Landscape and heritage interplay: Spatial and temporal explorations

  • Mario Katić
  • Nataša Gregorič Bon
  • John Eade


Over the past few decades, landscape and heritage are topics that have been widely discussed in social sciences and humanities alike (Del Mármol, Morell & Chalcraft 2014;Harvey & Waterton 2015; Brumann & Berliner 2016). This is also true of anthropology, where both the topics, whether together or separately, have been approached from a variety of ethnographic contexts and theoretical stances (Herzfeld 1991, 2009, 2016; Brumann & Berliner 2016; Macdonald 2009, 2015). One example is provided by Michael Herzfeld’ s early work which subtly dealt with the meanings of history, heritage and landscape in a Cretan town in Greece.1 He vividly describes in A Place in History (1991), for example, the outcomes of when bureaucracy set on ‘historic conservation meets with the local population’ in Rethemnos, whose inhabitants are suspicious towards the state’s monumentalisation of ‘their’ past and resistant to the official heritagisation of the built landscape (Herzfeld 1991).

What happens when official heritage-making rhetoric meets the local population and their intimate remembrances of the layered past embedded in the landscape where they live? Chapters gathered in this special issue each in their own way explain how these intimate rememberings, local memories, present experiences and future becomings of the material or immaterial past can never be fully contained by the administrative, normative and official understandings of history. However, as the ethnographic material amply illustrates, they are all, with the passage of time, rubbed against with the dominant discourse of protection and preservation of what is now commonly recognized as “cultural heritage”. What, we should ask, is heritage and how is it built, reshaped, or even destroyed? In what ways are its role and meaning often permeated with local structures (such as kinship, custom or tradition) reshaping the landscapes?

This special issue offers a set of nuanced conceptualizations and explanations into what happens when the official and administrative conceptualiations of the historical and monumental past meet with the local histories, intimate remembrances and landmarks of life. As the chapters clearly show, such meetings often disclose multiple entanglements between what is understood and ascribed by administration and what is lived, embodied and emplaced in actual peoples’ lives and their landscape. Moreover, in uncovering and analysing such deep entanglements in particular geographical and sociocultural settings such as Asia (India, China and Japan) and Europe (France and Poland), the chapters in this issue explain how the landscape and heritage are in continuous interplay both forming and reconstituting each other (Harvey 2015). However, this does not bind them solely to processual nature lacking in structural nodes and fixity. Their transfiguration still manages to keep something that stays the same or at least similar. This could be kinship structure (Herzfeld 1991), the religious and spiritual entanglements with a particular landscape (Niedźwiedź, Chapter 3) or claims of appropriation (Bloch, Chapter 1).

Drawing on from different theoretical standpoints and disciplinary approaches (anthropology, cultural studies, human geography and sociology) the chapters gathered in this special issue, each in their own way, focus on two interrelated issues. One of them specifically concerns a deep interplay between landscape and heritage whereas the other shows how in this interplay landscape emplaces as well as generates various temporalities whereas heritage encapsulates and evolves spatiality.