Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: The Ancestors Project explores the contributions of scholars to environmental anthropology whose work has been overlooked or is not widely known. Scholarship in environmental anthropology has historically asked questions about how humans relate to the interconnected bio-physical and cultural processes unfolding in the locales in which they live. The field is often defined as originating in theoretical approaches that privilege a longue durée perspective on human-environment interactions. From Boas’s reflections on geography and cultural diffusion, Malinowski’s study of gardens and magic, Evans-Prichard’s explorations of pastoralism and economy, to Steward’s analysis of cultural ecology and tradition, environmental anthropology has always encompassed a broad range of thinkers and conceptual tools. Less acknowledged, however, is that this longue durée perspective has not been forcefully applied in a way that reflects on how we cite canonical texts as a field.
This panel is one of two panels that makes visible previously unrecognized "ancestors" in the anthropology of environment. This panel focuses on the analysis of ecology as a kind of infrastructure; it highlights the way scholars have conceptualized and materialized relations within socioecological systems.
This panel is a first step to address this gap in the field by posing three questions: who “is” environmental anthropology (who are “we”) and what texts encompass our canon? Is our canon adequate for addressing the boundaries shaped by the possibilities and vulnerabilities of contemporary rapid environmental changes? How do the vocabularies of our discipline further or foreclose our trajectories of inquiry? To answer these questions, each panelist will present on a scholar they have found central to their work in environmental anthropology, explain what this scholar did for the field, why they may have been erased or marginalized, and what a reexamination of their scholarship might do for our canon today.
The Ancestors Project builds upon the work we began two years ago with a roundtable at the Anthropology meetings, developed as a crowd-sourced syllabus. In spending time with our ancestors this year we aim to begin the project of formulating a new historical understanding of method and theory in environmental anthropology.