Development of landscape identity as an official discourse - case of a forest fire


Dr Andrew Butler (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)

Date and time

25 November 2016 12pm - 1pm


Room 619 (Goodlyburn, Perth College)


In July 2014 a large forest fire in Västmanland, Sweden dramatically altered the physicality of a vast area or forested landscape. However it was more than just the physicality of the landscape which was impacted, an area relatively unknown in Sweden became the focus for the media and came to the attention of academics who saw the opportunity for research in this unique situation. A new identity has developed around this area based on the fire and its aftermath. It has become a focus for both research and fire tourism, resulting in calls for a large part of the area to be designated a nature reserve. How does this contrast with those who live in the area as it has gone from being predominantly a local landscape experienced by locals as existential insiders, to an area experienced and defined by outsiders.

This paper examines the dynamics involved in legitimising and defining values which ultimately informing the official discourse relating to a landscape identity. This exploration entails addressing which values are legitimised, promoted, subordinated or ignored when a landscape is defined. This consequently influences whose understanding of a landscape is accepted as justified true knowledge and thus recognised for informing the aspirations and future direct of that landscape.

The empirical basis for this paper is a landscape impacted by the largest forest fire in modern Swedish history and the discourses which develop around this landscape. This paper addresses how local inhabitants, planning authorities and researcher shape the understanding and future trajectory of this landscape. The paper finally questions how the developing official discourse relates to the ideal of landscape as promoted through the ELC; as a democratic entity.

About the speaker:

Andrew Butler is a post-doctoral researcher at the department of Urban and Rural Development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Uppsala. He has a background as a landscape architect and hold a PhD in Landscape Planning. His PhD entitled “Developing theory of public involvement in landscape planning - democratising landscape” can be accessed at

Andrew’s research interests lie in issues of landscape democracy, landscape governance and landscape identity. He has empirically engaged with these issues through addressing landscape character assessment which he sees as providing as forwarding the dominant official discourse on landscape.

The work he will present relates to landscape identity after dramatic landscape change and is based on an article in progress.

This seminar is being held at Perth College, if you would like to attend this seminar in person or via VC/Jabber please contact Dr Amy Woolvin.