Landscapes are dynamic outcomes of human activities and non-human processes. Many of these activities and processes are rhythmical, in that they display roughly repetitive spatiotemporal patterns that emerge in relation to each other. Developing approaches from geography and anthropology that focus on the rhythms of landscape, this research project analyses watery landscapes in Estonia and Finland. Empirical research is conducted using ethnographic methods, including participant observation and guided site visits. Water is not only essential for life and a core aspect of Estonian and Finnish landscapes, but also a most malleable and versatile element that clearly illustrates the conflicts and resonances between different rhythms. In these contexts, water markedly brings out the discord between diverse forms of land use and management. It also represents a force of its own, reshaping landscapes as rivers, tides, wetlands or snow cover. The research project investigates the rhythms of water landscapes in Estonia and Finland in four interconnected ways. First, it studies how human and non-human rhythms – water discharge, work schedules, temperature, electricity use, animal movements, second-home use and many others – constitute the landscapes under study, especially looking at the role of water and water use. Second, it explores how water affects the relationship between landscape and memory, e.g. through changes in river bed and banks, drained bogs or coastal erosion, and how people living and working in watery landscapes develop appropriate memories. Third, the project scrutinises the frictions and conflicts that emerge in the negotiation of different rhythms in a watery landscape, exploring how a rhythms perspective may help better understand these conflicts. Finally, it aims at questioning mainstream views on the respective tempos of social and environmental change, thereby providing a better understanding of the concepts of adaptation and resilience.
The project explored the rhythms of life in wet landscapes. It focused ethnographically on Soomaa, Estonia, and the Kemi River, Finnish Lapland. I conducted some follow-up research (after my doctoral fieldwork) in Finnish Lapland, and concentrated on empirical work in Soomaa. Even though I orally presented the Soomaa material at multiple occasion in Estonia and abroad, none of it has been published yet. Most of the published outputs are based on material from Finland; and some are mainly theoretical contributions. The main achievements of this project have been to trace the implications of rhythmic spatiotemporalities in various aspects of life in watery landscapes, including fishing, engineering, tourism, environmental management, border-making and social relations in general. Theoretically, I have developed these through the concepts of 'flow' (i.e. material-semiotic movements in landscapes and societies), 'rhythm' (i.e. "repetition with difference", or the realisation that many dynamics are simultaneously cyclical and historic) and 'hydrosociality' (the congruence of water movements and social relations). Among other things, I wrote on small-scale fishing as empathetically relating to fish and watercourses; on attempts to redefine the concept of 'flow' from a migration metaphor to a way of understanding socio-material life; on the conflict over a reservoir project and its relation to different temporalities; and on flood management and its implication in social and material relations.