Regeneration as a Socioecological Process in Sacred Groves of Xishuangbanna, Southwest China

Date and Time: 
Friday, 12 May, 2017 - 09:00
, Lily - Yale University

The recent promotion of sacred groves among conservation scientists tends to assume a static and unchanging brand of indigenous culture and traditional knowledge, whereas indigenous peoples have long negotiated the maintenance of sacred groves and understandings of sacred nature with land use shaped by sociopolitical and economic pressures. In Xishuangbanna, a region home the world’s northernmost tropical rainforest and China’s richest biodiversity, I examine the regeneration of sacred groves and cultural knowledge in ongoing community-based projects by indigenous Dai people, scrutinize the influence of conservation research organizations, and analyze successes and failures of outsider-led forest restoration projects. I couple ethnographic analyses with the study of botanical regeneration processes in sacred groves to understand how changing ecological conditions can influence environmental politics and the co-production of dynamic socio-ecological landscapes. I argue that regeneration has functioned as a “reinvented tradition,” a means through which communities can reshape identity and negotiate collective interests.