Keeping up appearances: a comparative approach to aesthetics and the politics of public planning Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Lewald, Carol Ann
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • This research examines the politics of land use planning debates and compares how aesthetic ideals and values associated with a landscape impact public planning decisions in rural Chatham County, North Carolina and the traditionally agrarian Dutch Green Heart. Landscapes and the associated aesthetic values often emerge in these debates simply as attractive places, views and vistas, or synonyms for natural and ecological environments. The aesthetic ideals and attachment to particular landscapes, however, act as diacritical markers indicative of a specific social imaginary that is rooted in time and space. In this dissertation, I argue that battles over landscape ideals such as the preservation of the rural character in Chatham County elicit powerful emotive responses from residents. These emotional responses are embedded within socio-historic beliefs and practices that both implicitly and explicitly reflect deeply ingrained class and race-based components. The aesthetic ideals introduced by so-called newcomers since the 1980s and the recent battle to preserve the rural character of the region indelibly marks the landscape. The privileging of aesthetic ideals in Chatham's planning documents and public debates masks unintended economic, class, and potentially race-based exclusionary practices and fosters a divisive social imaginary in the region. The aesthetic ideals promoted in the Green Heart region, however, actually unified Dutch support during the late 1990s as the European Union consolidated. The Dutch Green Heart emerged in public discourse as an idealized landscape that embodied Dutch ingenuity and perseverance. It acted as a central national identity marker at a time when the push towards integration and co-operation within the European Union decreased national sovereignty, and threatened the social and economic position of the Netherlands. Landscapes emerge in this research as sites of contestation and ongoing debate that link people, polity, and place. The aesthetic privileging of a particular landscape in planning decisions is, therefore, neither benign nor apolitical.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Anthropology."
  • Crumley, Carole L.
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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