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Earthly Memorial Landscapes

“Earthly Memorial Landscapes” is a special issue of Future Anterior that proposes to explore historic landscapes that challenge ideas of nature in heritage and preservation. Submissions for contributions are now being accepted through October 1, 2024 for publication in 2025.
Earthly Memorial Landscapes

In recent decades, across diverse geographical and ecological contexts around the globe, a growing amount of archaeological evidence has emerged showing that vast land formations once thought to be natural – that is, without the influence of human culture – are in fact socially made landscapes.

For example, there is now substantive evidence, and increasingly so after archaeologists began using large-scale territorial laser scanning to map underneath the canopy, that vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest, the quintessential representation of pristine nature in Western colonial-modern imaginary, sheltered complex civilizations and urban networks before the European invasion. The forest – its soil, plants, and trees – as long recognized by Indigenous knowledge, is a landscape saturated with human history and social memory, an archaeological heritage material in its own right.

This shift in perspective can be in part attributed to the development of new sensing and spatial technologies. From the wide-range perspective provided by global positioning systems, air-borne laser scans, and satellite remote sensing; to the microscopic vision of material and genetic analysis – new technologies allow reading and interpreting the earth in much more complex and sophisticated ways, freeing up the conceptual as well as the material notion of evidence from the traditions of nineteenth-century archaeology (and its colonial racist views on human civilization and progress).

Previously disregarded as background noise information, natural elements such as trees, plants, seeds, and soil are today recognized and studied as archaeological evidence. These natural-cultural archaeological sites, “earthly memorial landscapes” as we are calling them, may look pristine, but are in fact spatial products of long-term social designs with nature.

On the other hand, and in an interrelated manner, this shift can be attributed to the critical questioning of the binary logic of the nature-culture divide that sustains Western epistemologies and imaginaries, as well as to the critical questioning of the ways in which archaeological evidence – and, by extension, heritage and preservation – played a seminal role in shaping racialized narratives of human progress and civilization that historically sustained imperial power and colonialism.

This special issue of Future Anterior invites writers and practitioners to present papers or visual projects that research, map, describe, and narrate “earthly memorial landscapes” which – like the Amazon rainforest or the ǂKhomani sand formations in southern Africa – are the product of social design entangled with nature. These natural-cultural landscapes have been historically shaped by Indigenous modes of inhabitation, land management systems, and spatial technologies. Acknowledging their historic, constructed, and memorial dimension means not only giving voice to other stories that need to be told in the field of heritage and preservation, but also preserving and learning from ecologically-sound knowledge-practices that have become central to contemporary design on a planet approaching ecological collapse.

Addressing practices and theories across architecture, archaeology, environmental science, visual culture, and advocacy, Future Anterior will explore the frontiers of heritage and preservation across human/non-human domains and counter-colonial positions. We seek contributions from historical, conceptual, legal, technological, activist, or artistic perspectives, cutting through disciplinary fields in challenging established visions of nature through heritage and its sometimes fraught historic and epistemic foundations.

Arguably, learning from ruins is the foundational epistemic act of architecture and its politics. What we are naming “earthly memorial landscapes” embraces forms of spatial knowledge and technologies where nature is not a passive object for human appropriation, but a living and acting being on equal footing with humans – a member of the polis to whom even rights ought to be granted.

Rostain ruins (1)
Sculpted landscapes of raised fields cover the savannahs of the French Guiana coast, northern Amazonia, documented by the multi-channel “photographic-archaeologies” produced by archaeologist Stéphen Rostain in the 1980s and 1990s. Nearly invisible from the ground, these large structures (built ca. 1000 years BP) were preserved up to today due to the actions of ants. Image courtesy Stéphen Rostain.
About Future Anterior
Future Anterior is a peer-reviewed (refereed) journal that approaches historic preservation from a position of critical inquiry, rigorous scholarship, and theoretical analysis. It is an important international forum for the critical examination of historic preservation, spurring challenges of its assumptions, goals, methods, and results. Future Anterior is a journal of Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Preservation that is published twice a year by the University of Minnesota Press.
Formatting Requirements
Articles should be no more than 4,000 words (excluding footnotes) with up to seven illustrations. References to the identity of the author must be removed from the manuscript before submission. It is the responsibility of the author to secure permissions for image use and pay any reproduction fees. A brief abstract (200 words) and author biography (around 100 words) must accompany the submission, but in a separate file to preserve the double-blind peer review process. Acceptance or rejection of submissions is at the discretion of the Editorial Staff. Please do not send original materials, as submissions will not be returned.
Formatting Text
All text files should be saved as Microsoft Word or RTF format. Text and citations must be formatted in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. All articles must be submitted in English, and spelling should follow American convention.
Formatting Illustrations

Images should be sent as TIFF files with a resolution of at least 300 dpi at 8” by 9” print size. Figures should be numbered clearly in the text, after the paragraph in which they are referenced. Image captions and credits must be included with submissions.

Examples of manuscript and illustration formatting can be found in past issues of Future Anterior here and here.


Submission Checklist
  • Abstract (200 words)
  • Manuscript (4000 words, excluding footnotes)
  • Illustrations (maximum of 7)
  • Captions for Illustrations
  • Illustration Copyright information
  • Author biography (100 words)
Contact Information

All submissions and questions about the submission process must be submitted to Future.Anterior.Journal@gmail.com.

Questions about the Call for Papers: Earthly Memorial Landscapes can be sent to the above email address or emailed to the guest-editor:
Paulo Tavares
Guest Editor, Future Anterior
Columbia GSAPP
prc2130@columbia.edu