Landscape and social justice

Authored by: Gunhild Setten , Katrina Myrvang Brown

The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415684606
eBook ISBN: 9780203096925
Adobe ISBN: 9781136220609


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As perhaps with any newcomer to a country struggling to recognize and negotiate the local norms of encounter, I had now for many weeks been cycling around the city and surrounding woods in a heightened state of awareness – and at times apprehension – longing for the completion of this discomforting apprenticeship of mobile citizenship. Sometimes coming up against the hard edges of social expectation on the trail just made me feel clumsy or mildly embarrassed. But other times it was felt as a sharp sanction. On one such occasion I was cycling along an undulating coastal woodland trail popular with many townsfolk. I had carefully chosen to explore at a time I knew would be less busy with other users, although it was still necessary for the small numbers of walkers, runners and cyclists there to actively orchestrate their mutual passage from time to time. Approaching from behind two women walking in the same direction as me, I was keen to do the right thing in order to have a congenial encounter and prevent them getting a fright. So I shouted what I thought to be a friendly ‘hallo’ and slowed down to a near stand-still. One woman jumped to the side and shouted ‘All you have to do is use a bell!’ I felt the sinking gut feeling of hurt and confusion. I didn’t have a bell nor would I have felt comfortable using one as in my woods at home using a bell would be construed more as an impudent ‘I demand you let me through’ than a polite ‘I am here and would like to pass’. Reeling viscerally for the rest of the outing I thought it unlikely that I would enjoy that trail again.

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