The law of landscape and the landscape of law

The things that matter

Authored by: Kenneth R. Olwig

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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It could be argued that what connects law to landscape depends upon what one means by landscape. It could alternatively be argued that what one means by landscape derives from one’s conception of law. If, in the first instance, one argues, for example, that landscape is some sort of material thing, or aggregation of things, then the legal issues of interest would be those laws concerned with the regulation of that thing, or those things. This is the sort of law with which ordinary lawyers ordinarily deal (Martin and Scherr 2005). If, on the other hand, ideas of law are foundational to landscape, then we will be concerned with law in a more abstract and elevated sense which, as will be seen, is closer to the ideas of law one finds enshrined in national constitutions or international treaties. The difference lies in the distinction made by the anthropologist Bruno Latour, following the philosopher Martin Heidegger, between a thing in the modern sense of a material entity and the original sense of thing as an ancient form of parliament, a moot, or meeting, where people gathered to discuss things and agree upon the laws that would govern them. Of this, Latour writes:

Now, is this not extraordinary that the banal term we use for designating what is out there, unquestionably, a thing, what lies out of any dispute, out of language, is also the oldest word we all have used to designate the oldest of the sites in which our ancestors did their dealing and tried to settle their disputes?

(Latour 2004: 233; see also Latour 2005; Olwig 2002, 2007)

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