61 LANDSCAPES OF MOTION AND EMOTIONS – Contributions by Katrín Anna Lund

From the beginning of my career my focus has been on landscape; the perception, the experience, the narrative and the making of landscapes. The concept of landscape is not the first thing that comes to people’s mind in relation to tourism studies but in my case, I brought this approach with me into the field through my training as an anthropologist as I will illustrate further below. Even though concept of landscape has not been prevalent for tourism scholars in analytical terms it is nevertheless all around. In fact, in studies about nature-based tourism, urban tourism, tourism planning and infrastructure, to mention some, landscape is most often at issue although the concept is not at forefront in the analysis but rather, it features as an innocent backdrop; a stage, something to be experienced or something to be arranged. In my view many of these studies would often engender more fruitful result if the concept of landscape would be brought to the front as it would generate deeper meaning that embraces the heterogenous and complex relationality that everyday life is composed from, and tourism is a part and parcel of. To illustrate my take on this I will start by discussing in brief my take on landscape as a vital agent, influenced by phenomenological approach before heading on to discussing how I came across the importance of examining landscape and its materialities whilst carrying out fieldwork for my Ph.D. project in Southern Spain and where it has brought me too.

Vital landscapes

Conventionally we tend to think about landscapes as a backdrop to human activities. We think about landscape as a scenery that surrounds people, combination of forms and colours in which people are located. My emphasis, on the other hand brings landscape to the front as a vital agent. Inspired by phenomenological approach, my work demonstrates how landscapes are everything else but backdrop and neither are they simply a stage upon which we act. Landscapes are motional and cease to be disciplined (Bender 2002, Massey 2006, Lund 2010), and as Bender has stated, they are never innocent, rather vibrant, hence vital. As such landscapes are more-than-human agents that we, as human beings, are entangled with in constant interaction. Landscapes affect us at the same time as we continuously affect them through our activities and performances, sometimes unconsciously as we move through them in our everyday lives but also when we attempt to control them, play with them (Sheller and Urry, 2004) and act upon them. This I why landscapes are important when it comes to tourism studies, yet the discipline’s researchers have mostly tended to ignore their vitality, emphasising how they are either designed or impacted upon, not acknowledging their agency.

It can be said the one of the key elements in tourism studies are destinations that are performed in various ways by multiplicity of actors, tourists, locals, stakeholders, product designers, marketing agents, travel firms and travel writers just to name few. Still, the performances exceed the human agency and the texture of the destination, or the landscape itself is important when shaping destinations. Colours, formations, lightscapes and seasons, that often are fluctuating depending on the time of the day or due to weather, if there is rain, sun, wind, dry or damp air, all are elements that generate different textures and tones in landscapes. Landscapes are also, as Bender has pointed out ‘polyvalent and multivocal’ (Bender, 2002: S103). They are assemblages of multiscale and more-than-human narratives, past and present, ‘half-imagined or something held in the memory’ (Bender, 1993: 9). Thus, those who share the same place may live with different landscapes which means that landscape is tension (Rose and Wylie, 2006) through how it is experienced and performed and contested but also because how they are constantly on the move, constantly becoming, providing new appearances, meanings and matters. In other words, landscapes are messy and never simply predictable.

Despite their complicity, landscapes are the key ingredients when it comes to developing and marketing destinations, or when staging tourism. Landscapes, no matter if urban or rural, are designed and presented to people as attractions into which they can step. In that process certain elements of landscape are selected and combined to represent and stand for the destination in question. The elements can be material or subjective but how they are combined is usually meant to create a certain atmosphere (Böhme, 2013; Bille et.al., 2015) for the tourist to step into. Like Urry (1990) pointed out, Paris has the aura of being the romantic city while a picturesque countryside village in the English countryside provides an aura of the country’s past. Thus, when a destination is being created, its landscapes have been ordered to represent certain characteristics (Deleuse and Guttari, 2004) and often to serve as a backdrop. However, as I emphasised above, landscapes as vital refuse to be disciplined and furthermore, landscapes are complicated and messy and, thus, can react to the visitor in multiplicity of ways and often unexpectedly. Therefore, it is important to recognise how landscape materialities enmesh which takes me back to the time when I realised the importance of landscape as concept.

Landscape materialities

I started working with the concept of landscape when doing my Ph.D. at Manchester University, UK. My doctoral degree was in Social Anthropology and according to the discipline’s tradition I was expected to do at least yearlong fieldwork. I was interested in tourism as a mobile force and how it influences places. I wanted to examine it in context to how places are and have always been continuously shaped through variety of movements of human, non-humans, things and ideas. Therefore, the emphasis was on tourism in relation to other forms of mobility from a historical perspective. With this in mind, I headed off to Andalucía in Spain, my chosen place for fieldwork. I was going to settle in a mountain village away from the coast because whilst the coastline of Andalucía was by many perceived as exhausted by the tourism industry many mountainous areas were regarded to be more “authentic”. To make a long story short, things mostly worked out as planned and I stayed for over a year and settled in a village in the mountains of the Alpujarra region, in south of Granada. In times gone by the area had remained isolated because of its altitude in the steep mountains and thus difficult to access and its authenticity was often emphasised by referring to it as the region where time stood still. However, what became obvious to me is that time had moved in variety of direction and at different speeds which made me have to rethink the historical perspective I had previously intended to work from.

The linear history I had read thoroughly before heading of for fieldwork appeared not to be the history the inhabitants in the village had experienced and wanted to tell me about. Rather, when asked about history, they spoke about the conditions of the land, changes in climate usually with a reference to how it used to rain more and how changing natural conditions for agriculture and farming had altered their ways of living. No more did they go to the mountains to stay at their farmsteads for six months a year, over the fertile seasons, to cultivate the land. The farming had become less and less profitable so now people inhabited the village for the whole year and made profit from caring for the tourists, directly and indirectly, who recently had started to visit the village. In fact, it appeared that the ‘history’ people told me about was about the comings and goings of people and materialites in heterogenous context. In short, how I was introduced to this history was on one hand through conversations and interviews regarding everyday life that usually referred to landscape materialities, earthly substances such as rain, plants, animals and clay and the products they provided and still did. On the other hand, conversations about history referred to movements of people to, from and in the place throughout the centuries, or all the way back to the 15th century when the mountains became sanctuary for the Moorish people that had to escape the city of Granada. Their legacy was visible in the landscape through the architecture they brought with them, unique building techniques for houses that still were lived in as well as the irrigation system for the fields. In fact, as people continued to move to and from the place the landscape continued to move and different aspects of the landscape have been brought forth and most recently, with the movements of tourists to the landscape it has become valued as a landscape of leisure, for hiking, horse riding and biking, as landscape of views and vistas decorated with ancient, whitewashed villages that provide a sense of authenticity.

What emerges is how different comings and goings bring forth various combinations of materialities that change the texture of the landscape. The landscape that the tourist may step into is one that combines it as a landscape of leisure, vistas and authenticity because that is how it is promoted. Each and one tourist are at the same time likely to add to this combination for example through buying local products and at the same time make a personal connection to the place. In fact, tourist performances bring forth different landscape materialities which means that the place as a destination is constantly becoming as the landscape takes on new textures. However, the becoming of a place as a tourism destination can be contested as it certainly was the case when I was working in the field. As a destination of leisure, views and vistas, different demands and needs had been created as tourists needed to be hosted and thus houses built, and services such as, restaurants, tour companies, shops to cater. How this was done and operated could result in conflicts as heterogenous groups of people were performing the same place, as tourists, stakeholders and people getting on with their everyday life. Did the new buildings fit in with old ones or was it not important, was the local bar owner still loyal to the inhabitants or did the tourists have priority and, at last, but not least, who really belonged to the surrounding mountains when it was in the process of gaining the status of a national park like happened whilst I was doing the research (Lund, 1998)? This last mentioned certainly brought up directly few issues at stake when it comes to discuss landscape as contested and tensioned, issues regarding being and belonging with landscape and how their materialities should combine and for whom?

Since finishing my doctorate degree in 1998 I have continued to work with the concept of landscape but in different contexts. For a while my focus was on walking which started when I did a research in Scotland on hillwalking (Lund 2005, 2006; Lorimer and Lund, 2003, 2008). In recent years, my focus has been on the creation and development of tourism destinations in Iceland from various perspectives (Lund, 2016, 2015a, 2015b, 2013; Lund and Jóhannesson, 2016, 2014; Lund, Kjartansdóttir and Loftsdóttir 2018; Lund, Loftsdóttir and Leonard 2017; Loftsdóttir and Lund 2016). What appears is that to understand conflicts and debates that arise regarding destination developments demands that tourism scholars consider that concept of landscape as an analytical tool. Our task is to analyse conflicts and issues that arise and to do so it is necessary to understand in depth how people entangle with their landscapes no matter what their position is within them. We must understand the messiness of landscapes, their multivocality and temporalities (Lund and Benediktsson, 2010) and not the least their continuous mobility to get a deeper insight that can open up for possibilities of different landscape combinations. To allow for the agency of vital landscapes recognises the enmeshment of everyday lives that tourism is after all a part and parcel of.


Written by Katrín Anna Lund, University of Iceland


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