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Greening the History: Discourses of Nation, Ecology and Environmental Protection in contemporary Japan
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science, Technology and Environment. (Environmental Humanities Laboratory)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5709-0217
2015 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Nation-building brings along the definition of new national landscapes, drawing of new lines of division, new peripheries and centres. Legal frameworks of ownership, use and protection among others inscribe these cultural concepts on real landscapes. The present paper follows the development of the Japanese rural rice cultivation landscapes from a landscape of production that has to support the nation’s colonial endeavour before the WWII, through the peripheral backyards of the modernizing industrial Japan after the WWII, to the embodiment of the ancient Japanese wisdom and harmony with nature from the late 20th century onwards. Inscribing new national landscapes on the state territories bundled together infrastructure development, nature protection and the promotion of tourism. From the second half of the 20th century, but especially from 1990s onwards, the reasoning of the values of national landscapes has become increasingly dominated by ecological discourse that – being by nature a systemic metalanguage ­– naturalizes the national value in scientific terms. In the context of raising nationalism and under the protective framework of ecology, the satoyama ecosystems that unite two basic national landscape ideals, the forests and rice paddies, become a symbol of sustainable resource use and superior moral character of the nation, manifested in the ancient wisdom of the traditional agricultural practice.  Strong ideological stands have their inevitable consequences for the real life landscape management, and not only within Japan: afforestation and constantly growing forest reserve (and consequent large-scale timber import for sustaining traditional building techniques), expanding areas of protection for satoyama landscapes that are hardly sustainable in today’s rural settings, resuscitation of several lost landscape features and whitewashing Japan’s history of industrial disasters by claiming a special harmonious relationship with nature, unseen in the Western civilization.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Versailles, France, 2015.
Keyword [en]
satoyama, Japan, landscape protection, photography
National Category
History Human Geography Cultural Studies
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-173845OAI: diva2:855433
8th Biennial Conference of the European Society of Environmental History, Greening history, Versailles, France, 30 June - 3 July 2015
Wenner-Gren Foundations

QC 20150928

Available from: 2015-09-21 Created: 2015-09-21 Last updated: 2015-09-28Bibliographically approved

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