Resources for Teaching Environmental Anthropology in Fearful and Inspiring Times

In April 2021 the Teaching Environmental Anthropology Working Group of the EASA Environmental Anthropology Network convened its first (online) workshop, under the title ‘Teaching Environmental Anthropology in Fearful and Inspiring Times’.

Organised and curated by Jeanne Féaux de la Croix and Alessandro Rippa, the workshop featured the work of 14 scholars, practitioners, and students in two brief sessions focusing on teaching goals, ethics and resources.

They state: “On this page we have curated presentations introducing some favourite and unusual teaching resources. Our hope is that these short talks will continue to foster conversations around some of the key dimensions of teaching environmental anthropology, and that they will inspire scholars, students, and activists for new activities in the classroom and beyond.”

You can find the complete programme of the workshop here.

Once again, we thank all workshop participants for a stimulating day of conversations.

Mengyi Zhang

(University of Cologne, Germany)

Why it was Difficult for me to study Anthropology and how I overcame these Difficulties

  • Type of resource: Approach
  • Keywords: online learning, mass media, class communication

From a student’s perspective, Mengyi Zhan gives suggestions on how to integrate mass media content into anthropology lectures, and explains what the benefits are, based on her learning experience. The resources include some YouTube videos and the curriculum of Yale university’s anthropology introductory class.

Liliana Duica Amaya

(Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)

War ecology in the Colombian Amazon: Warscapes as an insightful methodology

  • Type of resource: Approach
  • Keywords: Warscapes, Gunpoint conservation, Amazon Landscapes

Environmental knowledge requires understanding cultural traditions especially when violence hybridized to the day-to-day life of communities. This approach will allow to understand violence through environmental anthropology.

Gunpoint conservation by guerrillas in the Colombian Amazon suggests the inextricable relation of effective governance using traditional environmental knowledge. Teaching environmental anthropology based on ethnography in conflict settings contributes to better understanding violence in protected ecosystems.

Practitioners or students analyzing violence contexts could use this as a guide to prepare, conduct and analyze ethnographic fieldwork in armed conflict settings.

Tim Ingold 

(University of Aberdeen, UK)

Manifesto for an outdoor anthropology

  • Type of resource: Approach
  • Keywords: attention, observation, outdoors
  • Literature: Tim Ingold, 2013, ‘Knowing from the inside’, in Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture (Abingdon: Routledge), pp. 1-15.

Observation means attending to the world and corresponding with it. In environmental anthropology we should be teaching students how to be good observers. This means students should learn to think outdoors, through intense observational engagements with the world around them, and to bring this thinking into a resourceful critique of what they read. 

Eunice Blavascunas 

(Whitman College, Walla Walla, USA)

Decolonizing Classroom Expectations: Pre-colonial ingenuity and evolutionary debates

  • Type of resource: text
  • Keywords: evolutionary debates, domestication, decolonizing knowledge
  • Literature: Bruce Pascoe, 2014, Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident (Magabala Books)

Bruce Pascoe’s, “Dark Emu” is a short book that Eunice Blavascunas used to teach about decolonizing classrooms expectations, especially in regards to indigenous knowledge and scholarship, published outside of the academy. In this teaching example you can also explore evolutionary debates within the book, asking if agriculture and domestication is an evolutionary advance, something all humans have, or a discourse that selectively omits other ways of sourcing food and shaping landscapes.  Bruce Pascoe forcefully argues and evidences examples of aboriginal agriculture that European settlers wrote about and yet were blind to.  This is a good text for considering our own habits in the classroom and what we do when we read and discuss a text that inverts indigenous ways of knowing and the facticity of written historical accounts.

Maria Ayala

(University of Canterbury, NZ)

Walking backwards into the Future. Teachings from Māori People

  • Type of resource: fieldwork reflections
  • Keywords: indigenous knowledge, Maori wisdom, multispecies ethnography

This video contains a personal account from fieldwork on forest biosecurity. It suggests a humble, kind, and ethical approach towards the human and non-human others that you may encounter when doing environmental anthropology. It encourages outdoor learning, the use of the body as a research tool and the courage to see the world from a different perspective.

Martín Fonck

(IIAS Potsdam, Germany)

Environmental Autobiography

  • Type of resource: Exercise
  • Keywords: Environmental autobiography – Nature experiences – Exploratory exercise

During 2020 with Saskia Brill, we designed and taught the course “Environment and Knowledge: An ethnographic exploration” at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Rachel Carson Center Certificate Program. We used the teaching method, the “environmental autobiography” to discuss how the sublime experiences of nature are present in our biographies when we start talking about the environment. This exercise inspired us to pay attention to how we tell stories and frame concepts to describe the environment, exploring our own environmental stories as a way of starting this challenging conversation.

Anna Antonova 

(Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Germany)

‘Reinventing Oktoberfest’: Imagining alternative environmental Futures in the interdisciplinary environmental Humanities Classroom

This exercise invites students to draw on their diverse experiences of environment and society in reimagining a well-known global festival: Oktoberfest. Based on a background reading of Gibson-Graham and Miller’s work on the economy as ecological livelihood, students apply theoretical knowledge gained throughout the semester to imagine alternative models for a sustainable future, considering societal and environmental trade-offs discussed throughout the semester. The point of the exercise is to brainstorm idealized alternatives, thereby gaining a deeper appreciation of the problems discussed in class.

Diane Russell

Practitioner Roles in Teaching Environmental Anthropology

  • Type of resource: approach
  • Key words: remote lecture, blog, practitioner

This video demonstrates how environmental anthropology practitioners can support teaching through remote lectures, which was critical during the pandemic. The video describes how Diane Russell developed teaching materials in the form of blogs linked to key resources for these remote lectures. The blog featured in the video concerns an anthropological perspective on efforts to reduce deforestation and mitigate climate change in developing countries. 

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