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Defining Landscape Democracy

A Path to Spatial Justice

Edited by Shelley Egoz, Karsten Jørgensen and Deni Ruggeri

This stimulating book explores theories, conceptual frameworks, and cultural approaches with the purpose of uncovering a cross-cultural understanding of landscape democracy, a concept at the intersection of landscape, democracy and spatial justice. The authors of Defining Landscape Democracy address a number of questions that are critical to the contemporary discourse on the right to landscape: Why is democracy relevant to landscape? How do we democratise landscape? How might we achieve landscape and spatial justice?
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Beata Sirowy

This chapter’s point of departure is the definition of the quality of public art and its democratic character in terms of the quality of its exchanges with a wider public. Public art interventions oriented towards a dialogue with a wider public and local contexts strengthen democracy in at least two ways: by providing a meaningful background for collective performance in urban public spaces, and by providing a background for widely understood human development, which is a prerequisite for active involvement in the democratic life of a society. In this context I argue that the adoption of the perspective of modern aesthetics in relation to public art is problematic, as it foremost appreciates free, abstract art and encourages highly idiosyncratic formal explorations, often resulting in artworks that are incomprehensible for the average spectator. The chapter then brings forward Gadamer’s concepts of play and festival, and discusses implications of the understanding of public art.

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Tim Waterman

Where landscape becomes political and where it gains symbolism beyond that of grand abstractions such as ‘escape’ or ‘wildness’ is when landscape may be accessed. A political landscape imaginary must include the possibility of passage, occupation and/or inhabitation in order to have maximum power. The possibilities of landscape imaginaries benefit from being tested in physical places by human bodies and their constructions. This testing often takes place in acts of transgression such as the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in England’s Peak District in 1932 or the contemporary actions of the Occupy movement. Passage and occupation are both situated qualities of human bodies in landscapes. This chapter argues that a situated understanding is foundational to any meaningful conception of democratic society. Trespass forces access and forces politics back from the space of abstraction and into the real landscape place. Trespass is a constant necessity for the enactment of democracy.

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Lillin Knudtzon

If we want to address landscape democracy, we need an awareness of the different frames for understanding democratic legitimacy as developed and discussed in political theory. This chapter is about the place of civil society in different contemporary approaches to democracy and the consequences this creates for democratic planning. After presenting four ideal typical approaches to democracy – the liberal, participatory, deliberative and radical – the place of civil society in a generic planning process is discussed. The claim is made that although planning processes that follow a liberal democratic framework may qualify as democratic at a theoretical level, the understanding of a landscape as ‘an area, as perceived by people’ implies a necessity to include elements of participatory, deliberative and possibly radical democracy to gain democratic legitimacy. The chapter concludes by pointing to possible measures public planners may take to enhance democratic planning.

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Joern Langhorst

Responding to raised concern that the various processes of neo-liberal restructuring are threatening democracy, this chapter critically interrogates the agency and instrumentality of space in encouraging/enabling or discouraging/suppressing democratic processes, actions and behaviours. It investigates classical theoretical perspectives on the relationship of the spatio-material and socio-cultural, foregrounding urban spaces and issues of social and environmental justice, as framed by Lefebvre’s ‘right to the city’. A framework and set of four lenses to understand, critique and operationalise the democratic potential of urban public space is proposed. These are applied to critique three examples of designed public urban spaces representative of particular approaches. A new alternative approach to the understanding and design of spaces based on ‘assemblage’ as a theoretical and conceptual framework is developed, holding potential to realise the ‘right to the city’ and to counteract the post-political erosion of the urban public sphere associated with austerity and neo-liberal governmentality.

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Benedetta Castiglioni and Viviana Ferrario

The chapter explores the concept of ‘democratic landscape’ as a frame to interpret the processes underlying the landscape appearance, focusing in particular on the level of democracy embodied in a landscape. According to our understanding, this concept allows us to observe not only procedural democracy in decision-making concerning landscape, but also the whole landscape construction process and the substantive democracy of its results, including the roles and interests of different social actors. The chapter discusses the extent to which landscape can reflect substantive landscape democracy, and advances a preliminary set of questions which should be taken into account when dealing with social aspects of landscape, and which could be applied as benchmarks in different landscape studies.

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Edited by Shelley Egoz, Karsten Jørgensen and Deni Ruggeri

This content is available to you

Edited by Shelley Egoz, Karsten Jørgensen and Deni Ruggeri

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Richard Alomar

The chapter discusses landscape architecture and its role in landscape democracy. Using three projects as examples, it reviews and evaluates the methods used to design the spaces, and discusses whether the role of the landscape architect was to design physical spaces that embodied democratic principles or to contribute new methods of practice across transdisciplinary lines. It was clear that there were methods and techniques within the practice that were useful in the design of more democratic and equitable spaces, specifically methods that allowed for greater community participation. The more challenging role was to participate in the aspects of democratic landscapes that did not explicitly involve physical space. That required the landscape architect to shed traditional roles of expertise to work in a transdisciplinary manner. It was also useful for landscape architects to understand how other disciplines defined space, democracy and landscape and the theories that underpinned their meaning.

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Jala Makhzoumi

The idea of ‘democracy’ is held as suspect in the Arab Middle East. There is growing mistrust of the imposition of a Western model of democracy, which is seen as reinforcing an Orientalist outlook and disregarding the regional history and culture. Imported, ‘exogenous’ models of administration, heritage conservation and architecture since the colonial era have come to undermine ‘endogenous’ traditional practices, values and ethics that are rooted in the regional heritage. The chapter argues that the complexity of the idea of ‘landscape’ as a material basis for wellbeing and its potential to unravel issues of culture, identity and belonging can contribute towards an ‘endogenous’ democracy. Building on this premise, the chapter explores ways in which readings of the social, economic, environmental and political landscape of the Middle East enable multifaceted writing of futures that are socially just, culturally inclusive, ecologically sensitive and politically empowering.