Representing and Sensing Nature, Landscape and Gender explores the conceptual connections among nature, culture and gender. The project focuses on questions of representation, materiality and experience – especially looking and sensing – and their effect on the conceptualization of nature.
The researchers working within the project approach nature, culture and gender from different angles, analyzing visual and textual material as well as narratives of lived experience. The individual projects are theoretically and methodologically situated at the intersection of gender studies, cultural studies, art research, literary studies, urban history and forest ecology. Hanna Johansson investigates (untamed) nature and materiality in contemporary landscape and environmental art. Kati Lintonen analyzes the ways in which nature is sensed and conceptualized in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century landscape photography, especially in the works of I. K. Inha. Kirsi Mäkinen addresses the meanings assigned to urban green space from the point of view of forestry. Venla Oikkonen explores evolutionary narratives of gender and sexuality in popular science and literature. Kirsi Saarikangas investigates the significance of urban nature in suburban dwellers’ accounts of their everyday experiences of space in the 1950s and 1960s.
The project reaches beyond linguistic and visual representation to nonlinguistic and material dimensions of experience in order to rethink the ways in which nature is conceptualized and given meaning. Such an approach challenges the distinction between sensation and observation as well as the primacy of the visual in both lived experience and the representation of nature. The project also investigates those aspects of meaning production that are irreducible to representation but yet constitutive of signification, challenging the assumption that all meaning is linguistic.
Representing and Sensing Nature, Landscape and Gender rejects the conventional association of culture with action and nature with inaction. Instead, nature and culture are understood as engaged in a productive two-way dynamic. The relationship among culture, nature and materiality has long been a central yet contested issue for scholars working within the humanities and social sciences in general and in gender studies in particular. The project strives to both continue and rethink this tradition by viewing nature and materiality not as a fixed and passive entity but as a kind of multinaturalism that arises from the constant interaction between nature and culture. As a result, nature ceases to be the opposite or the static background of culture and emerges as active, dynamic and constitutive of meaning.