The Anthropological Study of Landscape

  • Martin Rössler
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 4)


This chapter provides an overview of how anthropology has examined various aspects of landscape not only in Africa but on a global scale. Treating landscape basically as a cultural concept, anthropologists have investigated a broad spectrum of landscape issues in many different cultures. Among these topics, particular attention is here given to approaches focussing on the relation between nature and culture, studies on historical imaginations and notions of identity connected to landscape, as well as to studies of cognition of and orientation in landscapes. Finally, recent research on the role of landscapes within the political economy of globalisation is addressed. The multitude of issues investigated by the ‘anthropology of landscape’ has over the years been paralleled by shifting theoretical orientations. Whereas semiotics, hermeneutics, and interpretive as well as cognitive theory were prevailing earlier, many recent studies draw on postmodernist deconstruction. The heterogeneity of systematic issues and theoretical orientations in anthropological studies on landscape have so far prevented establishing a theoretical notion of landscape of cross-cultural applicability. Yet this contribution is intended to set a broader systematic framework for the studies on landscapes in northeast and southern Africa that are presented in this volume.


Cultural Landscape Identity Construction Anthropological Study Local Landscape Cultural Concept 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to Aruna Dufft for her assistance in compiling and critically assessing the material for this chapter.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Rössler
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Cultural and Social AnthropologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

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