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Landscape, Nature, and the Body Politic
From Britain's Renaissance to America's New World
by Kenneth Robert Olwig
University of Wisconsin Press, 2002
 
     The way we think about nature in America, and how we interact with the land, was scripted 400 years ago. Conflicts over environmental quality, land use and national resources are all influenced by debates that started during the English Renaissance.
It was by surveying the land that it became possible to divide it into measured parcels which could then become the object of private ownership and investments.
   This scholarly study examines two very different concepts of "land" -- a physical terrain as opposed to a country or nation. Definitions of what belongs to nature and what is of the state has deeply affected Anglo-American literature, art, law and politics.   
   "Is 'my country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty' the country of the Pilgrims, or is it the American soil upon which the people live?" Kenneth Olwig asks. "Is the country a polity, defined by political, legal, or ethnic criteria, or is it a landscape, defined by the scenery of a geographic body?"  
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   These are not easy questions that Olwig asks. They test our ideas about landscape, nature and country. None will be unaffected by a serious reading of this text. Landscape is the expression of the practices of habitation through which the habitus of place is generated and laid down as custom and law upon the physical fabric of the land.

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