2011 AAA Convention, Montreal

The A&E Meetings chair is Courtney Carothers of the University of Alaska. The Anthropology and the Environment Section sponsored 3 sessions at the 2011 convention.

Nature and Ethics Across Geographical, Discursive and Human Borders

(co-sponsored with American Ethnological Society)

Session Abstract: The nature-culture dichotomy is perhaps the most critical legacy of anthropological debate, but nature remains salient wherever ethnographic research takes place. Nature is a ‘tidemark’ concept that is, like the sea, continually refreshed and reconstituted, yet its residue clings. Despite predictions of its deconstruction and consequent demise, nature re-emerges as surely as the tides (Strathern 1992; Franklin 2003). This panel will consider how this concept becomes reconstituted and how our relationship to it looks in the twenty-first century. It will focus on the ways in which nature becomes invested with moral authority and examine the connections and disjunctures between nature and ethics across cultural, species, geographic and ethical boundaries. The papers respond to the observation that, while nature remains an ambiguous and risky force, we appear to be in a time in which it is increasingly linked to ethical living and virtues. The ethicising of nature is evident in environmentalist rhetoric, but, as this panel will show, it reaches much further. The papers reflect this, presenting ethnography from the USA, Japan, South Africa, UK, Australia, France, Peru, Brazil, India, China and Portugal. The relationship between nature and ethics bears directly on the way people think about themselves and their connections with others. The papers by Bia, Gugganig and Jensen focus particularly on how nature and ethics figure together in kinship and identity, often in direct contrast to dominant local ethical and political discourses. The way we relate to non-human entities can provide compelling insights into our ideas about nature and our ethical obligations towards it (Haraway 1991) and a number of the papers, including those by Dennis, Candea and Ogden, consider ‘transhuman’ relationships. Many of the papers critically examine how ethics plays a part in the way in which people make competing claims on and for nature, including those by Lynteris, Goldstein, Faircloth and Lamoreaux, which compare contested conceptions of nature within the same or neighbouring locations. All of the papers consider the political, economic and social effects of nature as it becomes invested with moral authority. Contemporary efforts to ‘assist’ nature, whether through caring for the environment or the development of biotechnologies, has led to a blossoming of the field of bioethics as well as anthropological analyses of nature, ethics and technology. Reed, Sousa and Clarke respond directly to these developments, considering how working directly with the natural world relies upon and reproduces specific conceptions of the natural and the ethical. In this panel, the contributors will be ably led by the discussants, Sarah Franklin and Michal Nahman, who are leading figures in the field of nature and bioethics. It is planned that this panel will lead to an edited volume, continuing this conversation about the relationship between two pivotal concepts in human culture. References: Franklin, S. 2003. Re-thinking nature-culture: Anthropology and the new genetics. Anthropological Theory 3(1): 65-85 Haraway, D. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge Strathern, M. 1992. After Nature: English Kinship in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Organizers:  Katharine Dow (UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH) and Victoria Jane Boydell (Independent Scholar)

Chairs:  Michal Nahman (University of the West of England)

Discussants:  Sarah Franklin (London School of Economics)

Presenters: Mascha Gugganig (University of British Columbia), Liliana Gil Russo de Sousa (University of Coimbra), Ruth Goldstein (University of California, Berkeley), Eva Jansen (University of Munich), Charlotte R Faircloth (University of Kent), Janelle D Lamoreaux (University of California, Berkeley), Christos Lynteris (University of St Andrews ), Jesse Bia (University of Oxford), Matei Candea (Durham University), Simone Jane Dennis (Australian National University), Jennifer Clarke (Aberdeen University); Adam D Reed (University of St Andrews); Laura A Ogden (Florida International University)

The Continuing Traces, Tidemarks, and Legacies of Walter Goldschmidt’s Life and Work, Part II

co-sponsored with Culture and Agriculture

Session Abstract: From his early work on industrial agriculture through his work on native land rights in Alaska and his studies of the economics of herding in Africa, Walter Goldschmidt’s contributions to anthropology focused on different ways of understanding land, boundaries and spatial relations. His later work on human evolution was concerned with the boundary between the human and the infrahuman. In 2001, nine years before his death on September 1, 2010 at the age of 97, Walter Goldschmidt concluded his review of the numerous shifts and flows of anthropological thought over the seventy years he’d been doing anthropology with a plea that anthropologists, as “keepers of context and interrelatedness,” forego sectarian quarreling and “take on our responsibilities as keepers of a holistic faith” (2001, American Anthropologist 102(4):789-807:803). Five years later he published Bridge to Humanity: How Affect Hunger Trumps the Selfish Gene (2006, Oxford University Press). In this career capstone, he adduced complex evidence from primatology, as well as linguistic, psychological, biological, archaeological and cultural anthropologies to show that as the components of anthropology shift and re-identify themselves, they work best as interlocking approaches to understand the human condition. Anthropological approaches and theories ebb and flow but what endures is sound ethnography and the service we do for others. Goldschmidt left a mighty legacy of both. The current interest in public anthropology can be traced to the then new medium of radio where Goldschmidt’s programs helped popularize the field. Another trace is his interest in policy where he worked tirelessly to promote the land rights of Alaskan natives as well as to reform agricultural policy to create more equitable conditions for small farmers as the onslaught of industrial agriculture took hold. Another trace is our discipline’s abiding interest in cross-cultural psychology. He was a founding member of the Society for Psychological Anthropology and served as editor of its journal, Ethos when the editors met at his house to lay out the copy. Finally, he served as the 1976 president of the AAA. Papers will be presented by people who studied and worked with Walter Goldschmidt and will cover the range of four-field anthropology, as Goldschmidt did, from biological anthropology to public policy to public anthropology, to psychological anthropology and anthropological understanding of the U.S.

Organizers:  E Paul Durrenberger (Penn State) and Kendall M Thu (Northern Illinois University)

Chairs:  E Paul Durrenberger (Penn State) and Kendall M Thu (Northern Illinois University)

Presenters: Karl Eggert (University of Colorado), Steve J. Langdon (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Mark Moritz (The Ohio State University), Daniel O’connell (Cornell University), Robert A Rubinstein (Syracuse University), Thomas F Thornton (Oxford University), Jon G Wagner (Knox College)

Gitxaała Laxyuup (Kitkatla Nation):  Tracing Gitxaala History and Culture Through Archaeology and Anthropology

(co-sponsored with Society for the Anthropology of North America)

Session Abstract: Gitxaała is an ancient indigenous nation on the north coast of contemporary British Columbia. Like many other indigenous communities in B.C. Gitxaała is engaged in an ongoing struggle to assert their aboriginal rights and title to their laxyuup (loosely translated: territory). In this current struggle the resources of the past –historical documents, ethnographic accounts, and the material remains preserved as the ‘archaeological record-’ become resources in the struggle over contemporary ownership between the government and First Nations and between First Nations themselves. This panel seeks to explore our understanding of the ancient past AND the ways in which that past takes shape in the crucible of contemporary legal and political struggles. We have framed this panel to address this primary research question: to what extent can archaeological and anthropological scholarship validate or discount contemporary claims about the past? This will be accomplished through the combination of archaeological and anthropological methods with Gitxaała approaches to knowledge. Archaeologically, this panel seeks to clarify our understanding of: 1) regional patterns of use and occupancy throughout the southern reaches of Gitxaała laxyuup; 2) village size and population profiles, and; 3) the ancient diet and related resource utilization profile of Gitxaała and their ancestors. Our socio-cultural anthropological stream seeks to clarify our understanding of 1) the extent to which archaeological and anthropological scholarship can validate or discount claims to history, and; 2) how to navigate between contradictory historical claims from Aboriginal groups in a context in which the archaeological record becomes a resource in contemporary political contexts.

Organizers:  Charles R Menzies (UBC) and Caroline F Butler (Gitxaala Environmental Monitoring)

Chair:  Charles R Menzies (UBC)

Discussant:  Caroline F Butler (Gitxaala Environmental Monitoring)

Presenters: Charles R Menzies (UBC), Iain McKechnie (University of British Columbia), Naomi Smethurst (University of British Columbia), Kenzie Jessome (University of British Columbia), Morgan Moffitt (University of British Columbia), Jonathan Irons (University of British Columbia)

 

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