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Unit information: Anthropology of Landscapes in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Anthropology of Landscapes
Unit code ARCH20063
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. HadziMuhamedovic
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


What are landscapes? How might they be ‘good to think with’? Are they closer to ‘nature’ or ‘culture’ (or, is this a fraught question)? How are their outlines produced? Are they primarily a spatial category? What are their relations to ‘human’ (or ‘non-human’) ways of being in the world?

The first part of this unit is a critical introduction to anthropological perspectives on space, place and landscape. Rather than taking these concepts to be self-explanatory, we want to rigorously question them through key anthropological debates and your own practice-based projects. Although a ubiquitous term within and beyond anthropology, ‘landscape’ has its own discernible history. The word has travelled to English language in the late sixteenth century through the landschap of the ‘Dutch Golden Age’ painting. We start by unpacking the term genealogically, arguing that it is tied to particular cultural productions of ‘seeing’ and representations of nature. We trace the shift from the use of landscape as an ethnographic framing device towards its renditions as an analytic concept, particularly since the last two decades of the twentieth century and the ‘spatial turn’ in the humanities and social sciences.

In the second part of the unit, we employ ‘landscape’ as a heuristic device, a tool to raise questions about ontologies as they appear in different spatial-temporal arrangements of the world. In that sense, we see how landscapes offer us a way into particular apertures on the world. We consider what different stories and maps ‘do’ to space, see how landscapes are longed for and contested, memorialised and forgotten, protected and systematically destroyed, lived and embodied, walked through and made sense of in various ways. Our discussions raise inevitable questions about politics and power, identity and belonging, relatedness, economy and social change, cosmology and ritual, agency, affect, materiality, etc.

Throughout the course, our discussions are primarily based in fine-grained anthropological analyses of landscapes, but we also reach for the findings of philosophy and phenomenology, sociology, human geography, post-colonial and feminist theory, visual arts, music and poetry. Appreciating both the diversity and the analytical value of landscapes, you will produce your own practice-based projects in Bristol and be offered an opportunity to present your findings to the group.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, successful students will be able to:

1. Explain and evaluate critically the key anthropological theories and debates about space, place and landscape and disciplinary developments on these topics

2. Demonstrate a nuanced anthropologically-situated understanding of the different ways in which landscapes are lived, imagined, maintained and opposed

3. Explain landscapes in terms of the moral, political, epistemological and ontological questions they bring into view

4. Demonstrate a critical understanding of how anthropological methods and methodologies are used in research space, place and landscape

5. Employ anthropological methods and methodologies to research space, place and landscape

Teaching details

Twenty hours of letures (which include student-led discussion and Karl Poper-style debates)

Two hours of student-led symposium to present project findings in the final week

Assessment Details

  • One essay based on your project (50%; 2500 words). Assesses ILOs 1-5.
  • One PowerPoint presentation to succinctly describe your project findings (10%; 5-10 slides). Assesses ILOs 4-5.
  • One 24 hour take-home examination (40%). Assesses ILOs 1-3.

Reading and References

  • Hirsch, Eric and Michael O'Hanlon (1995) Anthropology of Landscape: Perspectives on Place and Space. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Lovell, Nadia (ed.) (1998) Locality and Belonging. London: Routledge
  • Cruikshank, Julie (2005) Do Glacier’s Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination. Vancouver: The University of British Columbia Press
  • Bender, Barbara (1993) Landscape: Politics and Perspectives. Oxford: Berg
  • Feld, Steven and Keith Basso (1996) Senses of Place. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press
  • Massey, Doreen (1994) Space, Place and Gender. Oxford: Polity Press
  • Augé, Marc (1995) Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso
  • Kincaid, Jamaica (1994) Lucy. London: Picador