Landesque capital: a boundary concept?

Last changed: 06 November 2018

21 Februry, Mats Widgren will hold the first seminar in CBM Seminar Series 2018. He is professor emeritus in Geography at Stockholm University.

See the recorded lecture here.

In our book "Landesque capital: the Historical Ecology of Enduring Landscape Modifications (Håkansson & Widgren ed.2014/2016) a number of authors from archaeology, anthropology, agrarian history, geographyand human ecology discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the concept of landesque capital. It was advanced by economist Amartya Sen in 1959 and again defined in a slightly different perspective by Harold Brookfield (1984) to mean permanent modifications in the agrarian landscape that has a value beyond the present season or cropping cycle. The strength of the concept is that it addresses the very interface between "nature" and "culture" and between the environment and the economy: how farmers through their labour build up a special form of fixed capital that usually goes unseen by the economists: anthropogenic soils, terraces, irrigation systems etc. In that way the clearance cairnfields (röjningsröseområden) in Southern Sweden are landesque capital in the same way as vast irrigation systems in imperial China; they are congealed labour. But the use of the concept across space and time is also criticized in the book on the ground that capital can hardly exist in pre-capitalist formations. However regardless of a strict Marxist interpretation of capital or not, the concept has a strength in that it is relational. By framing features in the landscape as capital it raises questions of which society it functioned in and about the power relations that brought them into being. In my presentation I will give examples and discuss the role that the concept can have in a truly interdisciplinary historical ecology.

Mats Widgren is professor emeritus at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University and has researched the history of agricultural landscapes in Sweden and Africa. He is currently contributing to a better understanding of global land use history in the project Mapping Global Agricultural history and in the PAGES working group LANDCOVER6K.

Time: 13-14.30: seminar, 14.30-15.00: coffee, 15-16: Further discussion Location: Room Skara, SLU Campus Ultuna (map and how to get here) The seminar will be held in English. No registration.