Carola Muñoz – Belen Cerezo

How would you define a natural/artificial territory?

Belen: This is a complex question, I think I would say that one core issue to take into account is mediation. For me, then it would be important to think through what does mediate in the encounters with the territories.

Carola: What an interesting question. For me a territory is all about people and their relationship to the land they live in and transform through their actions. I haven’t thought much about artificial territories but i do think there is no such thing as a natural territory. That would be land without meanings or claims.

Maria: Now, regarding Carola’s last answer, I always thought on the notion of the natural as something constructed, therefore full of meaning, and because of that I got interested in Carola’s idea of no natural territory, why you think that a natural territory is one that doesn’t have meaning or claim?

Paula: Based on your statement, Caro, are there more legitimate relationships to a territory?
Can we use the natural/artificial dichotomy to define which occupations are legitimate and which aren’t? I’m thinking for example in the Mapuche conflict, or the Palestine-Israel conflict. In both cases the territory is appropriated through actions, but certain groups claim to have a natural bond with that land.

Belen: Paula, I will continue the conversation following on your comments and questions, although I don’t know the case of the Mapuche conflict. Anyway, I thought that the notion of appropriation could help us to examine the natural/artificial dichotomy.
According to the Oxford Dictionary appropriation is ‘the act of taking (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission’. Research upon the etymology of the term appropriation shows us that it derives from the Latin proprius meaning one’s own and another word that belongs to propius semantic family is property.
Continuing with these ideas, I wonder whether the concept of “property” could help us to think through on the “natural territory”. Are there other relationships to territory that the ones defined by “property”? Could the notions of “use” have something to do with the natural bond that certain groups claim to have that land?

Paula: I think it’s noticeable that while the territory remains, property shifts as it is only one way of appropriation. However, property seems to imply exclusivity over the land it claims. I think other uses of the territory by different groups may overlap. For example, in the public square around the corner of my house groups of children play during the day, in the afternoon groups of students go there to talk and smoke, also people practicing sports go there, and in the evening small groups of people gather to drink alcohol. A few blocks from that square there is big private park closed to the public. It belongs to the water company and although people wouldn’t interfere with their functioning they keep it closed. Following your idea, Belen, I wonder if the concept of proprius (one’s owns) is related to the concept of natural, concerning the belonging of a group of people to a specific piece of land.

Maria: Thinking of this idea that territory remains and property shifts, I came across this ancient German law thought on houses or cottages, weeds, flowers and plants are considered movable goods and that could be entitled to be owned by women. Differently, trees and the territory, that was immobile could be owned by free men. Therefore people could leave and profit from the surface, while the territory still belongs to the “free man”. This division of property was a reflection on German relations towards nature and appropriation (or exploitation in this case).
Therefore, if we think that all the earth is owned by someone (materially or symbolically), can we even talk of natural territories?
What kind of relations need to be in place for a territory be appropriated (or de-naturalised)?

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