Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Jem Bendall created quite a stir in 2018 when he published an academic paper arguing that societal collapse due to climate change was unavoidable and imminent. By early 2019 it had been downloaded more than 100,000 times and was billed in the popular press as the climate change story “sending people to therapy.” He coined the phrase “deep adaptation” to describe what he thinks is the most pragmatic response to his apocalyptic vision of our near future. He calls it a “post-sustainability” approach involving three components: resilience, relinquishment, and restoration. In this paper I explore what collaborative anthropology might look like were we to suffer global societal collapse do to climate change as predicted by Bendall. I do so through the lens of a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project to create a traveling exhibit and community museum in an ecotourism development zone on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca. Even while the numbers of tourists visiting Oaxaca’s coast are increasing annually, the people who call the Oaxacan coast home are already experiencing the impact of climate change. In fact, many of the people involved in the current collaborative exhibit/museum project will likely become climate change refugees sometime in the next decade, if Bendall’s timeline holds true. I argue that supporting a deep adaptation approach by working to help create more resilient communities, relinquish patterns of living that are no longer viable, and restore lifeways better suited to a dramatically different climate will bring dramatic changes to the practice of collaborative anthropology.