Pyrénées fieldwork

Now that we are emerging from COVID19-enforced hibernation, fieldwork is continuing on Work Package 2 – Immersions – in the Pyrénées.

Things are moving slowly of course, and Jonathan has been staying safely outside and well ventilated, but the weather has been favourable as we listen in and learn along some participant led ‘transect walks’. These walks take us on a gradient of landscape change from those more human-influenced areas to the wilder end of things, the places where our non-human animals choose to spend the majority of their time. Some images below from a recent walk in April show extracts from the 360 video footage captured for documentary purposes during these walks, as we move from the valley floor up into the middle mountains, passing through an old-growth forest area on the way.

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Vanishing Coasts?

Katie was a speaker in a seminar entitled “Vanishing Coasts” as part of a three-part series Coastal Connections convened by an international team for the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. The seminar session, which took place in February, was put together by Joana Gaspar de Freitas, PI of the ERC-funded project DUNES – Sea, Sand, People and featured coastal research on four continents. A short blog post outlining the research covered in this wide-ranging seminar and discussion can be found here.

Photo by Katie Ritson

Postcard from the Wadden Sea

Dear Corridor Talk colleagues:
This month I made it to the Wadden Sea coast for the first time since our project began! It felt unreal to be standing on the mudflats – experiencing the physical landscape for the first time in well over a year. I picked up this postcard and thought of you, and now I’m typing these words into my computer, but I’m not sure how well they capture what I want to share.

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Boar, Borders & Bright Ideas

On 22 March we had a lively and exciting discussion with Luděk Brož and Laura Kuen, who are part of the BOAR ERC project “Veterinarization of Europe? Hunting for Wild Boar Futures in the Time of African Swine Fever,” based at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. The parts of our respective projects that deal with species mobility and boundaries have a lot of potential for productive dialogue and cooperation, and we are looking forward to talking more in the near future.

Image: Richard Bartz via Wikimedia Commons

The wild boar has interfaces with all of the Corridor Talk field sites, but is particularly closely linked to hunting practices in the Bavarian Forest National Park and Šumava National Park, and the ethnographic methodologies proposed by BOAR have similarities to those developed by Jon and George in the Pyrénées. So besides the happy alliterative trio of bears, birds, and bark beetles, we expect to have some boar making an appearance in Corridor Talk in the future too.

Even with the pandemic preventing us from meeting in person, the rapport on zoom is encouraging.

Sandpipers and the Art of Letting Go: Narratives of Conservation in the Wadden Sea

Photograph by Martha de Jong-Lantink, 2011.
Accessed via Flickr on 3 March 2021. Click here to view source.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

In a new article for Arcadia: Explorations in Environmental History, Eveline de Smalen writes about poetry and nature conservation in the Wadden Sea. The history of conservation in the Wadden Sea reserves a starring role for birds. Birds were important for its conception, central to its policies today and contribute to its success as a protected area, but they can also help us think about nature reserves conceptually and critically assess their role in society. Nature reserves are often considered static, unchanging and ahistorical places. This article provides a reading of Ed Leeflang’s poem “The Sanderling” to show how literature about birds can help us think about nature reserves as historical places shaped by a multitude of more-than-human agencies, and marked by loss.

Read it here.

Seminar “Literary and Visual Landscapes”

Corridor Talk postdoc Eveline de Smalen was recently invited to give a talk as part of the University of Bristol’s Environmental Humanities Centre’s “Literary and Visual Landscapes” seminar series. The talk had to be held digitally and was recorded. You can watch “Nowhere, Somewhere, Elsewhere, Here: Nature Conservation and Cultural Representations of the Dutch Wadden Sea” below.

First Year: Research Roundup

The Corridor Talk project celebrates its first birthday today and aside from the our brief kick-off meeting in Leeds in February 2020 (see photo below), team members have not met in person at all. Visits to field sites have been limited due to the ongoing pandemic and interactions with project partners severely circumscribed. Nonetheless, regular digital meetings have kept us in touch and on target and we approach the second year of the project with a round-up of what we have achieved so far and a look ahead to the next few months – whether or not these will be spent in lockdown.

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Workshop “Ecology in German Literary Criticism – Recent Developments and Approaches”

Corridor Talk PI Katie Ritson was recently invited to give a talk as part of the workshop “Ecology in German Literary Criticism – Recent Developments and Approaches,” funded by the DAAD University of Cambridge German Research Hub. The Research Hub produced a podcast about this workshop, which can be found here (the discussion of Katie’s Corridor Talk research starts at minute 24:45). Inevitably the workshop had to be held digitally and Katie’s talk, entitled “Aufklärung am Rande: The Wadden Sea in German Literature” was pre-recorded, meaning that we can now post it here too.


Image on this page: Wadden sea in Germany, Hallig Hooge and Pellworm © Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons

“Corridor Talk” Workshop

The Corridor Talk project held its first workshop and AGM on 9 November, hosted by the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. The workshop was held online as the COVID crisis made travel impossible. All six members of the Corridor Talk team were present.

Report by Graham Huggan

Chair: Dr. Katie Ritson (RCC Munich)
Participants: Corridor Talk project team
National park and other project-partner representatives: Pavel Bečka (Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald / Národní park Šumava); Etienne Farand (Parc National Pyrenees); Marco Heurich (Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald); Thierry Lefebvre (IUCN); Meindert Schroor (Waddenacademie); Hannah Wilting (Nationalpark Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer).

The discussion focused on three sets of questions, each of which had previously been distributed to the project partners along with a brief information package about the project. (1) To what extent do the Corridor Talk project’s main aims and objectives speak to your own, and how might the work done by the Corridor Talk team help you achieve them? (2) Which of these aims and objectives are shared between the participating national parks, and how might the project contribute to these? Which aims and objectives are specific to your particular park? (3) Has the COVID crisis forced you to rethink any of these aims and objectives and/or to come up with new ones? Should the Corridor Talk project be reframed as a result, and if so, how?

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“Corridor Talk” AGM

The Corridor Talk project held its first workshop and AGM on 9 November, hosted by the Rachel Carson Center in Munich. The workshop was held online as the COVID crisis made travel impossible. All six members of the Corridor Talk team were present.

Report by Graham Huggan

Chair: Prof Graham Huggan (University of Leeds)
Participants: Corridor Talk project team
International advisory board: Prof Irus Braverman (University of Buffalo); Assoc. Prof Sabine Höhler (KTH Stockholm); Prof Jamie Lorimer (Oxford University)

The main purpose of the AGM was to obtain feedback and advice at a relatively early stage of the project (nine months in) from the three members of its international advisory board. Consequently the meeting focused on the following three pre-distributed sets of questions: (1) What is your sense of what the team has done so far? What are the main strengths and weaknesses of the project? (2) What might the project need to reconsider, for example, in light of the COVID crisis? (3) What are the best ways of bringing out the connections between the three sub-projects, and of maximizing the project’s collaboration with the participating national parks?

The ensuing discussion covered a lot of ground, and advisory board members not only made a series of helpful comments in relation to the prompts given above, but also asked a number of pointed questions to clarify the project’s conceptual apparatus and methodological aims. For example, in response to Braverman, Co-PI Huggan explained how the project had come into being and what its main research objectives were, namely (1) to ask what humanities approaches might have to add to contemporary and historical conservation debates, (2) to gauge the effectiveness of these approaches in contributing to the conservation of European transboundary national parks, and (3) to enquire into the ways that humans and animals move in and across these parks, and to reflect on the implications of these different forms of mobility, which explicitly or implicitly challenge the territorial boundaries on which the parks are historically based. Huggan and other CT colleagues explained that the choice of parks, while to some extent revolving around the location and expertise of the project team, was down to the fact that all they were all transboundary entities, and that this allowed the team to focus on boundary issues and the cross-cultural/cross-species questions these issues raised. While the case studies are specific, they have the potential to magnify issues that affect conservation practice across Europe and present new approaches to understanding conflicts. Höhler pointed out that the relationship between boundaries and mobilities (the project’s other key term) effectively meant that the project was organized around considerations of space rather than, as the original project proposal had implied, considerations of species, and without suggesting a wholesale readjustment she suggested that members of the team might want to reconsider the ‘single-species’ approach adopted in the three individual work packages (sandpiper, bark beetle, brown bear). Lorimer concurred with this, adding that one of the project’s likely strengths lay in its proposed reconfiguration of space, not least in light of the changing conditions and circumstances produced by COVID. This represents an opportunity – already picked up on in the project – to reflect on what human ‘mobility’ might mean when it is restricted, and on the historical limits of national parks as a form of contained space.

Some consideration was given in the subsequent discussion to possible shortcomings of method. The advisory board was largely satisfied that the project’s methods, especially the use of immersive AV material (work package 2), were suitable to its aims; Höhler advising that the Covid-related immobility provided an opportunity to work on theoretical and conceptual models that could bring the different approaches together. Höhler suggested that ‘invasion’ might not be the best term to use given its emotive connotations, but conceded that the work package in question (work package 3) was explicitly designed to question its own vocabulary, and that some of the work already produced by the project had questioned it further (e.g. with regard to invasive species). Some doubts were raised by all three members of the advisory board, Braverman especially, as to whether the four main sites chosen for study lent themselves to meaningful comparison. It was pointed out in response that the project had a fourth work package designed to look at overlaps and crossovers, and that it was too early to tell what might turn out to be common ground. In the last part of the discussion it was suggested that the question of visitor behaviour in the parks, particularly when critically viewed, would need to be gauged against the fact that improving infrastructure was granting access to visitors who had previously been excluded from them, and that the larger issue of access might at one level be used to cast doubt on the very validity of national parks. Are national parks anachronistic, Braverman asked, and have the historical ideas of protection bound up in them been in part designed to shore up the authority of mobile social elites? This was a provocative note on which to end, but an appropriate one, showing that the project has a social relevance beyond its immediate concerns with human and animal movement in some of Europe’s best-known national parks.