"Not lawn, nor pasture, nor mead": Rewilding & the Cultural Landscape

Dissertation, (2018)

Andrea R. Gammon
Radboud University Nijmegen (PhD)
This dissertation is based around conceptual conflicts introduced by the notion of rewilding and the challenges rewilding poses to place and cultural landscapes. Rewilding is a recent conservation strategy interested in the return of wilder, less human-managed environments. Often presented as an antidote to increasingly homogenized, organized, and managed environments, rewilding deliberately opens up space for the return of wild nature, typically by removing human elements that have obstructed or diminished its free reign or by reintroducing locally extinct species to re-activate trophic cascades. There is, however, an increasing awareness that rewilding in many places will threaten cultural landscapes that are prized for their human meanings and histories. This dissertation does not attempt to resolve this conflict but instead takes a hermeneutic interest in it and tries to understand better what is at stake in such a conflict. This is attempted by means of a hermeneutic detour through the concepts of place and of wilderness, and ultimately the dissertation argues that instead of understanding rewilding simply as undermining notions of place, we should understand rewilding itself as placemaking. This conceptual work is informed by actual cases of rewilding and an examination of the conflicts arising out of the various modes of placemaking rewilding performs. Three modes of placemaking are demonstrated: wilderness placemaking, experimental placemaking, and place-regenerative placemaking. Taken in total, these reveal ways in which rewilding confronts us with relations with nonhuman others and with questions of belonging and not belonging that are increasingly at issue.
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