2015 Conference Sessions
(Re)encountering Agency in the Anthropocene Garden: Multi-species Ethnography and the Ethnobiological Heritage of Contemporary Theories
A changing climate, the 6th great extinction and a growing appreciation of the need for alternative ways of interacting with the environment has inspired anthropology and other social sciences to pay increased attention to the plants and animals that are encountered in fieldwork. Multi-species ethnography explores a desire to decentralize and challenge the privilege of the human.
This session will explore contemporary research that embraces alternative ways to think about plants, considering Ethnobiology's contributions to this contemporary theoretical shift. Session participants will explore how the increasing academic and theoretical attention to nonhuman agency relates to indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge, what the ethical implications may be for rethinking plant agency, and how such understandings might translate into action in the Anthropocene.
The ethics involved in conducting ethnobiology research involving human subjects, cultural patrimony, or biological systems sometimes become particularly complex when done outside of one's own culture or country. Although many central ethical principles recognized by scholarly associations are similar globally, diverse societies, bodies of law, academic traditions, and research institutions may understand and apply them differently. In some cases, where research authorizations and data collection procedures are codified or bureaucratized, navigating multiple ethical terrains may be rife with potential challenges and conflicts. Consequently, many researchers find it difficult to adhere to a single eternally delineated ethics framework, even one backed by force of law. How can ethnobiologists and ethnobiology organizations in the United States and other countries position themselves to work within and between ethical systems? How can they contribute to the development of responsible, effective, and fair ethics standards and policies? How does working internationally inform or complicate the process of designing and adhering to institutional ethics codification? In this session, we invite ethnobiologists to draw on their intercultural and international experiences to discuss such ethical challenges and how they have been or could be addressed for the sake of encouraging modes of research engagement that protect participants from real harm while facilitating responsible research.
This session, initiated by the Open Science Network (OSN), will explore diverse approaches in teaching ethnobiology. Papers will relate to Cassandra Quave’s edited volume “Innovative Strategies for Teaching in the Plant Sciences” (2014) and to the OSN’s core concepts of awareness, diversity, change, and connections. This session will increase awareness of the OSN’s open-system policy and, in that spirit, will provide examples of ethnobiology teaching including course curricula and syllabi, hands-on activities, and online instruction. Ultimately, presenters seek to inspire and enable ethnobiology educators to promote the importance of this discipline by fostering connections of diversity between students, their environments, and peoples of the world.
For millennia, coastal peoples around the world have relied on marine resources and ecosystems to sustain them. Many have developed complex systems of resource management and use that have encouraged social and ecological resilience. Today, changing ocean conditions, resulting from ocean warming, acidification, over-fishing, and pollution, coupled with changes in the social and economic contexts in which fisheries are conducted, threaten the resilience of traditional fisheries. At the same time, resource managers and social and natural scientists are increasingly aware of both the value of the knowledge encompassed within these fishery systems and the dearth of documentation about these systems. The papers in this session cover a range of topics associated with traditional fisheries, with a focus on situating traditional fisher knowledge and practice within current social and ecological contexts.
Around the world birds speak to us on many levels. They can be messengers, ancestors, spirits, teachers or representations used by political leaders. Each of these papers considers the cultural meaning of birds, how people interact with birds, or how the boundaries between birds and people overlap. The papers explore changes over both time and space, as history, politics and the environment influence relationships between birds, people, and their surroundings. Specific paper topics include: the spiritual meaning of birds and bird song, relationships between birds and plants or other animals, the changing meaning of the same bird species within a region, cultural differences in community bird knowledge, and the politics of conservation efforts to protect species or reintroduce species that have disappeared due to human actions. By focusing on birds we can deepen our understanding of relationship to place and etiquette, as bird representatives show us ways of being in the world that carry associated responsibilities. Rather than simply being pretty adornments with lovely voices, birds carry us through cultural doors that open onto vistas of core values for each society.