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Theories on the Study of Mobility in Geography

Landscape, Mobility and the Non-Representational: A Critical Discussion of their Intersections
Over the past two decades the social sciences have experienced a theoretical turn towards understanding the world through performance and practice-based theories. Within geography, this is evident in the abundance of studies working with the ideas of non-representational theory (Thrift 2008). This ‘style of thinking’ was developed in response to a perceived over-emphasis on the representational and textual which fixed, finalised and deadened social analysis, taking undue “precedence over lived experience and materiality” (Thrift 1996: 4; Dewsbury et al. 2002). This has prompted a re-orientation of analysis, “towards conceiving of the world in practical and processual terms” (Waterton 2013: 67), stimulating researchers to attend to “how life takes shape and gains expression in shared experiences, everyday routines, feeling encounters, embodied movements, precognitive triggers, practical skills, affective intensities, enduring urges, unexpected interactions and sensuous dispositions” (Lorimer 2005: 84).
Concurrently, an upsurge of interest in the study of mobility has also been witnessed within the social sciences, coalescing into a diverse interdisciplinary body of work termed the ‘new mobilities paradigm’ (Sheller and Urry 2006; Hannam et al. 2006). This was similarly born out of a reaction against the ‘amobile’ nature of social science inquiry, argued to be consumed by the static analysis of immobile social structures (Faulconbridge and Hui 2016). Non-representational theory thus has a natural affinity to theorising the mobile. It forces us to rethink conventional understandings of structure, boundness and permanence, as it expresses a world characterised by movement, flux, dynamism and flow (Merriman 2012). Non-representational theory has, therefore, been enthusiastically employed by many mobilities scholars attending to the practice and experience of mobile life (Adey 2010; Merriman 2012).
One key line of theorising within which these two bodies of work have found particularly productive collaboration is landscape research. Within the school of ‘new cultural geography’ landscape was theorised as an ideological ‘way of seeing’, a pictoral form characterised by a sedentary and detached visual position (Cosgrove 1984; Daniels and Cosgrove 1988). Landscapes, and their representations, were thus read as texts, analysed for their classed and gendered meanings (Rose 1993; Mitchell 1994). However, theorists have recently utilised non-representational theory to develop embodied and processual accounts of being-in-landscape that destabilise this fixed conceptualisation, leading to a re-discovered affinity for mobility within landscape studies. Such academics have drawn attention to forms of movement as important ways of being in landscape, but have more fundamentally used accounts of mobile practices to elucidate many of the more-than-representational qualities and concerns of landscape.
This essay will critically review this body of work, examining the ways in which work on the practice of mobility has been used to draw out the key themes of a non-representational approach to landscape. I will first discuss how attention to the embodied quality of landscape experience reveals a processual understanding of body-landscape relations. I will then discuss the role of technology within these relations, before attending to the multi-sensory, rhythmic, habitual and affectual qualities of being in landscape. Throughout this discussion I will emphasise how the study of the mobility has illuminated these concerns. A critique will then be developed which confronts the apolitical and universalist nature of much of this literature. I will conclude by discussing those limited studies which have critically used a non-representational approach to elucidate issues of power, difference and representation apparent in experiences of being in landscape.

Body-Landscape Relations

Fundamentally, a non-representational approach proposes that it is through the body that we apprehend and encounter landscape. Therefore, our experience of being in landscape is always embodied. Whilst an attention to the body within geography is not novel, what is distinctive about this approach is that this is an embodiment, and a landscape, that is never singular, fixed or given (Ingold 2000). Rather, both body and landscape are processes “each in a constant state of ‘becoming’ through the other” (Macpherson 2010: 1). This is, therefore, a relational understanding where the body and landscape are ontologically entangled and inseparable. This dialectical composition is clearly captured by a focus on the mobile body (Wylie 2005). As landscape formation is dependent on how our body is put to use, the landscapes constructed by bodies engaged in differently mobile practices are strikingly distinct (Spinney 2006; Edensor 2005). Furthermore, the pace of the mobile body can often serve to highlight and accentuate rapid and continual reformation as the body moves through landscape.
This is particularly well exemplified within Saville’s (2008) study of parkour. Traceurs (parkour practitioners) face a constantly emerging landscape as they move through the city making pre-cognitive decisions about their bodily engagements. Traceurs are therefore “intent upon re-imagining landscape” through their creative treatment of architecture   (Saville 2008: 892). As their bodies deviate from conventional engagements with urban space, traceurs “create a parallel city, a city of movement and free play”  (Ameel 2012: 18). This is a landscape composed through an interaction between the physical capabilities of a habitually trained body and the material affordances of the environment (Saville 2008). The following studies hold this this processual principle at their core, centrally demonstrating that there is no singular or pre-formed landscape to comprehend but rather a constantly evolving understanding sensed through various embodied qualities of movement and landscape (Jones 2005; Ingold 2007[AW1] ).

Hybrid Mobile Bodies

What work on mobile landscape practices has further highlighted is the role of technology in mediating and facilitating body-landscape relations. A focus on mobilities places emphasis on the technological, as it is so often through the use of various technologies that we are able to be mobile. Whilst we may be enmeshed in numerous socio-technological assemblages at most moments, theorists have used mobile practices to elucidate the metamorphosis of human and object as outside of these circumstances “socio-technical mediations may be obscured by the comparative mundanity of more quotidian situations” (Barrett 2012: 52). What emerges from our use of these technologies are hybrid assemblages of object and body, such as the car-driver or the bike-rider, whose bodily “disposition, capabilities, sensibilities and sensations are configured…by this co-presence of bodies and machines” (Merriman 2012: 13).
Critiques of a social science that posits human subjects as able to act independently of their material worlds, and the recognition of objects as active entities, have been particularly associated with the development of actor-network-theory (ANT). In this respect non-representational theory is a project which strongly resonates with ANT (Thrift 2000). As Thrift (1996: 13) argues, “bodies and things are not easily separated terms”. Therefore, non-representational theory attends to the technological relatedness of the body and its transformed capacities and affordances. Engaging with both ANT and non-representational theory,  Barret (2012: 46) uses the experience of rock climbers to show how the climbers’ “limbs and senses are extended by technological prosthetics that appear fused in an ergonomic and functional relationship”. Therefore, the landscape of the climb is negotiated as an assemblage that extends their human corporeal capacities, allowing the climber passage through a space “that they would be incapable of alone” (Barret 2012: 49).  Technologies, therefore, change and transform our embodiment, fostering particular experiences of being-in-landscape. Consequently, is becomes more appropriate to discuss body-landscape-technology relations, as technologies “reshape the affordances of an environment by allowing new possibilities for the body whilst closing down others” (Spinney 2006: 715).

The Multi-Sensory

Lewis (2000) similarly utilises this three-way relationship within his study of the climbing body. Within this account Lewis (2000: 58) describes how the landscape of the climber is “mapped via tactile navigation” as they feel their way up the rock face. Therefore, “knowledge is made corporeal with the sense of touch replacing that of sight as the primary mode” by which landscape is understood (Lewis 2000: 72). This points to an embodied understanding of knowledge that is developed through how out body is put to use. What this also illustrates is that as the landscape is re-fashioned in such highly embodied ways, landscape’s traditional connection to the visual is questioned. Instead a more-than-representational formulation of landscape “is one in which all of its material substance, colours, shapes, sounds, textures and smells are experienced” (Spinney 2006: 214).
This appreciation for the multi-sensuous nature of the world has been particularly prominent within the literature on cycling, as “cyclists may be exposed to a broader [and less managed] sensory landscape” than other mobile subjects (Jungnickel and Aldred 2014: 246). Cook and Edensor’s (2014: 1) study of night-cycling provides a particularly illustrative example of this point, as it explores the distinctive sensory encounters “stimulated by passage through darkness”. They first describe a landscape apprehended and formed through the beam of the cyclists head-torch, as visual perception is shaped by this narrow tunnel of light. This points to an understanding of the visual that goes far beyond the form of ‘static pictorialism’ traditionally known as the dominant mode of engaging with landscape (Merriman et al. 2008). Within this account vision is re-embodied, it becomes a diverse and changing perception fashioned through the various qualities of the environment, the body, and technology (Wylie 2006). Alongside this re-fashioning of the visual, they also describe how this diminished capacity for sight experienced by the night-time cyclist necessitates the heightened mobilisation of other senses in the perception of landscape. Consequently, attention is diverted away from the visual to create a landscape formed through various “sounds, smells, textures and tactilities”, therefore challenging the “ocularcentrism” of past landscape research (Cook and Edensor 2014: 5).

Rhythm and the Habitual  

An attention to the sensation of kinaesthesis is also frequently found within more-than- representational account of cycling (Spinney 2009; Jones 2005). This sensation is centrally important to the mobile body’s engagement with landscape as it describes movement as felt within the joints, tendons and muscles, foregrounding an embodied state of awareness (Lewis 2000). In Spinney’s (2006: 725) account of cyclists ascending Mount Ventoux, he found that participants most frequently narrated their experiences of the climb through the kinaesthetic sense. Riders described how through their attempts to ‘shut off vision’, the sensations of the muscles became the primary indicators of the ascent. Therefore, a “relationship unfolds between the bike, body and landscape to create the experience of the ascent where affordances are identified for their feel” (Spinney 2006: 725). Key to a successful climb is the rhythmic quality of this relationship, “which serves to internalise the mountain, stretching the landscape out in tune with the repetitive and non-cognitive motion of pedalling” (Spinney 2006: 729). Thus, the landscape is formed through practice of ascending and the embodied rhythm of repetitive action.
Whilst the ability to develop this rhythm is a skill and technique honed over time, once the body is adept it becomes a habitual pattern of movement that can be called forth  unconsciously (Spinney 2006). This intuitive disposition is similarly described in Saville’s (2008) account, as the flow of the parkour landscape is emergent only through the repetitive rehearsal of movements which “prepares the body for action in such a way that intentions or decisions are made before the conscious self is even aware of them” (Thrift 2008: 7). As Saville (2008: 908) describes, “there is no longer any discernible ‘I’….there is a body that knows at each moment what to grasp, how to slide through space unhindered by obstacles”. This is therefore a corporeal rather than a cognitive knowing, as mobile practices demand embodied knowledge and intuition which allow movement to take place precognitively (McCormack 2008).
The importance of nonreflexive embodied dispositions is also explored within Lund’s (2010) study. She examines how the landscapes of an urban walk are “composed through connections and disconnections of the walking body with the surroundings” (Lund 2010: 225). For her participant this narrative of absence and presence is fashioned through the shifting sensory and affective qualities of landscape. Within these moments of absence Lund’s (2010: 234) participant “forgets his body”, indicating a profound connection to the landscape. Middleton (2010: 583) accounts for this ‘auto-motive’ characteristic walking “in terms of the intentionality of the body”, which indicates the capacity of the body to act in preconscious ways. The participant’s continued safe passage through the city is an indication of the embodied absorption of the landscape, formed through his familiarity with his regular walk to work. Therefore, in a similar sense to that of Spinney’s, the landscape of the walker becomes internalised as mobilities engender ‘haptic knowledges’ of landscapes. Consequently, these studies point to an understanding of body-landscape relations as regularly produced unconsciously, and landscapes are inhabited and moved through without being actively sensed.

Affect  

Understandings of the pre-cognitive are central to the notion of affect. Affect alludes to “a vague yet intense atmosphere” felt in the body (McCormack 2008: 1827), or a “sense of push in the world” (Thrift 2004: 64). While connected to the concept of emotion, affect is different as it is pre-representational. Affect is a mobile concept, flowing between and circulating through materially heterogenous assemblages, connecting and drawing in bodies, and it therefore has a “transpersonal capacity” (Anderson 2006: 735; Pile 2010). Thus, a body has the capacity to affect and be affected by other bodies, objects, spaces and landscapes. By drawing on the notion of affect, landscapes are no longer simply inert physical backdrops, or static representations, but active entities with the capacity to animate, incite and motivate (Waterton 2013). Consequently, affect shapes and is shaped by the ways in which we move (McCormack 2008), and is thus a notion frequently encountered within more-than-representational accounts of mobile landscape practices (Waterton 2013).
The more-than-subjective domains of affect is explored within Wylie’s (2005) self-reflexive narrative of a single day’s walking. Through his account Wylie (2005: 234) intends to “discussed the varied affinities and distanciations of self and landscape emergent within the affective and performative milieu of costal walking”. We are therefore encouraged to inhabit the “shifting mood, tenor, colour or intensity” of the various landscapes of the walk (Wylie 2005: 236). Consequently, Wylie points to an understanding within which the interactions and orderings of body-landscape relations arise out of distinctive affective configurations which are melanges of motion and materiality.
However, this work has been the subject of lively debate. Whilst praising Wylie’s poetic style, Blacksell (2005) argued that his account is excessively self-centred and introspective. Consequently, Wylie neglects to reference “any influence, other than the immediate impact of the landscape on the self, on what was being experienced” (Blacksell 2005: 518). For example, Blacksell (2005) notes that the landscape within which Wylie is walking is controlled by the National Trust. However, the fact that his experience is to some extend structured by their design and ownership of the coastline is not considered. This neglect of the wider dynamics of politics, power and control is a criticism which non-representational theorists, particularly those working on landscape, have broadly received. It is to this critique that I will now turn my attention.

Critique

Many non-representational theorists have been accused, largely by feminist and post-colonial researchers, of “side-stepping political questions, adopting apolitical stances, and backgrounding the politics of difference” (Merriman et al. 2008: 193). Attending to the politics of embodiment becomes particularly salient when concerned with the mobile body, as different bodies have differing capacities and abilities for movement; ”schisms along lines of race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, nationality, age and more play central roles in determining who moves, how, at what speed and with what degree of autonomy” (Oswin 2014: 85). However, these insights have been largely absent from contemporary reflections on landscape, mobility and non-representational theory (Merriman et al. 2008; Thein 2005).
This is not a critique of non-representational theory in of itself, but rather is a critique of the ways in which it has been operationalised. By evading a political analysis of this domain of action, researchers convey the “romantic proposition that bodily non-representational mobilities somehow elude the hand of power” (Adey 2010: 187). Consequently within this work landscapes are often conceptualised as sites for limitless becoming, where bodies reside within a “free-floating realm of the experiential” (Nash 2000: 658). This can largely be seen as a methodological issue, as many non-representational landscape authors write self-reflexive accounts of their experiences of mobility (Spinney 2006; Cook and Edensor 2014; Jones 2005). These researchers “rely on a safe and secure place from which to speak and know [….] theorizing and legitimating their own experience of mobility and self, and claiming it as universal” (Skeggs 2004: 60). Therefore, the resultant embodied subject of body-landscape relations becomes de-gendered, de-classed and de-raced, resulting in “universalist and ethnocentric theorisations” (Toila-Kelly 2006: 214). As overwhelmingly white, male, middle-class and able-bodied, the experiences of these researchers are largely positive and unconstrained. Landscape authors have thus lost “sight of the way in which difference, power and control also figure within the landscape” (Waterton 2013: 72).
This accusation could be levelled at many of the studies references within this essay, as they overstate the privilege that only certain bodies hold for a unrestricted play with landscape. This is particularly well exemplified by Saville’s (2008) auto-ethnographic study of parkour. The presence of his body moving through the city in rebellious ways is not understood as threatening, and thus in need of control. This allowed Saville the freedom to discover a place of “wonderment, imagination and participation”, where the only fear felt was in the dangers of his physical engagements (Saville 2008: 892). It is not hard to imagine how different his experience may have been as a young black man. As Toila-Kelly (2007:337) states, non-representational accounts of landscape presuppose a body “freed of fear and concern over racial and/or sexual attack, fear of the lack of ‘rightful encounter’ with a particular moral geography governing access, and indeed, free of the chains of childcare, work and the economic constrains to roam”. Researchers neglect to consider the constraining and determining effects of forms of power which may structure access to particular landscapes and the ability to perform particular mobile practices. An inclusion of these insights would show that far from the celebratory embrace of the freedom of performativity, “engagements with landscape may be negative, constraining and marginalising too” (Waterton 2013: 72).
Furthermore, within his study Saville (2008) also disregards the important of the wider cultural context of his movements. Parkour was first developed in the 1980s within the low-income housing projects of the Parisian suburbs, as an anarchic practice by a group of disempowered young men as a way to rebelliously redefine their encounters with oppressive city space (Stapleton et al. 2010). Training the body to perform in these habitual ways is a subversive political act and combining these insights with those of non-representational theory, the politically liberatory power of a landscape in becoming could be imagined. However, within Saville’s paper the radical history of the traceurs moving body is stripped away as all focus on representation is occluded. Therefore, whilst a focus on the more-than-representational is clearly vital, any meaningful analysis of mobility and landscape must also include an attention to the representational motivations and productions of movement. This reflects Castree and MacMillian’s (2004: 70) argument for the “continued need to study something called representation- or rather, the cluster of practices this term denotes”.

New Cultural Geography

This critique points to a danger of losing many of the valuable insights developed by the ‘new cultural geography’ school of landscape studies. Within this literature landscape was conceptualised as a ‘way of seeing’, which articulated a controlled and privileged perspective on the world by those on top of a social hierarchy (Cosgrove 1984). This was a perspective that could be found within both artistic and literary representations, but also as inscribed into the land of the gentry itself. Scholars thus argued that landscapes are discursive formations through which particular ideologies, be they be they gendered (Rose 1993) or classed (Mitchell 1994; Cosgrove 1984), are coded, communicated and reproduced (Duncan 1990), Consequently, within this conceptualisation landscape was seen as a highly politicised terrain
What can be seen from the above critique is that, whilst non-representational accounts of landscape clearly signal a significant departure from conceiving of landscape solely in terms of representation, they continue to reproduce particularly gendered and classed engagements with landscape. Reflecting Daniel and Cosgrove’s (1988) argument that landscape paintings occlusion of those who work on the fields is reflective of their classed ideologies, non-representational studies similarly focus on those who are able to enjoy these landscapes at their leisure, rather than those ‘silent people’ who have “done the work of making the landscape” (Merriman et al. 2008: 206). These studies also reproduce masculinist tendencies of active engagement and control over the landscape (Rose 1993). Therefore, whilst landscape has been re-embodied from the static perspective conceptualised within the previous school of thought, it could be argued that it has simply moved from a problematic way of seeing to a problematic way of being.

The Non-Representational and Political

However, as stated above, a non-representational approach does not by definition exclude an analysis of issues of power, control and difference that were so central to the ‘new cultural geography’ school of thought. Therefore, I will conclude this paper by discussing those limited studies which have used more-than-representational research agendas to engage with accounts of landscape as figured through “socially contextual power geometries” (Toila-Kelly 2007: 348). Mobility continues to figure in these accounts in various ways. Carolan (2008) and Waitt and Lane (2007) critically examine the embodied knowledges and understandings that differently mobile subjects produce. Whereas the forms of mobility (Macpherson 2009) and immobility (Toila-Kelly 2007) experienced by subjects traditionally excluded within the discursive and iconographic association of the landscapes they are within, are explored within the final two studies.
Addressing a classed critique of the lack of studies of those who produce landscape, Carolan’s (2008) work explores the more-than-representational knowledge of those who live and work in the Iowan countryside. Similar to the studies discussed previously, Carolan starts from the central premise that understanding and knowing landscape is an embodied and lived process. However, he uses this performative understanding to critically examine how the knowledges of those working on the land differ from those who simply live within it, particularly in terms of what is considered ‘in place’ and ‘out of place’ (Carolan 2008: 415). He found that farmers were far more likely to include those sensations generated by agriculture within their accounts, whereas others would focus on the landscape as ‘pristine’ and devoid of this polluting presence. Critically engaging with debates about rural gentrification, Carolan (2008: 416) argues that as “rural embodiments become increasingly removed from the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations of production agriculture, understandings of the countryside will continue to be cleansed of these once ubiquitous sensations”. In light of these findings, he proposes that non-farming bodies be given a feel for production agriculture, as a strategy through which rural tensions may be reduced.
Similarly engaging with a performative conception of knowledge, Waitt and Lane (2007) explore how the embodied understandings generated through four-wheel drive technologies can work to disrupt problematic representations of the Kimberly. Rather than assume all tourists embrace narratives promulgated by the tourism industry that sustain the Kimberly as a ‘wilderness’ landscape, and therefore absent of aboriginal presence, they explore the idea that “the affective power of movement may reconfigure tourists’ ideas” (Waitt and Lane 2007: 159). They argue that “through the embodied experience and practices of four-wheel drive mobility each person generates a situated knowledge” of a landscape that is “always contingent and constantly becoming” (Waitt and Lane 2007: 159). This knowledge serves to generate two intersecting drivescapes of luxury and hardship, which produce instants of continuity and discontinuity with wilderness narratives. Therefore, Waitt and Lane demonstrate that whilst extrasomatic understandings of the Kimberly cannot be ignored, the meaning of this landscape was not formed prior to tourists encounters. Instead, by drawing on non-representational theory they are able to show the possible productive reconfigurations of meaning as made through action.
Toila-Kelly (2007) uses a more-than-representational approach to examine the embodied and sensory experiences of English migrant’s at Lake Windemere. In choosing this location she is critically engaging with the historical representation of this landscape as an ‘icon of Englishness’, which embodies a “singular English sensibility, normally exclusionary of British multi-ethnic, translocal and mobile landscape values and sensibilities” (Toila-Kelly 2007: 330). She draws on the work of Daniels and Cosgrove (1988) to describe how this landscape “engenders a ‘structure of feeling’ which associates you sensually and artfully to a cultural marker of belonging and being within the historically assembled, national sensibility” (Toila-Kelly 2007: 330). Through her research she aims to discover the ‘structures of feeling’ engendered by these landscapes in those subjects traditionally marginalised by these cultural narratives.
Renewing a concern for the artistic, this is explored using a series of drawings and descriptions made by participants in visual workshops. She then uses these to examine the values, sensory meanings and embodied relationships they express. Toila-Kelly (2007: 331) found that the drawings and paintings traced “a set of affective registers that are not normally encountered in representations of this cultural landscape”, as they frequently conveyed feelings of terror and fear. For example, she discusses the discomfort of a group of women at the prospect of venturing into high wilderness landscapes to obtain a ‘paradise view’. The ‘awe’ conventionally inspired by this landscape is experienced as a terror, stimulating immobility in the women as they “fear the very type of landscape walking that Wylie (2005) embarks upon” (Toila-Kelly 2007: 345). Therefore, while Toila-Kelly leaves space for unexpected engagements and emotions, by recognising the effects of cultural heritage and iconography as a significant dimension of landscape experience she is able to explore how they shape alienating and exclusionary affective registers for those subjects marginalised by them. She therefore addresses the critique developed within this essay, explicitly countering those masculinist narratives in non-representational landscape research that celebrate and universalise an ‘empowered explorer’ who is free to roam (Toila-Kelly 2007).
Also examining the iconic English landscapes of the Peak and Lake Districts, Macpherson (2009) uses her time as a sighted guide for specialist walking groups to explore the bodily, material and discursive landscapes of those with visual impairments. She first describes how their disability is contingent and “must be understood to emerge in conjunction with the landscape”, particularly in terms of the light conditions and the demands of the terrain (Macpherson 2009: 1046). However, she continues to argue that the processes by which her participants ‘see’ the landscape are not simply a product these capacities for sight. Instead they conjure “up visual imagery on the basis of a past history of seeing” and in this way many of the walkers are “caught between past and present embodiment” (Macpherson 2009: 1047). This persistence of the visual as their primary means of narrating landscape points to a scenic conception of the Lakes and Peaks within landscape iconography, which continues to dominate the practices of those within these settings. The visually impaired walkers attempt to resist their potential exclusion from the lived and symbolic spaces of these landscapes by “continuing to participate in visual cultures of landscape appreciation” (Macpherson 2009: 1042). Therefore, the landscape of these walkers becomes present as “a tangible, tactile relationship between sighted guide and walker; as a historical relationship with one’s own embodied past and as a socio-cultural relationship with what is popularly understood to constitute ‘the’ landscape” (Macpherson 2009: 1052). Through this account, Macpherson engages with Blacksell’s (2005) critique, demonstrating that being-in-landscape is not purely the result of immediate bodily experience. She therefore draws attention to the important of those discourses and historical memories which condition and structure, without wholly determining, the emergence of specific bodies and landscapes.

Conclusion

This paper has provided a critical summary of some of the recent literature working at the intersections of mobility, landscape and non-representational theory. By identifying key themes within the literature, I have demonstrated that a focus on the mobile body can help to reveal a processual conception of body-landscape relations, as landscape is shown to be in continual emergence through the practices that our body is engaged in. I have then shown that this focus on the mobile body also brings to the surface landscape’s sensory, rhythmic, habitual and affective qualities. Consequently, demonstrating how our experience of landscape is based on the constantly changing flux of the amalgam of these qualities as felt within the (hybridised) body. Therefore, within these accounts, landscape encounters are no longer positioned by their cultural qualities, but rather these “representations are superseded by the immediacy of the senses”, to create more-than-representational understandings of landscape (Spinney 2006: 712).
However, this paper has argued that much of this work has lost the critical insight into issues of power, exclusion and control central to the ‘new cultural geography’ school of thought, and therefore fails to capture a large dimension of people’s experiences of landscape. It has been shown that this failure is largely a result of the universalising of an autonomous mobile subject whose encounters with landscape are principally positive and unconstrained. However, I have also discussed studies which demonstrate the possibility of a critical and political use of non-representational theory, combining the insights summarised above with an attention to the socio-cultural-political-historic geographies of landscapes and mobile practices. I believe what makes these studies successful is their sensitivity to the ‘tension’ between the representational and the experiential that exists in the term landscape (Rose and Wylie 2006). Rather than resolving this tension through an omission of either analysis, both are brought together to examine their divisions, conflicts and harmonies. Body-landscape relations should thus be seen as a “complex imbrication of the material organisation and shape of the landscape, its symbolic meaning, and the ongoing sensual perception and embodied practices” (Edensor 2000: 82); as landscape “is irreducible to, but exists in complex relations with, both our individual sensuous engagements and discursive ideological orders” (Macpherson 2009: 6). This perspective bridges divides between understandings of landscape from ‘new cultural geography’ and non-representational theory, attending to the history of the term rather than completely re-defining it. As Toila-Kelly (2007: 347) states, “sensitivity towards vernacular landscapes and power geometries can only enrich current landscape research”.

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