Paths exist because there is walking, or at least the trampling of many feet, human and other-than-human. They connect us, here and now, with those who walked before us and those who might follow in our footsteps. Even when other forms of mobility have grown in importance and changed our societies in dramatic ways, most of us still depend on walking in our daily life. The authors of this volume follow footpaths in various historical and geographical settings, some of which may be deeply remembered locally, and raise questions: What happens if we consider paths and trails as a distinct kind of heritage?
This heritage is physical, as in traces in landscape and effects on vegetation; but it is also immaterial and digital, as it appears in computer games and mobile images. The chapters collected in this volume deal with walking and trails through many perspectives and sources, including maps, literature, sound and art, and often way beyond the beaten track. They point to historical and current forms of land use that are sustainable in the most basic meaning of the word.
The exploration of paths speaks to the main feature of recent thinking on heritage making – the capacity of heritage not just to sit there in monumental fashion, but also to make. Paths change, act, and perform in relation to humans and other animals. Paths are part of an endless co-creation of heritage, as we go.
Daniel Svensson has a PhD in history and is an Associate Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University. His research is mainly within the fields of sports history and environmental history, with a focus on environmental issues in sports and outdoor recreation. Svensson’s dissertation (awarded the International Ski History Association Ullr Award 2017) focused on the scientisation of training methods in endurance sports and meetings between scientific and experiential knowledge in sports during the twentieth century. Svensson lives in the countryside in West Sweden and is the proud father of two daughters with whom he loves to go for a walk.
Katarina Saltzman is an associate professor in Conservation at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. In her research, she has investigated nature/culture relations and heritage-making from an ethnological point of view, often in transdisciplinary collaboration. Her research areas include contemporary vernacular practices such as gardening, rural landscape management and recreational walking, with a particular focus on the landscapes where these and other activities are taking place. She has carried out field studies in rural, urban and semi-urban environments, including intensively tended private gardens and agricultural landscapes as well as transitory and temporarily leftover places at the urban fringe.
Sverker Sörlin is a Professor of Environmental History at the Division of History, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, where he was also a co-founder with Nina Wormbs of the KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory (2011). He has a long-standing career as a scholar and writer focusing on the science and politics of natural resource extraction and climate change. He has also published widely on representations of landscape and its significance in the formation of national and other identities. His seminal collection on the history of out-of-doors in Sweden (Friluftshistoria, with Klas Sandell) had a second edition in 2008. Increasingly working on ‘elemental’ Earth-, Cryo- and Atmospheric narratives and histories, his most recent book is Ice Humanities: Living, Thinking and Working in a Melting World (Manchester 2022, with Klaus Dodds).