Where Settlements and the Landscape Merge

Towards an Integrated Approach to the Spatial Dimension of Social Relations
  • Thomas Widlok
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 4)


The separation between ‘settlement’ and ‘landscape’ is deeply entrenched in European thought and also in the worldview of many agrarian societies. In anthropology this is reflected in the distinct development of an anthropology of landscape on the one hand and an anthropology of built forms. The comparative use of permeability maps is introduced in this chapter as a promising route towards cross-fertilisation between these two hitherto separate bodies of theory and data. Permeability, the ways in which space allows or prevents humans from passing through places, is particularly relevant for our understanding of the fuzzy zone where settlements and the landscape merge. More generally, permeability maps help us to explore a more dynamic view of the relationship between spatial and social relations because they allow us to consider what one may call the ‘social agency of space’. The case material presented in this chapter was collected in the course of field research with ≠ Akhoe Hai//om ‘San’ or ‘Bushmen’ and their neighbours in northern Namibia but an explicit comparative perspective is taken that leads beyond this region.


Access Route Spatial Layout Space Syntax Agrarian Society Spatial Language 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Widlok
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for PsycholinguisticsNijmegenNetherlands

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