An Anthropology of Landscape: The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

An Anthropology of Landscape: The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

by Christopher Tilley Professor of Anthropology & Archaeology, UCL, Kate Cameron-Daum

NOOK Book(eBook)

$6.99 $7.73 Save 10% Current price is $6.99, Original price is $7.73. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now
LEND ME® See Details

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781911307464
Publisher: U C L Press, Limited
Publication date: 02/01/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 346
Sales rank: 1,099,354
File size: 17 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Christopher Tilley is Professor of Anthropology at UCL. He has written and edited numerous books on archaeology, anthropology and material culture studies. His recent books include The Materiality of Stone (2004), Handbook of Material Culture (ed. 2006), Body and Image (2008) and Interpreting Landscapes (2010).

Kate Cameron-Daum holds BSc and MRes degrees in Anthropology from UCL. She is an independent researcher and environmental volunteer, and is active in local politics.

Christopher Tilley is Professor of Anthropology at UCL. He has written and edited numerous books on archaeology, anthropology and material culture studies. His recent books include The Materiality of Stone (2004), Handbook of Material Culture (ed. 2006), Body and Image (2008), Interpreting Landscapes (2010) and An Anthropology of Landscape (2017).
Kate Cameron-Daum holds BSc and MRes degrees in Anthropology from UCL. She is an independent researcher and environmental volunteer, and is active in local politics.

Read an Excerpt

An Anthropology of Landscape

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

By Christopher Tilley, Kate Cameron-Daum

UCL Press

Copyright © 2017 Christopher Tilley and Kate Cameron-Daum,
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-911307-46-4


The anthropology of landscape: materiality, embodiment, contestation and emotion


Landscape is a subject of study that belongs to nobody. It has long been studied in various ways and under various guises by geologists, social and cultural geographers, planners, ecologists, historians and art historians, archaeologists and anthropologists. Landscapes form the basis for much poetry and innumerable novels and are thus of interest to literary critics. Discussions of landscape are a mainstay of much social and political journalism. To be interested in landscape is thus to enter a promiscuous field criss-crossed by different theoretical and methodological perspectives, values and interests. To some this undoubtedly makes the topic exasperating; nobody can adequately define or tie down the term, it is out of control and therefore of no analytical value. To others, such as ourselves, the inherent ambiguity of the term and the diversity of approaches and perspectives used to study it is precisely that which makes the study of landscape so interesting and valuable. Such a topic is inexhaustible and unbounded; rhizomic rather than rooted (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 5–25), perspectives on landscape pop up anywhere and often in an unpredictable manner. In many of these studies the term never appears because others such as space and place and the environment – even more broadly, the world – subsume it.

Landscape is thus an absent presence in a huge body of scholarship. In anthropology, books with landscape in the title were virtually absent twenty-five years ago (Tilley 1994). Since then there has been a growing interest in and development of landscape studies in books (Bender 1993; Hirsch and O'Hanlon 1995; Feld and Basso 1996; Ingold 2000; Bender and Winer 2001; Stewart and Strathern 2003; Tilley 2006; Arnason et al. 2012; Jarowski and Ingold 2012) and in many journal articles. While the traditional output of research in social and cultural anthropology has been the ethnographic monograph hardly a single one has appeared foregrounding the study of landscape as a topic worthy of consideration in its own right during the last two decades. Ethnographic studies of landscape are thus usually compressed into small vignettes within an overall disciplinary field that swallows them up. An exception can be found in the recent studies of Laviolette (2011a; 2011b). One of these volumes is about landscape only in a metaphorical sense, its focus actually being on extreme sports such as cliff jumping, extreme surfing and urban parkour. The other considers a huge region, Cornwall in south-west England, from a variety of different perspectives, with its chief focus being how cultural metaphors of identity are materialized. In its consideration of a variety of different social groups – amateur footballers, artists, farmers, fisherfolk, immigrants, landscape gardeners, scholars and tourists – it comes closest to the general perspective taken up in this volume. But Laviolette's landscape analysis is on a macro scale. It embraces a whole series of different landscapes within Cornwall, like a series of Chinese boxes, one inside the other. His informants, by and large, don't bump into each other in their daily lives as they are dispersed over a huge peninsula. This study by contrast considers a small-scale landscape from different individual and social perspectives, enabling us to consider embodiment, materiality and contestation in a quite different manner because our informants are constantly co-present with others in the same landscape.

This book is an extended study of a particular rural landscape in south-west England. While we have no wish to rigidly define the term landscape we want to briefly highlight below what we regard as the main features of this particular landscape study and what it may have to offer.

• Biography: we examine the biographies of persons and the manner in which the landscape becomes part of whom they are, what they do and how they feel.

• Place: we discuss the manner in which different individuals are involved in place-making activities, that is to say how they name places, sometimes not places on any Ordnance Survey topographic map, the places they like or dislike (Tuan's topophilia and topophobia; Tuan 1974, 1977). In this respect we consider landscape as being a set of relationships between places in whichmeaning is grounded in existential consciousness, event, history and association: wisdom 'sits in places' (Basso 1996).

• Motility: we discuss the manner in which persons and groups move across the heathland landscape: the paths that they follow and the manner in which they move, on their own or accompanied by others. The temporality of movement and the sequences in which persons encounter places along the way may be fundamental to how people experience landscapes and thus feel about them (Tilley 1994: 27ff.; Ingold 2007, 2011).

• Mediation: we discuss how the manner in which the heathland is encountered and understood alters according to whether people walk across it (and the manner in which they walk; Ingold and Vergunst 2008; Tilley 2012) or whether their encounter is technologically mediated – by modes of transport such as cycling; by activities involving tools such as fishing, flying model aircraft or holding a rifle; by riding across it on a horse; or by being accompanied by a dog.

• Agency, aesthetics, and well-being: we consider what the landscape, as a sensuously encountered material form, does for people and in reciprocal relationship what it does for them (Gell 1998; Milton 2002; Tilley 2004, 2008, 2010; Laviolette 2011a).

• Conflict and contestation: we discuss the ways in which differing attitudes and values to landscape relate to different modes of encounter and priorities: the politics of landscape (Bender and Winer 2001; Tilley 2006).

• Nature and culture: what do these terms mean to people in the context of this landscape? While academics happily dispute the value of the opposition (e.g. Descola and Palsson 1996; Descola 2013; Darrier 1999; Strang 1997; Ingold 2000; Castree and Braun 2001; MacNaughton and Urry 1998), nature is to others an invaluable term informing their environmental ethics and politics and their encounters with the world. To strip a concept of nature away may thus have unintended and disempowering social and political effects in terms of a rapidly developing global crisis in which humanity is destroying the environment on which it depends.

We consider the archaeological and historical development of this landscape in a companion volume to this. Anthropology rapidly turns into history. In fact it is already history by the time that it is published. The ethnographic present of this book is the period 2008–2012, when the fieldwork was carried out. We wish to elaborate below in much more detail on four key concepts that inform the structure of the entire book: materiality, embodiment, contestation and emotion.


A considerable amount of recent scholarship concerned with landscape has stripped it of its materiality. By this we mean that the research is thoroughly mediated by discourses and representations. Examples include writings, maps, photographs, paintings, drawings, an entire apparatus by means of which we vicariously inform ourselves about something out there and distant from our desks. We see and understand landscapes through the representations of others and, in turn, these representations become the object of further discourses. So in a somewhat bizarre manner cultural geographers Cosgrove and Daniels can define landscape as 'a cultural image, a way of representing things' (1988: 11). Matless (1998) discusses the English rural landscape largely in terms of its iconographic representation. Images take precedence to people and place. Other scholars similarly taking a 'post- structuralist' turn instead assimilate landscape to text. Duncan conceives landscape as 'one of the central elements in a cultural system, a text' (Duncan 1990: 17). Such a text is a signifying system through which a social system is communicated and experienced: one reads it like a book, and one does not necessarily need to be there in order to do that, to experience it; indeed one does not need to talk to anybody in order to write about it in a univocal fashion (see for example Gregory's astute comments (Gregory 1994: 298ff.) on Soja's (1989) representation of the Los Angeles urban landscape). Daniels and Rycroft (1993) are content to map modern Nottingham through the novels of Paul Sillitoe, rather than gaining knowledge through walking the streets. We are not arguing that pictorial or textual representations of landscape are uninteresting or unimportant to analyse (see e.g. Laviolette's anthropological mapping of Cornish identities in terms of images (2011b: 80ff.), nor contesting that they may constitute very powerful ways through which people know and experience physical landscapes, so much so that texts or imagery begin to constitute and structure encounters and experience of material landscapes. Quite the contrary, it is just that they have tended to dominate much discussion. Indeed, they have been taken by some as defining what landscapes actually are and what the object of a landscape study actually is. We offer a thoroughly materialist approach here as an antidote and counterpoint.

From our perspective in this book representations of landscape, textual or pictorial, are of secondary significance and we should treat them as such; they are selective and partial, and often highly ideological, ways of seeing and knowing. In fact it is through material experience that we can understand the ideological nature of these representations, the manner in which they quite literally frame the landscape, far better than by undertaking any desk-bound analysis. We make the simple and somewhat blindingly obvious comment that walking is not a text, cutting down a gorse bush is not a text, training to be a soldier is not a text, a body is not a text, hills and rivers and trees are not texts. A materialist approach to landscape is thus a return to the real, and we regard it as a way to reinvigorate and redirect the study of landscape. The move is from representation to the materially grounded messiness of everyday life and the minutiae of material practices that constitute it. A stress on the materiality of landscape means that the anthropologist/researcher needs to be there, to experience the landscape through the sensual and sensing body, through his or her corporeal body. The body becomes a primary research tool. Such an emphasis on being there and observing and interacting with others stresses performativity: the manner in which our identities and those of others are constituted in and through action, and the manner in which these identities come into being through performances of identity (Butler 1990).

Fortunately there is a very long tradition in anthropology of participant observation and subaltern studies on which to draw, one that has continued to have a very significant impact on the ways in which anthropologists have written about landscape and that is manifested in many of the various studies cited above. As Ingold has cogently noted: 'we owe our very being to the world we seek to know. In a nutshell participant observation is a way of knowing from the inside ... Only because we are already of the world, only because we are fellow travellers along with beings and things that command our attention, can we observe them' (Ingold 2013: 5). We also draw on another rich and increasingly prominent anthropological tradition, that of material culture studies themselves (for recent work see e.g. Tilley et al. 2006; Miller 1998, 2005, 2010; Ingold 2013). These involve an insistence that persons and things are mutually constitutive. A landscape is certainly a complex kind of thing. Unlike an artefact, we cannot grasp it in our hands or move it around at will. It forms a material medium in which we dwell and move and think. We are not somehow outside it, or contained by it; landscape is part of ourselves, a thing in which we move and think. Therefore we cannot think of it in any way we like. It is not a blank slate for conceptual or imaginative thought but a material form with textures and surfaces, wet and dry places, scents and sounds, diurnal and seasonal rhythms, places and paths and cultural forms and built architecture that, through differential experience, is constitutive of different identities. So the landscape is both inside the body and outside of it, both part of whom we are and a thing apart. Persons and landscapes are entangled in a network of material and social relations (for general discussions of the intertwining of persons and things and their consequences see Olsen2010; Hicks and Beaudry 2010; Hodder 2012) providing both affordances and constraints for the performance of identities that always occur in particular material and cultural contexts. Landscape is thus an intertwining of the flesh of the body and the flesh of the world, to use Merleau-Ponty's metaphor (Merleau-Ponty 1968: 142). Landscape is undoubtedly a very complex material thing to attempt to understand or make sense of since it is, to use Latour's (1993) term, aquasi-object, something constructed and made; a cultural product, but having an independent existence with its own rhythms and purposes. We are touched by this fleshly material world of landscape and in turn touch it. In the process we transform ourselves .


Embodiment is a key term informing the discussions of this book in the individual chapters in Part I and II. Here we wish to briefly outline what is meant by this term from a phenomenological perspective broadly inspired by the philosophical writings of Merleau-Ponty (1962,1968), and other interpreters of his work. Collapsing a mind/body dualism, the body is both object and subject, but the relation between the two is internal so that subjectivity does not arise in the mind or in consciousness but is in the body. Both subjectivity and the physical character of the body as a thing or object are related to the corporeality of body and mind: what a body is and what a body can do. The whole notion of a disembodied consciousness is simply a manifestation of idealist thought itself. Such a consciousness cannot exist because the mind inheres in the body and is not independent from the body. It follows that the kinds of distinctively human bodies that we have are part and parcel of the manner in which we think about and experience the world. Our consciousness is thus structured in tandem with our bodies as sensuous, carnal and subjective things.

Merleau-Ponty argues that our sensuous perceptual activity ends in objects, a position that runs counter to the naïve empiricist view that assumes a world of impressions and stimuli that exist in themselves in relation to which the body responds and reacts. Instead, the body constitutes both the cognitive ground of culture and its existential ontological ground (Lakoff and Johnson 1999; Cszordas 1990; Desjarlais and Throop 2011; Jackson 1995, 1996). Objects are a secondary result of thought. This does not mean that these objects are immaterial or purely a product of the mind. Instead objects are part of the same social and material world that we inhabit. We 'produce' or 'recognize' them through reflecting on that world and the process is indeterminate insofar as we can never sense the entire world from the determinate situatedness of our bodies. We exist in the world and relate to it from a point of view – the setting of our bodies. Soperception begins in the 'preobjective' material and subjective body and ends in the objects that the body perceives in relation to it: 'my experience breaks forth into things and transcends itself in them, because it always comes into being within the framework of a certain setting in relation to the world which is the definition of my body' (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 303).

The bodily setting in relation to the world that we are concerned with in this book is that of landscape, which provides, we argue, an existential ground for our embodied being: we are both in it and of it, we act in relation to it, it acts in us. Landscape is a product of our reflective activity arising from our pre-reflective or pre-objective bodily relation to it (for a detailed discussion see Marratto 2012). Bodies and landscapes thus produce each other in mutual relation, in the process of motility and inhabitation. In the most basic sense the agency of landscape is embodied because it acts on us through the mediation of our bodies. The thinking, subjective mind emerges in relation to the landscape and ends in its perception. Thus the body may be both subject and object, sensing and sensed within a landscape setting. It may be experienced from the 'inside', through kinaesthetic sensations conveying information about posture, position and movement, or from the 'outside' as a body among others intersubjectively constituted through a mutual relation with other persons in culture.


Excerpted from An Anthropology of Landscape by Christopher Tilley, Kate Cameron-Daum. Copyright © 2017 Christopher Tilley and Kate Cameron-Daum,. Excerpted by permission of UCL Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


List of figures,
List of tables,
1 The anthropology of landscape: materiality, embodiment, contestation and emotion,
Part I: The heathland as taskscape,
2 Managing the Pebblebed heathlands,
3 Bushes that move: the Royal Marines,
4 Environmentalists: the giving and the taking away,
5 Quarrying pebbles,
Part II: The landscape as leisurescape,
6 Introduction: the public and the heathland,
7 Modes of movement through the landscape: cycling and horse riding,
8 The cry of the Commons: walking through furze,
9 Art in and from the landscape,
10 Fishing and the watery pursuit of 'pets',
11 Model aircraft flyers: spirals and loops in the sky,
12 Conclusions,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews