Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: This panel aims to address the ways in which diverse agendas, experiences, desires, and actions intersect to shape how people understand and experience their surroundings. We are particularly interested in the ways in which different kinds of collaboration - the terms of which are often dictated by external actors/conditions - transform relations among different groups and between people and the environments in which they live. Rather than equating landscapes with nature, contemporary understandings transcend the nature-culture dichotomy to highlight the complex relations between diverse human and other-than-human beings, as well as the topographical, ecological, and meteorological features that configure and give life to these spaces. However, in many cases, diverging conceptualizations and relationalities with landscapes involve different understandings of what constitutes “land”. Such contestations often include multiple layers of difference (ontological, epistemic, desired futures, power, etc.). Moreover, attempts to address or overcome such differences through technical mechanisms or bureaucratic processes often result in further tensions and conflicts.
During the last three decades, top-down approaches to conservation and development have resulted in a push for more participatory mechanisms and processes for engaging with issues at local and regional levels. In parallel, researchers have called for participatory approaches, recognizing colonial disciplinary legacies and the benefits of taking local knowledge seriously. In this context, although collaboration has emerged as a prominent paradigm in research and applied approaches to landscapes, there remains a tendency for powerful people and groups to define landscapes in ways that result in the dispossession and/or displacement of the less powerful. Likewise, despite calls for participatory research methodologies and the push for de-colonial theories, academic canons and institutional processes largely continue to reproduce asymmetries that collaborative approaches aim to tackle.
Focusing on the diverse scales and different settings in which collaborative approaches to landscapes can take place, the papers in this panel explore the possibilities, limitations, contradictions, and opportunities afforded by these collaborative endeavors.