Herding Heathlands and Reinventing Landscape Care

Emmy Laura Perez Fjalland, Mette Løvschal

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This paper focuses on the present day uses of herding practices performed by shepherdesses on heathlands throughout Europe. Heathlands are particular plagio-climatic landscapes that need disturbances from humans and nonhumans as well as particular geological and environmental conditions to avoid reforestation. One way of governing such disturbances is by means of herders. Heathland herding disappeared as a widespread profession during the 17th-19th century, along with enclosure and national programs of turning heathlands into agricultural land and pine plantations, resulting in an up to 90% loss across Northern Europe. However, over the last 20 years, shepherdesses have reinvigorated herding as a kind of voluntary recreational livelihood and situated landscape care, with reference to traditional practices and biodiversity benefits. Together with the still visible prehistoric remnants such as megaliths and barrows, such ‘living biocultural heritage’ makes these anthropogenic disturbed landscapes a unique site to inquire into landscape conservation, reinventions of rejuvenation practices and recreation. Furthermore, the links to past traditions and practices as well as the ecological effects, remain underexplored. Our paper is based on semi-structured interviews and ethnographic participatory observations wandering with seven shepherdesses in western Jutland, Denmark. We wish to focus on the ecofeminist aspects of these reinvented human-heathland entanglements. By linking their practices to a deep time as well as historical perspective, we will enquire the desired futures that emerge in the anthropogenic vegetation hierarchies, pertaining to issues of gender in/equalities, age - and social hierarchies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021
EventRoyal Anthropological Institute: Anthropology and Conservation -
Duration: 25 Oct 202129 Oct 2021


ConferenceRoyal Anthropological Institute
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