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Radical changes of familiar surroundings: Challenges from the new and the strange
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2014 (English)In: Landscape as a factor in creating identity / [ed] Wojciech Bedyński, István Povedák, Warszava: Visegrad , 2014, 93-102 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Several wind power companies plan to build wind farms in a forest region in the interior of mid Sweden. So far, one wind farm is built and in operation. The projects will incorporate almost 500 wind turbines within an area of over 100 square kilometres, each of them up to 170 meters in height. This means that large industrial estates are emerging "in the middle of wilderness". As a consequence, the wind turbines will be widely visible. Fortunately, it may seem, the area is sparsely populated but people live permanently in the area even though they are few. Approximately 450 persons will be able to see wind turbines from their homes. However, radical changes in the local environment are not a new occurrence for the residents. During the previous century and earlier, the forest has been the object for systematic exploitation by the forest industry. Periodically sections of the forest are clear-cut according to a predetermined schedule. For the residents, this means they will sooner or later witness that the forest visible from their dwellings, at least in part, will be devastated and disappear.

The discussion in the article is limited to the very sight of this visual field, or landscape, i.e., to the material world of forests and mountains that people daily and routinely may see from their homesteads. In this continuous encounter with the surrounding landscape in the place they call their own, people come to know, trust, and relate to it in such a way that they feel a familiarity to it. In other words, the landscape plays an important role in the constitution of their self-identity. This raises the question: what happens to people if this landscape to which they feel so belonged is suddenly changed, or in the worst case, is destroyed?

As part of a recently started fieldwork in the area I plan, among other issues, to explore how people relate to changes in the forest landscape as viewed from the place where they dwell and call home. As previously noted, these changes deal with clear-cut areas, and recently also with wind turbines which appear or will appear as new and strange phenomena in their lifeworld. Drawing on my own sensorial impressions from being there, which also includes conversations with residents in the area, in this article I will pay special attention to how the locals, and I myself, on common existential human grounds, actually experience and visually interact with this alterity.

Following the anthropologist Michael Jackson in his reasoning on how human beings treat and manage new technology (2005:111-141), I will use an existential-phenomenological approach to elucidate how people’s attitude to changes in the physical environment of their dwelling places are linked to human anxieties about the strange, the new and the other. I will argue that the relationship between humans and the surrounding landscape is to be considered social and reciprocal in character, as between subjects. Like the interaction with another person, forest landscapes have the potential to become a part of us or being separated from us, as an alien other.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Warszava: Visegrad , 2014. 93-102 p.
Keyword [en]
anthropology, landscape, wind power
National Category
Ethnology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-111885ISBN: 978-83-930827-1-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-111885DiVA: diva2:873842
Available from: 2015-11-25 Created: 2015-11-25 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved

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Berglund-Lake, Håkan
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Department of culture and media studies
Ethnology

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