Category Archives: Research

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. 

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.

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.

Read more

Dan Podjed Speaks at EnviroAnt’s Inaugural Meeting

‘In an epoch, called the Anthropocene, the world urgently needs anthropological methods and thinking to address the main environmental problems – from climate change to extinction of species and pollution,’ said Dan PodjedEASA Applied Anthropology Network founder and executive advisor, at EASA Environment and Anthropology Network (EnviroAnt)’s inaugural meeting in Cologne, Germany.

In the concluding part of his keynote speech, he presented the development of the #WWNA movement from its inception in 2013 and announced the 2020 edition of #WWNA, which will be held in Prague. Anthropologists, environmentalists, biologists, climatologists and other experts, practitioners and activists are welcome to join the future events of both EASA networks! (Photo: Gregory Lawrence Acciaioli.)