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Industrious Landscaping: The Making and Managing of Natural Resources at Søby Brown Coal Beds
- Brichet, Nathalia, Hastrup, Frida
- Journal of ethnobiology 2018 v.38 no.1 pp. 8-23
- Anthropocene epoch, anthropology, business enterprises, coal, forests, grazing, historical records, landscapes, landscaping, mining, natural history, pastures, people
- This article has a twofold ambition. It offers a history of landscaping at Søby brown coal beds—a former mining site in western Denmark—and a methodological discussion of how to write such a study. Exploring this specific industrial landscape through a series of projects that have made different natural resources appear, we show that even what is recognized as resources shifts over time according to radically different and unpredictable agendas. This indicates that the Søby landscape is fundamentally volatile, as its resourcefulness has been seen interchangeably to shift between the brown coal business, inexpensive estates for practically savvy people, pasture for grazing, and recreational forest, among other things. We discuss these rifts in landscape history, motivated by what we refer to as industriousness, to show that, at sites such as Søby, both natural resources and historical developments are made through particular ad hoc perspectives, providing their own means and ends. This view of natural resources and development processes calls for a detailed analysis of shifting landscape projects and has an essential methodological corollary, namely that fieldwork must be improvisational, situated, open-ended, and somewhat random. We thus develop a method of “dustballing,” which implies being blown here and there, combining historical records and ethnographic description in an associative kind of fieldwork that somehow navigates itself. Our aim is thus to let methodology and our story of a ruined landscape mirror one another to attempt a novel kind of natural history suitable for the Anthropocene.