Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Role of the Landscape in the Preservation of Collective Memory and the Enhancement of National Belonging

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Role of the Landscape in the Preservation of Collective Memory and the Enhancement of National Belonging

Article excerpt


This study aims to show the role that landscapes play in the preservation of collective memory and the enhancement of national belonging. The Hojeir Valley in southern Lebanon was chosen as the location for this study, which will concentrate on the different components of the location and on the process of its transformation into an inspirational symbol that strengthens people's sense of belonging while also shaping their national identity. The study will also discuss the related collective memory and the process of its evolution over time as well as the essential elements necessary to preserve it. The study concludes that the collective memory attached to the valley was initially formed because no radical changes had occurred to affect the Valley's physical state throughout history. Furthermore, the study indicates that while the valley experienced historical incidents, these events did not hinder the impact of these incidents on peoples' sentimental consciences but rather facilitated in keeping the collective memory of the people active and fresh.

Key words: Landscape; Place; Place memory; Place identity; Collective memory; National identity; Belonging; The Hojeir valley


Landscape is a place to which a person becomes attached because of the nostalgia and the memories to which it gives rise.

The landscape concept bears varying definitions according to the varied geographical, environmental and sociological perspectives and backgrounds of the scientific authorities researching or addressing the subject. Accordingly, this paper completes certain definitions that are missing one or more of the aspects necessary to construct an overall concept of landscape.

In this sense, landscape is a relatively new concept that has only been previously explored aesthetically in the arts where its focus was solely on the visible beauty of the scenery and its effect on the spectator. For example, romantic artists recreated nature for inspiration and used it as a mean by which their emotions could be expressed.

In the nineteenth century, geographers approached the concept of landscape objectively as the result of its topographical, geological, climatic, botanical and human components (Vidal de la Blanche, 1908). The study of the landscape concept was further developed when it entered the domain of sociology, where it was defined as an historical and cultural heritage that embodies the interactions of human society with its environment at a defined time and place (Pitte, 1983).

This objective approach in studying the landscape concept continued until the 1980s of the last century when a new approach was adopted. The new approach recognized the personal role that individuals normally reflect onto the landscape and realized that it ought not to be ignored (Bertrand, 1978). That is, the perception and evaluation of a given place differ among individuals according to their habits, cultures and values. Consequently, to better understand the ways in which different social groups regard their landscape, the new approach values both objectivity and subjectivity in examining the landscape concept.

We see and make the landscape as a result of our shared system of beliefs and ideologies. In this way the landscape is a cultural construct, a mirror of our memories and myths encoded with meanings which can be read and interpreted. (Taylor, 2008)

Since the aspect of subjectivity was introduced into the landscape concept, new related concepts have begun to appear such as collective memory, identity and belonging.

The present study aims to show the role that certain landscapes and places play in the preservation of collective memory and in the enhancement of a national sense of belonging. For this purpose, a valley in southern Lebanon that is rich in physical and moral-valued features was chosen as the focus - the Hojeir Valley. In addition to the beauty of its topological undulations and the rare variations of its fauna and flora, the Hojeir Valley is famous for being the historical fortress for the fighters of Jabal 'Amel Mountain, which begins with the popular national resistance against the French mandate in Lebanon and continues to date against the Israeli occupation of parts of the country. …

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