation of land. Ingold’s goal is to examine different factors he thinks contributes to this categorization, and then offers what he feels to be an interpretation of those same factors with an indigenous lens. I feel he successfully accomplished what he set out to do with this chapter, and that it was an interesting and thought provoking read.
However, there was something that I found unsettling while reading, and I think after reading through the text again I feel less confused and clearer about what made me uneasy. While Ingold offers an extremely nuanced and insightful explanation early on in the chapter about the intricacies of indigenous and non-indigenous identity, I felt that he lost some of that insight while providing his interpretation with a more indigenous lens. This is perhaps the result of my own unfamiliarity with social anthropology and its complexities, and reading through the introduction and conclusion again I came to understand the aims of this chapter where more to challenge the hegemonic categorization than to offer another, although it seems a byproduct of this provides a different manner (the relational model) in which to categorize indigenous people at any rate. And this is what made me uneasy. While I understand global institutions such as the UN are designed to work on a large scale and are based on categorizations and classifications of all sorts of people, the simplicity of being able to understand the world as ‘indigenous’ and then ‘non-indigenous’ seems problematic to me.
Ingold criticizes the limitations of the nation state when it comes to understanding and categorizing indigenous people. I guess what I feel to be the root of the issues for me is the universal claim of ‘indigenous’ and not how it is defined. The categories of ‘hunter and gatherings,’ ‘indigenous,’ ‘minorities,’ ‘colonized,’ etc, seem to be intimately connected in ways which at times seem to suggest a universal history, culture and timeline for all those people classified under ‘indigenous.’ In a work such as this, Ingold is able to draw connections between aborigines in Australia and first nations people of Manitoba. While these connections may certainly exist, it is rather odd that while identity, and in particular indigenous identity, is so intricate and dependent on so many different factors and interactions that all indigenous people would fit nicely into one relational model. That being said, I do not think Ingold was placing different restrictions around how people can self identify, his work simply made me reflect about the problems attached to a global indigenous identity.
|April 15, 2014 at 11:02 #12341|
Reflection on Tim Ingold (2000): Perception of the Environment
Everything is connected, everything is changing and everyone should himself as part of that world. One might summarize Tim Ingold’s ideas in these three short sentences. In chapter eight Ingold compares the genealogical model of life against the relational one, coming to the conclusion that the former is doing harm to indigenous people’s strong connection to land. In chapter eleven the author explains why landscape is always temporal: with activities by all kinds of entities always going on, landscape is under continuous construction. Finally, in chapter thirteen he elaborates his idea that the notion of the “global environment” reflects a major shift from Western self-perception as being out- or onside the world but not inside it. All three reading meet one important point: that modern humans are detached from the conditions of life (land) and the beings who dwell in it (other humans, animals and even inanimate entities), leading to an even further deterioration of both things that make up the world.
Tim Ingold’s writing is challenging but as soon as the reader reaches a certain point and imagines herself outside in a local environment and viewing the world from that perspectives, life gets a new shade, a new colour. Ingold might find such high resonance because a large number of so-called “informed” modern beings feel that something “is going wrong out there” (note the representation of taskscape – “going” and of landscape “out there” in that expression), that we “lost touch with nature” and that the way authorities who produce knowledge in our societies – including universities – explain or even justify our detachment from the world, is deeply discouraging. In contrast, through the Ingold’s lens one can see oneself in a “native” or “original” position as another ecological being. The critical question that arises here is what a person can do from such a starting point.
Everything is connected, everything is changing and everyone should himself as part of that world. It’s so simple – and can be easily in one’s direct environment, let say a garden or forest. It is so difficult however – to transfer the relational model on larger social or even political structures. As I am on the edge between Political Science and Environmental History this point is fundamental for me: to discover basic assumptions about humans and their environment and to analyze how they play into political discourses and consequently social structures. Moreover I see academic work as responsible for offering alternative assumptions that might contribute to a more balanced world. Taking Ingold as an example here, on can ask for the practical application of his alternative conception of indigenousness in chapter eight.
As Ingold highlights, indigenous people have an ontological connection to land. Their identities and survival depends on the land they dwell in, with neighbouring beings – be it relatives or other human or non-human entities – teaching the knowledge on how to do that. National or international policies for the protection of indigenous people which see “descent” as the medium through which distinctive features of being are transmitted is neglecting this connection, according to Ingold. But how should an alternative policy look like that defines indigenousness in such a way? The answer might be to give people the right to dwell in a certain land however it pleases them. It would entail to create autonomous spheres within the nation state and leaving it to the people. But how should be decided who is part of such a group or not? Here we realize that Ingold’s relational model could be implemented for indigenous people in the “classical” sense, that means groups that have not or just recently been in contact with any other modern culture but happen to be within the boundaries of a nation state. The number of these groups might be small – compared to the one who call themselves “indigenous” while living more ore less in the realm of modernity. These people hold a somewhat “hybrid” identity and if society wants to empower these groups than we might rather think of a model that combines the genealogical and the relational one.
To give an example, without being an expert on that issue: the right to herd reindeers in Sweden is exclusively given to Samí and thus more or less depending on descent, as those the right to vote for the Samí parliament. Through this regularities, a boundary is drawn not only between the Samí and the Swedish population but also to the nation state. One can argue that this boundary should be shifted even further to give the Samí more rights and privileges – but that would construct a certain image of Samí as a group that is so much different from the modern Swedish society and state that they cannot coexist. I would rather argue that a dissolving of that boundary would be more favorable to preserve the Samí way of living. By leaving the power on how far that dissolving should go the now-existing Samí population, an exchange of how to dwell in Northern Scandinavia could be triggered, involving “native” Swedes, Norwegians and Fins. The product would be a hybrid identity in the beginning and perhaps a relational one in the end – when the way of living and identities are solely constituted through active interaction with ones’ surroundings. However, this thought experiment has not taken into account the strong aversion of the nation state and several elites against such a resituating of identity – and that’s what every discussion on indigenousness, be it inspired by Ingold or not, should be highly concerned with.
|April 15, 2014 at 13:19 #12342|
Having been raised in Canada and taken courses in archaeology, notions of First Nation and Metis (“indigenous” Canadian) identity and how it relates to land ownership (using the term land not landscape in this context) are never far from my mind. Contemporary anthropological notions of indigenous are intrinsically associated with resistance towards dispossession, unequal access to resources and arenas of decision-making, and violations of human rights. Indigenous status in many countries (Canada included) is legally bestowed based on kinship and descent, and I find this practice troublesome as it ignores the agency of individuals to construct their own identity. Land claim discourse and associations of land ownership with indigenous identity and belonging is a phenomena that unfolds in and out of courts of law and has intense and visceral effects on peoples lives and community relations. Indigenous land claims are based on assertions of the need for recognition of historical differences and inequalities that have repercussions in the present, and the route of restitution is acknowledgment of equal or stronger belonging to a contested landscape based on indigenous identity.
|April 15, 2014 at 13:28 #12346|
Seminar reflection on 14th April
By Yongliang Gao
Landscape is never a concept that worth a definition to me until I read Ingold (2000). “Land” seems to be a quantitative term to Ingold, which is countable and measurable; while “landscape” seems to be a qualitative one, which is non-countable and non-measurable. Personally, I doubt that because (1) since landscape comprises of land (as well as water according to Ingold), it is certainly countable as the land is a component of the landscape, which one can calculate the length, size, height, depth, and etc of the land (and water), so could the landscape. (2) Seeing landscape as a qualitative concept though, one can still measure it given a specific context. For example, by asking the question that among the landscape A, B, C, which one do you prefer to travel/live/get away from? One can rank the landscape A, B, C according to his/her own evaluation standard. In that case, the landscape is counted and measured, although no numeric measurement stands out there. My point here is that Ingold treats “landscape” as a non-countable and non-measurable concept because he singles out landscape as an individual concept and avoids the comparison with other landscapes. More importantly, I think there is no need to give a definition of landscape as it covers all. Instead, it might be legitimate to define it in a specific context.
Besides, the discussion of the chapter 8 is centered on the positions of the indigenous people and immigrant settlers to the landscape. Some illustrated the instance of the Sammi people who dwell in Stockholm. They argued that it is political or academic concerns, whereas for the Sammi this is not a problem because even they moved to Stockholm, they still connect with their ancestors and their own cultures remained in some way. I doubt that because they didn’t consider the geographic width and the complexity in ethnicity for their arguments. To illustrate: (1) what if the Sammi people moved not to Stockholm, but somewhere much further, where the culture and tradition are completely different (Asia, Africa, for example), what would the position of the Sammi people be towards the landscape, if they cannot colonise the land or change the local culture? (2) The Sammi is actually a bad account of the ethnicity issue. This is because the ethnic constitution of Swedish is relatively simple compared to many of the countries in the world and Swedish people might be delightful to accept the Sammi people as well as their culture since the Sammi has long resided here in Scandinavia. But I am sure not every society is welcoming to the outsiders or say ethnic minorities. A devastating example is how the Nazi treats the Jew. This means, if the Sammi lives, not in Stockholm, but somewhere in which the culture is different and the indigenous people are hostile, they would not live a happy life as they are today. In my opinion, what determines the attitude of the indigenous people towards the landscape surrounds them depends highly on the ethnic group they belong to, to which time frame do they sire to their ancestors and what kind of social atmosphere haunts them.
|April 15, 2014 at 14:07 #12356|
My first impression, when I started my reading of Tim Ingold’s book, was that the texts were very dense and complex, so it was hard for me to digest and evaluate his perception in the beginning. The following idea was that author used material and arguments are quite abstract and hardly could be implemented in the more practical approach or serve as the argument for the environmental history research. However, the author elevates interesting and controversial ideas that shake up the traditional and sometime static perception of the surrounding nature with all the scales, layers and actors involved in it. Thus Tim Ingold for me could be understood as more ideological mentor that would throw different light to the well-know issues and discussions.
Regarding the two chapters that was compulsory for the seminar plus following the discussion during the seminar, my preferences come to the “Temporality of the Landscapes”. The idea to perceive the landscape as the qualitative and heterogeneous, as well as discuss the entity of it, let us resurrect it and make it complex and dynamic. Even though this kind of approach may pose some new issues in understanding the environment, but at the same time it fulfills the gaps in the network of interdependent between nature and human. Thus the key actors, which shape the world and transform behavior, become not only the humans, but also the nature likewise. As the environmental historians, this approach offers us different paradigm to interpret the boundaries that create the relationship between human and the nature.
As the optional reading, I selected chapter “Building, dwelling, living: How animals and people make themselves at home in the world” and my reasoning frankly was, because the name sounded similar to the Martin Heidegger text “Building Dwelling Thinking”. However, when I started looking closer to the text I was nicely surprised and intrigued by Tim Ingold’s ideas. The two questions he entices reader attention by asking, “what is means to say that an environment is built?” and “by what right do we conventionally identify the artificial with the ‘man-made’?” (Ingold:2000, p. 174). This is very nice minimal twist from the traditional discussion then it is focusing on: “what built environment means?”; to the more philosophical as well as social-ecological view when the separation between human and nature starts to interplay and creates the ebb that separates humans from the others – environment constructing organism.
|April 15, 2014 at 14:34 #12360|
NISA DEDIC, REFLECTION ON INGOLD 14TH APRIL 2014
QUOTED TEXT: Deleuze, Guattari. A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, 1987
|April 15, 2014 at 15:58 #12361|
Reflection by Yaqi Fu 2014-04-14 seminar
In the chapter 8, Ingold examined the idea of indigenous people, and upon which he posed some categories that can be used to distinguish these indigenous people, like ancestry, generation, substance, memory and land. These categories are interesting and on the other side, I would say, are quite common. Actually, I bear these characters. Then I think, maybe all human can be called indigenous to certain land, or landscape in a sense. If everyone can be an indigenous as I would suppose, what is the meaning of indigenous study? The meaning may lie in the land, or landscape. Every indigenous person has, or imagines a specific land from its own living trial. Land is maybe the foremost character that can distinguish people. From chapter 8 I going to the chapter 11, what I find is exactly Ingold’s idea about land, and landscape. The temporality of landscape is what I find en interesting idea. Landscape is always changing, but indigenous people’s image of their land would not change so fast. How to reconcile with this contrast? Maybe the indigenous people’s land exists only in mind. When they come out of their land, the image would be frozen, and last whenever. So here what I reflect is that land or landscape is one thing, and people’s self identity would be another thing, which mostly based on the memory of land, but not changed as landscape’s variation.
|April 15, 2014 at 16:07 #12362|
I am both bewildered and intrigued by Ingolds thoughts. I regard his ideas as a springboard for new analyzes – to give inspiration and to challenge ordinary mind paths of scholars.
|April 15, 2014 at 16:26 #12363|
Sorry for a late post.
Wenzel Steinig – Reflections on Tim Ingold (14th April)
“There is a paradox at the heart of modern cartography. The more it aims to furnish a precise and comprehensive representation of reality, the less true to life this representation appears. … The world of our experience is a world suspended in movement, that is continually coming into being as we – through our own movement – contribute to its formation. In the cartographic world, by contrast, all is still and silent. … no sunlight nor moonlight, … no variations of light or shade, no cloads, no shadows or reflections, forests and pastures are devoid of animal life, houses and streets are empty of people and traffic. To dismiss all this … is perverse, to say the least. For it is no less than the stuff of life itself. … Where nothing moves there is nothing to which one can respond. … These observations should finally lay to rest the cartographic illusion, namely that the world is pre-prepared as a stage upon which living things propel themselves about, from one point to another. Life in this view is an internal property of objects, transported upon the exterior surface of a lifeless earth. … Contrary to this assumption, life is not contained within things, nor is it transported about. It is rather laid down along paths of movement. … Ways of life are not therefore detemined in advance, as routes to be followed, but have continually to be worked out anew.”
I chose this quotation in order to talk about a specific idea and not the whole range of ideas Ingold confronts the reader with, as this would lead to a very broad and abstract reflection.
The 4 statements:
Now I don’t want to get into a deep discussion of the philosophical foundations of Ingold’s perception of what life is. Instead I will extract a specific implication of his reasoning, namely that cartography failed its task to build on living ways of orientation, that imply change, which means dislocation and rearrangement of its elements. What I wonder is what a map fulfilling such requirements looks like. It must be alive as the things it shows. Does that mean: No maps anymore? Or animated maps tracking the faintest movements of what they depict? Degressive maps, which show a 3D view of the observer’s location and slowly slide into a bird’s eye map view the farther a point on the map is from the observer’s location?
As Ingold seldomly uses the world system, one could call him a systems thinker in disguise. Systems thinking tries to avoid thinking of things as parts or wholes of a system, as this neglects either their self-organising capacities or their connections to and dependence on other parts of the system.
|April 15, 2014 at 16:33 #12364|
Reply to Morag Ramsey
I agree, that while he sets out to challenge the hegemonic categorization of indigenous, he also (to some extent) provides a re-interpretation of who or what is ‘indigenous’. I, personally, consider this a by-product, as his main goal is to critique. But I do not think that he considers keeping the divide between indigenous and non-indigenous (although in the paper he does not go against this divide). As you said, this division is too simplistic.
Ingold connects the indigenous people of Manitoba and Australia, not because all indigenous people perceive the world in the same way, but because they perceive the world differently from how the universal hegemonic UN categorisation says they do. They helped to bring his point across that the genealogical model, a model which perceives time as a horizontal and vertical lines disassociated with each other, does not accurately represent how indigenous people ‘dwell’ in the world.
What Ingold is proposing in his paper, is not another universal characterisation of what or who is indigenous. But a genealogical model converted through the lens of phenomenology into a rhizomic one.
|April 15, 2014 at 17:50 #12365|
Reply to Wenzel Steinig
I found your refinement of the response and the questions you asked to be rather interesting. I have to say that my feeling with Ingold in general is he is not offering practical steps to take to change what he analyzes (such as maps) but simply is deconstructing their purposes and consequences. I suppose this analysis is a mandatory step when/if one wants to change the way humans interact with the world. I would guess that despite deconstructing and criticizing the impact of maps on human’s relationship with the world, Ingold probably still finds instances where he has to use them and is probably not designing an alternate guiding system for humans. It would be very interesting if he was though, and I do wonder how Ingold interacts with the very world he spends so much time thinking about. There is a lot of abstraction and quite a bit of impracticality in applying some of Ingold’s ideas. I suppose a lot of that is rooted in the way the world is organized and thought about today. Ingold definitely offers some challenging and interesting perspectives nonetheless.
|April 15, 2014 at 18:01 #12366|
Reply to Ellen Lindblom
Your reflection, Ellen, focuses on Ingold chapter about the indigenous people, in which author applies genealogical and relational models that are used in the analyses to get better concept of this minority group. However, I could not agree that Tim Ingold dismisses any of the models nor that he creates new model (as you called Ingolds model), but he use them together to supplement each other.
The other thing, in the reflection you get involve into the political discussion about indigenous people and their rights. Even more, you are suggesting possible variables of the policy making in the ideal democratic world. However, I do not think that this is Tim Ingold’s aspiration in the chapter. He is questioning the concept used in the political setting as well as he is trying to start discussion that could help better to understand indigenous people’s entity and their relationship with the nature.
The last part of your reflection is a bit confusing, at least for me and it is hard to make sense what are your intentions. As I understand the discussion you are offering is about the beneficial side of knowing your descent, which could help us better to comprehend our own behavior. I fully agree with you as individual and as historian, the appreciation of the past and the ancestry helps to define your entity and your place in world.
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