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Durham University

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Emery, S. & Carrithers, M. (2016). From lived experience to political representation: Rhetoric and landscape in the North York Moors. Ethnography 17(3): 388-410.

Author(s) from Durham


Approaches to landscape are characterized by an unresolved distinction between political representation on the one hand and phenomenology on the other. In this paper we address this distinction by demonstrating how those living in close quarters with landscape (farmers) translate their lived experience into political representation. Through the use of rhetoric culture theory we show how farmers use narrative and symbolism to stake their political claims. Moreover, we argue that a focus on lived experience should not deprive our ethnographic encounters of political significance. On the contrary, we demonstrate how by focusing on the lived experience of farmers we can better appreciate how they are motivated to act politically, have the skills to act politically, and gain political legitimacy in the eyes of others. We argue that whilst phenomenological approaches provide fertile grounds for political analysis, the majority of such research remains politically empty. We demonstrate how, contrary to much of the literature, farmers can and do aesthetically fix the landscape for rhetorical effect, and how narrative as rhetorical representation always already serves to politicize time. We suggest rhetoric, therefore, as an appropriate conceptual tool for mediating and advancing our understanding of the relationship between landscape experience and landscape politics.