Edgelands: wetlands as pluriverse spaces of being-with, being alone and not-being

Authors: Mary Gearey*, University of Brighton
Topics: Qualitative Research, Landscape, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: wetlands, pluriverse, liminality, empirical research
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Wetlands have long been regarded as liminal spaces; where earth, sky and water meet in fluid states of materiality. Humans that utilise wetlands for sustenance, recreation, ceremony or retreat are likewise viewed within modern culture as similarly uncanny: disturbing the boundaries of normal practise. Utilising empirical data drawn from a recent research project, ‘WetlandLIFE’, this paper explores how contemporary uses of wetland space responds to this concept of liminality, particularly around transformative performances of difference. Drawing upon data gathered at three English case study sites; the Somerset Levels, Alkborough Flats in North Lincolnshire and Bedfordshire, this paper outlines the differing ways that humans continue to use these landscapes as ‘earthbounded’ places to enact other selves: as artists, as citizen scientists, as psycho-geographers, as memorialists, as planetary guardians. Actors deploy being-with, being alone and not-being modes: sharing bird-hides and footpaths; using wilder spaces or crepuscular visitations for solitude; repurposing trees, streams and benches as sites for commemoration. Presenting the different narratives of the research participants, we detail how their immersion into these saturated landscapes enables pluriversality. Actors adopt different personae, generate alternative social networks and reconfigure digital selves, all through practices undertaken on-site. These can be highly mobile physical engagements which involve digging, painting, walking, surveying, photographing and crafting, or can be more contemplative; sitting, reflecting, encountering, accepting. Connecting humans across time and space, wetlands can be repositioned within our cultural imaginings as important spaces of otherness, where multiplicities of identity respond to the stultifying linearity of neoliberal modernity.

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