People all over the globe are experiencing unprecedented and often hazardous situations as environments change at speeds never before experienced. This edited collection proposes that anthropological perspectives on landscape have great potential to address the resulting conundrums. The contributions build on broadly phenomenological, structuralist and multi-species approaches to environmental perception and experience, but they also argue for incorporating political power into analysis alongside dwelling, cosmology and everyday practice. The book’s 13 ethnographically rich chapters explore how the material and the conceptual are entangled in and as landscapes, but it also looks at how these processes unfold at many scales in time and space, involving different actors with different powers. Thus it reaches towards new methodologies and new ways of using anthropology to engage with the sense of crisis concerning environment, movements of people, climate change and other planetary transformations. Dwelling in political landscapes: contemporary anthropological perspectives builds substantially upon anthropological work by Tim Ingold, Anna Tsing and Philippe Descola and on related work beyond, which emphasises the ongoing and open-ended, yet historically conditioned ways in which humans and nonhumans produce the environments they inhabit. In such work, landscapes are understood as the medium and outcome of meaningful life activities, where humans, like other animals, dwell. This means that landscapes are neither social/cultural nor natural, but socio-natural. Protesting against and moving on from the proverbial dualisms of modern, Western and maybe capitalist thought, is only the first step in renewing anthropology’s methodology for the current epoch, however. The contributions ask how seemingly disconnected temporal, representational, economic and other systemic dynamics fold back on lived experience that are materialised in landscapes.
Foremost through studying how socially valued landscapes become irreversibly disturbed, commodified or subjected to wilful markings or erasures, the book explores a number of approaches to how landscapes are entangled in the ways people gather and organise themselves. Mindful of troubling changes in Earth Systems, all the authors argue from empirics. They show that processes of landscape change are always both habitual and laden with choices. That is, landscape change is political. Undoubtedly, landscape politics is bound up not just in how nature has been imagined, but in long histories of consumption. Today, an alarming quest for raw materials and energy continues to change both political and geological formations. Meanwhile dominant socio-political aspirations mean the exploitation of staggering volumes of cheap resources like fossil fuels in order to sustain economic processes that are as taken-for-granted as they are unsustainable. Like anthropology generally, this book attends to the contextual details buried in such planet-scale pictures.
Building on traditional anthropological strengths, many authors consider the details of how the past is brought into the present – or erased from it – in material flows and sensory awareness, as well as in narratives that are explicitly linked to particular landscapes. Colonial identity formation and the different ways that it links with how landscape is viewed and managed (for instance for resource development for a global market), whether in Southern Africa, Israel/Palestine, the Canadian arctic or Indonesia, is a particularly striking example of how to talk about landscape is also to talk about past, present and future. And as the idea that we inhabit the Anthropocene becomes commonplace, the discipline can meaningfully discuss the current era as one of disavowed ruins as well as of poorly understood multispecies relations.
To think of landscape as historically produced across multiple scales, does not mean ignoring its sensuous qualities let alone its role in cosmological systems. On the contrary, the analyses in the collection attend to the ways people’s movements through the landscape produce it as a material and conceptual resource. Taken together, the book’s ethnographic analyses take on board the unprecedented conditions under which people everywhere are having to make sense and forge relationships to the worlds they inhabit. Since landscapes are not what they used to be, neither can anthropology be.Book Details
The divine kingship and chiefship of the Asante people of central Ghana have been undergoing a shift towards secularization since the start of the colonial era. Timo Kallinen maintains that a close examination of this transformation provides us with a better understanding of secularization processes in Ghana more broadly, and in other post-colonial societies whose historical development likewise differs from that of the modern West, and which have largely confronted secular modernity through encounters with European colonialism. Throughout the volume secularization is understood as a process in modern society whereby divinity is separated from the ways in which both human society is regulated and physical nature is understood to function.
Divine Rulers in a Secular State has been divided into three thematic parts, each with a short theoretical introduction. In the first two, analysis is primarily inspired by the work of Louis Dumont, while in the third the theoretical ideas of Webb Keane and Bruno Latour are of central importance. The undifferentiated order of the pre-colonial Asante kingdom, in which the chiefly and priestly functions of the rulers were not separated, comprises the initial focus. Sacrifices and marriage exchanges, both of which were directed at establishing and perpetuating relations between the living and the spirits of the dead ancestors, are posited as the most important responsibilities of the chief. Also explored are perceptions that the founding of the kingdom and its authority structure are the results of sacrifices offered to various gods by the Asante king and his chiefs.
The second part examines the dissolution of the traditional order since the onset of British colonial occupation. The secularization process was initiated by the aspirations of colonial administrators and missionary bodies who aimed to maintain Christian converts under the ‘political’ authority of their non-Christian chiefs, who were still important ritual leaders. Consequently, it was necessary to start dividing society along ‘political’ and ‘religious’ lines so that only the former was a mandatory concern for all. The kernel of modern citizenship was planted at the same time as the ‘religious’ conscience of individuals started to shape their rights and duties towards their ‘political’ rulers. Furthermore, theories about Asante as a state based on contract and representation were proposed and developed. In the post-colonial era chiefship has been put into the service of the independent nation state – both as an instrument of administration and a nationalistic symbol, while, most recently, chiefs have been depicted as leaders in civil society, even receiving support from global developmental organizations. Yet traditional chieftaincy is strongly criticized by certain Christian groups belonging to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, which still see it as integrally linked to traditional cosmologies.
The third part of the book takes the discussion beyond the separation of the categories of religion and politics. Secularization has also has also entailed the dematerialization of religion, establishing it as something that ought to be understood primarily as mental or spiritual; in a secular society ‘things’ like deities, witchcraft, or sacrifices should not be recognized as proper agents and actions at the level of immanent relations. In Ghana such views are effectively contradicted by religious groups which see spiritual forces as the most powerful agents in social relations. The cases discussed deal with attempted state control of anti-witchcraft activities, the efficiency of protective magic during political upheavals, and Pentecostal notions of demonic influences in secular politics. The Conclusions section brings the themes of the book together by discussing the large-scale effects of the secular project in contemporary Ghanaian society.
Research is based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in Ghana in 2000–2001 and 2005–2006, data drawn from several archival sources located in Ghana and the United Kingdom, and the anthropological and historical literature on Ghana and the Asante.Book Details
Society is never just a localized aggregate of people but exists by virtue of its members’ narrative and conceptual awareness of other times and places. In Jukka Siikala’s work this idea evolves into a broad ethnographic and theoretical interest in worlds beyond the horizon, in the double sense of “past” and “abroad.” This book is a tribute to Jukka’s contributions to anthropology by his colleagues and students and marks his 60th birthday in January 2007. By exploring the near, distant, inward and outward horizons towards which societies project their reality, the authors aim at developing a new, productive language for addressing culture as a way of experiencing and engaging the world.Book Details