Tag Archives: engagement

Protecting Cultural Environments in Northern Wisconsin: Anthropology’s Contribution to a Tribal Initiative

By Joe Quick, with contributions from Larry Nesper

In 2012, the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians engaged research specialists working in several different fields, including anthropology, the physical sciences, and law. Our assignment was to assemble a report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about air quality on the tribe’s reservation in northern Wisconsin. With this report, the tribe aims to redesignate its reservation’s air quality from Class II to Class I under the “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. The air on the reservation today is too clean to be classified as Class II, and redesignation as Class I will help the tribe ensure that this status is formally recognized and protected. In fact, the tribe first initiated this process in the 1990s, but suspended its work due to the anticipated legal costs that it would incur if the redesignation were challenged by the State of Wisconsin. Now that five other tribes in the United States—including the Potawatomis in Wisconsin—have set a precedent by achieving this same redesignation, Bad River decided to reinitiate the process. Continue reading

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Gathering Divergent Forest Honeys: Collections and Commodity Flows in the Philippines

By Sarah Webb

When I began researching honey collecting in the Philippines, I never anticipated that making visual collections of objects and images associated with marketing honey was going to become a powerful way of stimulating discussion about my study. But the clues were there all along. Collections are things brought together, in so many senses of the term. Such assemblages have a capacity for telling stories about how different products make their ways through the world, and into our homes, bodies and lives. Honey collecting, like other forms of forest harvesting or hunting, tends to evoke ideas about a bound type of thing moving in one direction – out of the forest and into a market (wherever that might be). But what happens when a ‘natural forest’ honey supposedly harvested on an island in the Philippines is manufactured and sold in Manila? And when this honey’s association with nature and forest environments is hardly natural, but needs to be made apparent by literally rendering the final product green? How do such commodities relate to the forest honeys actually being harvested by Indigenous experts as part of their livelihoods and lifeways, and being marketed by non-government organizations? In attempting to discuss the issues that arose from my research, I found that bringing together a range of honey products that had different, yet related, trajectories could be a wonderful prompt for talking about the social and spatial disjunctures that often occur within efforts to add value to certain types of natural resources. Continue reading

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Cloaking, not Bleaching: the Back Story from Inside Bureaucracy

By Janis Bristol Alcorn

“… In other words, the way that bureaucracies work is by bleaching out local context and coming up with big simplifications.” – Andrew Mathews, as quoted in his January 2013 interview with ENGAGEMENT

I would counter by positing that good bureaucracies do not bleach out local context. Instead, they create big, simplified umbrellas that cloak the complex, dynamic range of local circumstances and thereby give the staff of government bureaucracies the space to address local circumstances despite changes in political direction. I base this assertion on twenty-five years’ experience working with USAID, and on the literature on good governance. Continue reading

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Genese Marie Sodikoff on forest conservation, Malagasy worker-peasants and biodiversity

ENGAGEMENT editor Rebecca Garvoille recently caught up with Genese Marie Sodikoff, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, to discuss her new book, Forest and Labor in Madagascar: From Colonial Concession to Global Biosphere (2012, Indiana University Press), and its broader contributions to forest conservation and socio-environmental justice debates in Madagascar. This interview is the fourth installment in an ENGAGEMENT series exploring how environmental-anthropological book projects inspire meaningful engagements in study sites across the globe. Continue reading

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Settler Colonial Nature in the Everglades

Americans live in a settler colonial society, and this shapes how we understand and engage nature. In the vast expanse of slow-flowing water and drained agricultural lands known as the Florida Everglades, thinking about settler colonialism helps make sense of Burmese python hunts and Seminole water rights, of scientific restoration models and National Park policies. Doing so informs my own ethnographic research on the relationship between peoples’ sense of belonging and the ways that they value water in the Everglades. Continue reading

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Campus Food Projects: Engines for a More Sustainable System?

Back in 2005, as Emory University embraced sustainability as part of a new strategic plan, it was the physicians on the visioning committee who insisted on including food as a priority. Recognizing that environmental, economic, health, and social justice concerns intertwined with food, the committee encouraged local sourcing of vegetables, fruits, dairy, and poultry from farms with sustainable certifications. Imported items (bananas, coffee, tea) could contribute to campus goals by embracing products with Fair Trade or organic certification. Continue reading

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Sustainability and Food Production in the Hoosier Heartland: Learning through Local Engagement

Once a booming agricultural and factory town, Muncie, Indiana, is today a post-industrial rustbelt city grappling with questions about its economic and environmental futures. As heavy industries left town, Muncie’s economy has flagged, leaving some 24% of its residents at or below the poverty line. To make matters worse, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in 2007 that one-third of the city’s former industrial sites were brownfields that posed risks to human health and safety. In spite of these challenges, Muncie residents are transforming and revitalizing their city. In particular, they have shown renewed and growing interest in sustainably produced foods as a boon to overall health, safety and environmental restoration. Innovative partnerships have enabled Ball State University (BSU) professors and students to directly contribute to these community efforts. Inspired by Robert and Helen Merrell Lynd’s pioneering community study, Middletown, BSU professors and students are expanding this tradition of conducting engaged, local research to benefit the region. The result has been the transformation of former brownfields into public wetlands. Also through direct civic engagement, student volunteers have helped remove 70,000 pounds of trash from the White River watershed over the last six years. As significant as these restoration efforts are for the community, local residents are also finding ways to combine sustainable economic development with environmental restoration. Continue reading

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Andrew Mathews on forestry, bureaucracy, and engaged scholarship

ENGAGEMENT editor Rebecca Garvoille recently caught up with Andrew S. Mathews, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to discuss his recent book, Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests (2011, MIT Press), and its broader contributions to forest policy and socio-environmental justice debates in Mexico. This interview is the third installment in an ENGAGEMENT series exploring how environmental-anthropological book projects inspire meaningful engagements in study sites across the globe. Continue reading

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In the Trenches: Collaborative Conservation in a Contested West

For the last fifteen years, I’ve worked as a volunteer – a citizen anthropologist – in the collaborative conservation movement sweeping across the American West. I co-founded the Arizona Common Ground Roundtable in 1997. For the next five years, we (the Roundtable) sponsored forums across the state to bring ranchers, environmentalists, and sportsmen together to talk about the future of Arizona’s wide-open spaces. We found our common ground by paraphrasing political analyst, James Carville: “It’s land fragmentation, stupid!” Then I chaired the Ranch Conservation Task Force of Pima County’s visionary Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP), which seeks to conserve both biodiversity and working ranches around the Tucson metropolitan area. For the last decade, I have served on Pima County’s Conservation Acquisition Commission (CAC). The CAC provides recommendations to the Pima County Board of Supervisors on how to spend the $170 million in Open Space Bonds that voters approved in 2004 to support the SDCP. Continue reading

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Microelectronic Disaster and the “Smarter Planet” Paradox

Less than 300 miles northwest of New York City, in the Empire State’s Southern Tier region, is the small community of Endicott. Nestled along the Susquehanna River, it is known as the “Birthplace of IBM.” International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)—born of a marriage between the Computing, Tabulating, and Recording Company and the International Time Recording Company—opened its first plant in Endicott in 1924. From the 1920s to the 1970s, the IBM-Endicott facility figured centrally in electronic innovations, and the surrounding community enjoyed relative prosperity. Since the 1980s, however, the area has experienced steady decline due to IBM’s disinvestment in the Endicott facility and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. Continue reading

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