Author Archives: EnviroAnt Network

What Can We as Anthropologists Contribute?

Sarah Mund, University of Cologne

In spring 2019, I was invited by the Heiltsuk Nation – whose territory is located on the Central Coast of British Columbia, Canada – to work on a tourism strategy. Tourism in the region was mostly dominated by non-Indigenous tourism operators. The Heiltsuk Nation’s objective was to increase control and involvement over tourism in their territory.

Therefore, the research focused on current views on tourism – both from local people and tourists – including concerns, conflicts and aspirations for tourism as well as the political dimension of these negotiations. This mediation between the Heiltsuk people and current visitors – mostly sport-fishers – offered a deeper understanding of local conflicts. This was something I was able to contribute from an outsider perspective.

Working with Indigenous Peoples

The question of what I can contribute was crucial throughout my research process. As I wanted to work with Indigenous peoples on environmental issues, it was important to acknowledge that research involving Indigenous peoples in North America has often been shaped by disrespect for Indigenous principles and values and lead to economic, cultural and environmental exploitation.

Thus, the principles of respect, relevance, responsibility, reciprocity and transparency shaped the research project which is based on a partnership with the Heiltsuk Nation. The research project was shaped by the Nation’s objectives to ensure that it was relevant for the people working on the project and enabled a reciprocal relationship in which both parties benefit from the research outcomes. Furthermore, the project was conducted respecting the Heiltsuk research protocols and enabling transparency throughout the process.

Anthropological Contribution to Negotiations on Tourism

While general tourism studies often promote tourism development, anthropology is mostly critical of such activities working on case studies which underline the negative impact of tourism development. There are several explanations for this critical stance: exoticisation and commodification of culture as well as environmental destruction (Douglass and Lacy 2008).

However, I argue for a more holistic view on tourism. The critique is certainly legitimate concerning top-down approaches for tourism development. Yet, tourism cannot be reduced to a Western capitalist enterprise in which privileged Western tourists “consume” and exploit local marginalised groups.

Instead, an increasing number of non-Western tourists as well as Indigenous and marginalised groups taking control over tourism activities challenges this conception. Thus, instead of solely promoting or criticising tourism development, our ethnographic research offers the opportunity to create a more holistic view on tourism and acknowledge local people’s agency and aspirations as well as their concerns and possible conflicts.

What can we contribute?

Coming back to the question of what we as anthropologists can contribute. The crucial contribution from my research was to focus on a topic that was relevant for the people I was working with. When the research findings are relevant and useful for our research partners, this already enables a reciprocal relationship.

Furthermore, respecting research protocols and using letters of consent and intent assured my research partners of the respectful conduct of the project and clarified both party’s rights in the process. Aspects like co-authorship will challenge a researcher’s authority over research interpretations. However, instead of viewing research transparency and proof-reads of our work as censorship, this can also be seen as an opportunity for peer-review.

Eventually, our research publications are a representation of our research partners and as we are calling for self-representations of marginalised and Indigenous peoples in realms like tourism, we should establish the same standards in our own work.


Douglass, William A. and Lacy, Julie 2008: „Anthropological Angst and the Tourist Encounter.” In: napa Bulletin 23: 119-134.

Sarah Mund graduated in 2020 with a Master of Arts in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Cologne. Her Master’s thesis focused on tourism development in an Indigenous community in British Columbia. This included negotiations on environmental, cultural and economic sustainability as well as the political dimension of sovereignty and (self-)representation. Her research interest is on human and environment studies with a focus on Indigenous perspectives.

Young Voices: Envisioning Sustainable Futures roundtable

Young Voices: Envisioning Sustainable Futures

Online Roundtable Discussion


Faced with the global ecological crisis and apocalyptic predictions of the future, many young people are committed to standing up for alternative ways of life. This roundtable discussion brings together four young activists from different parts of the world who are all inspired to build more just, caring and sustainable futures.

Esther Atem, from the Karamojong Development Forum in Uganda, Tehersiana Duyung from the Institut Dayakologi in Indonesia, Vivien Hoffmann from Students for Future in Germany and Nutdanai Trakansuphakon from the Pgakenyaw Association for Sustainable Development in Thailand will engage in a dialogue over their respective vision of the future, which drives them forward. We will then discuss what constitutes a “good life” and a “green future” in the respective context of the different activists. Further, we look at the challenges that need to be overcome in order to realize their visions, both locally and globally. What common goals and methods can be identified? How can we – as activists, scholars or committed citizens – collectively strive for a more sustainable way of life and support each other, although we are located in very different places and environments?

For registration please contact Michaela Haug ( or (Sabine Schielmann (

Environmental Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Teaching

Gerda Kuiper and Hauke-Peter Vehrs, University of Cologne

On 12 December 2019, we gave a “Pecha Kucha”-talk at the Inaugural Meeting of the EASA Environment and Anthropology Network (Enviroant) in Cologne. We here summarize our talk, as food for thought for lecturers and students of interdisciplinary courses related to environmental anthropology.

We wish to underscore the great potential of such classes for making environmental anthropology more visible and relevant, and furthermore create some awareness of potential opportunities and pitfalls that come along with interdisciplinary teaching.

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Latest evaluation shows Europe’s nature in serious, continuing decline

Unsustainable farming and forestry, urban sprawl and pollution are the top pressures to blame for a drastic decline in Europe’s biodiversity, threatening the survival of thousands of animal species and habitats.

Moreover, European Union (EU) nature directives and other environmental laws still lack implementation by Member States. Most protected habitats and species are not in good conservation status and much more must be done to reverse the situation, according to the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) ‘State of nature in the EU’ report, published today.


Top award for Indigenous alliance

Appreciation of the outsized role that Indigenous people play in helping to protect the planet’s biodiversityintact ecosystems, and global carbon stocks is growing around the world. On Wednesday, the United Nations honored 10 organizations – over half of them Indigenous – with its prestigious “Equator Prize.” The prize is awarded every two years to recognize community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Among those honored was the Ceibo Alliance, an Indigenous Ecuadoran non-profit comprised of communities from four different Indigenous groups spread over Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.

The prize, awarded during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, came just days after Ceibo Alliance’s Co-Founder and prominent Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo was named to this year’s TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.


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