Seminar: The Lies of the Land? Foxhunting, Landscape Policy and the Cultural Appropriation of Space

The Essex Sustainability Institute  is hosting  a new seminar series, Sustainability Contested, at the Wivenhoe Park campus. The seminars are open to staff, students and members of the public. All are welcome, and attendance is free! Please spread the word!  If you would like to meet the speaker on the day, please email Bryony Pound, at balpou (at) essex.ac.uk.

Our next scheduled seminar is on the 29th of November, at 12:30pm in Room TC 2.10.

The Lies of the Land? Foxhunting, Landscape Policy and the Cultural Appropriation of Space. 

Alison Acton 

Abstract: In 2007 the UK Government adopted the European Landscape Convention (ELC).[1] In doing so it became bound to recognise the significance of spaces as more than physical regions; they were also to be regarded as dynamic, living landscapes, characterised by distinctive and diverse identities. However, my analysis of foxhunting culture and spatial identity indicated that local landscape assessments, designed to implement the ELC, removed foxhunting from the English countryside. This is despite the fact that foxhunting has a distinctive, long-standing and fecund physical and social presence in the land.

In practice, policies, which are designed to implement the aims of the ELC and purport to embrace its ethos, actually have a tendency to frame space selectively. They contribute to an appropriation of the landscape and represent a form of bureaucratic colonialism. The ELC claims to incorporate inclusiveness, bottom up involvement and local empowerment. However, in practice, selective representations of the environment wrest power from places and from those who create and give meaning to them.  This paper warns that this precedent represents a danger for our cultural and physical environment.

Alison Acton is an alumnus of Essex University. Her doctoral thesis examined the connection between landscape and the cultural identity of the foxhunting community. Her fieldwork involved participant observation riding as a member of mounted foxhound packs over three years. Since graduating Alison has continued researching aspects relating to foxhunting culture. Most recently this has inolved an analysis of the embodied relationship between landscape, horse and rider in foxhunting culture and the role of custom and praxis in maintaining unowned territory.Alison has presented her work at conferences hosted by the British Sociological Association, the Association of Social Anthropologists, Anthrozoos and the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of British Geographers. She has contributed to an anthology on hunting and philosophy and has been interviewed by Laurie Taylor on the Radio 4 programme, Thinking Allowed. She is currently working on material for a forthcoming publication, Living with Horses.


[1] The ELC was signed and ratified by the UK Government in 2006 and became binding in 2007.