Thematic Series

Engagement publishes periodic thematic series that feature posts by scholars, activists, and others on topics of relevance to the Anthropology and Environment Society community. Find links to these series below.

Imaging Nature

“The Blue Marble,” by NASA/Apollo 17 Crew. Public domain. Modified by Colin Hoag.

Environmental humanists and environmental scientists labor over images—their production, their dissemination, their interpretation—with profound consequences for how we understand our world. Satellite monitoring of forest cover in the Amazon yields indices of carbon sequestration. Ansel Adams’ photographs of the Yosemite Valley teach US Americans to see transcendent nature in place of settler colonialism. Drone video presents the scale and drama of #NoDAPL protests. Our screens are an endless scroll of hurricanes, floods, and oil spills whose long and tragic aftermath elude easy capture. From a fragile “blue marble,” we peer into the void.

This thematic series seeks…[read more]

The Event, the Horizon

Dawn, 2016. By Eugenia Hoag.

Circumstances are extraordinary. Days are like weeks. Spring arrives, but the streets are empty. An abundance of caution overwhelms all plans. We reach out in darkness for a wall to walk along. The problem is one of forecasting—of the dim sense that things are shifting but at non-linear rates. Feedback is the specter haunting our world. Intensification and dissipation somehow seem equally plausible: an irruption of deer freed from predation; a doubling of the number of infected every six days; the extinction of a species after decades of population decline; an abrupt shift in the trade winds from an incremental rise in ocean temperatures…[read more]

Ecological Times

Søby Brunkulslejer, Danmark. Photo by Colin Hoag for the Brown Coal Research Team (AURA: Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene).

Ecological processes unfold in unstable coordination. The phenology of a species might come into alignment with the seasonal availability of a food source, say, but disturbance, shifting environmental conditions, and system feedbacks mean that these alignments are always tentative—even in the most tightly coupled, bounded ecosystems. Somewhere between machinic and haphazard, ecosystems are at once rule-bound and surprising…[read more]

Natural Histories

Landskapsstudie från Barbizon. By Carl Larsson, via Wikimedia Commons. {{PD-US}}

Long-term field research in a single locale has been central to the environmental sciences, including environmental anthropology. From Harold Conklin’s work in Ifugao, Philippines to Aldo Leopold’s research in Sauk County, Wisconsin, sustained acquaintance with a field site opens up to a place-based understanding of ecological process, while teaching researchers to discern both stability and variation in social and natural worlds. At a time when theorizing and concept development has accelerated within anthropology and environmental science writ large, what does the future hold for long-term field research?…[read more]

Toxic Bodies

“A pigeon trap,” Provincial Archives of Alberta.

Epigenetics, developmental biology, and feminist science and technology studies teach us that organisms are not merely affected by their environment—they are co-constituted by it, in deep dialogue. What, then, does it mean to be human in the abundant presence of human-produced toxins? From Bisphenol A (BPA) to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to glyphosate and many more, the efflorescence of 20th century toxins settles into humans and their companion species. Here, we take an expanded notion of toxicity…[read more]

Life on the Frontier: The Environmental Anthropology of Settler Colonialism

Lithography of a painting by A. Salm.
Lithography of a painting by A. Salm.

What kinds of nature are forged through settler colonialism? Settler colonists do not merely conquer people and territory—they seek to transplant and redefine. Settler colonialisms fashion borderlands through their concept of “the frontier,” generating novel identity categories that are negotiated, rejected, or reconfigured by colonized people and their descendants. This thematic series explores what anthropological approaches can contribute to our understanding of…[read more]

The Nature of Infrastructure

Watering hole in Lesotho highlands. Photo by Colin Hoag.
Watering hole in Lesotho highlands. Photo by Colin Hoag.

The concept of infrastructure draws attention to as-yet-unseen synergies between technology, culture, and materiality. What does this concept have to offer environmental anthropology? While we can safely say that infrastructures shape the natural world, they surely do so in ways particular to their times and places. This Engagement blog thematic series seeks to shed light on the heterogeneity of infrastructures—their forms and effects—as seen through the anthropology of the environment…[read more]

Museums and Ecology

Inside the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Photo by Theresa L. Miller.

Museums are important spaces where scholarly research has the opportunity to reach broader audiences beyond academia. These spaces can be especially significant in communicating research on pressing ecological issues to the public. In this thematic series, we ask, what can museums, including their exhibitions and collections, tell us about human-environment engagements? Additionally, how do studies on museums and on ecology overlap and intersect, and how are these studies disseminated to a public audience?…[read more]

Anthropology and Climate Change: Intersections of Teaching, Interdisciplinarity, and Activism

Naomi Klein

The recent conversation on the EANTH listserv surrounding Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate brought to light important differences regarding how anthropologists engage with and teach the subject of climate change. It raised questions for anthropologists engaged with climate change issues, whether as educators, researchers, or advocates: What roles can anthropologists play in climate change education and activism? How do we educate students about global climate issues in an academically sound and informed manner? Is it possible to teach on climate change and at the same time provide uplifting ethnographic accounts of communities working for positive change?…[read more]

Multi-Species Anthropology: Becoming Human with Others

Cattle Roundup, Great Fall, Montana, c.1890. Photo by Geo B. Bonnel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Western notion of “the human” as we know it is unraveling. From fields as diverse as developmental biology, epigenetics, environmental history, science and technology studies, and anthropology, we are learning new ways that the histories and trajectories of humans are bound up with those of other species…[read more]