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Of Field and Forest: Aesthetics and the Nonhuman on Hampstead Heath

Of Field and Forest: Aesthetics and the Nonhuman on Hampstead Heath

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Title: Of Field and Forest: Aesthetics and the Nonhuman on Hampstead Heath
Author: Lee, Jessica Jasmine
Abstract: Hampstead Heaths eight-hundred acres of field and forest were acquired for the public in 1871. It was the first metropolitan open space in London to be acquired as a result of decades of campaigning, and is therefore central to discussions of public spaces, landscapes, and urban open spaces in Britain. This dissertation takes the Heath as its subject, arguing that its history is palimpsestic, offering a many-layered, multitudinous array of narratives that have not yet been adequately reflected in historical studies of the site. As Britain faces a new wave of privatization and threats to public spacea situation likened by some to the rampant enclosures of the nineteenth centuryI argue that the Heath and its history remain central to conflicts over access to public spaces. Through the lenses of environmental history, environmental aesthetics, and multispecies ethnography, I consider the ways in which human and nonhuman agencies have shaped the landscape and its management from the eighteenth century to the present. I consider cases as diverse as how water flow has shaped the Heath, as debates rage over dam construction work taking place on the site, to the ways in which sheep, corpses, and bramble scrub have contributed to the development of a management plan for the site.

Specifically, this dissertation brings environmental history, environmental aesthetics, and multispecies ethnography into conversation, underscoring the ways in which the tools of each can contribute to a richer retelling of a landscapes many historical narratives. I draw on the work of aesthetician Arnold Berleant and ethnographer Anna Tsing to tell a fuller story of the Heaths complex history. I explore the Heath through a variety of methods: archival research; analysis of landscape aesthetics; descriptive accounts of my own aesthetic experience; participant ethnography in the form of interviews and first-hand accounts; and on-the-ground study of the Heaths landscape and natural history. In doing so, I call attention to the ways in which the many histories of Hampstead Heath are bound up with social, political, aesthetic, and nonhuman worlds, arguing that attending to their entanglement allows for a more nuanced understanding of the complex forces that shape access to public open spaces in Britain today.
Subject: Aesthetics
Keywords: Hampstead Heath
Public space
Open space
Land management
Parks history
Urban parks
Environmental aesthetics
Arnold Berleant
Multispecies ethnography
Anna Tsing
Medicinal spas
Winter swimming
Land conservation
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/32682
Supervisor: Steigerwald, Joan
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Humanities
Exam date: 2016-06-10
Publish on: 2016-11-25

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