ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

Temporalities in conservation
Location Science Site/Chemistry CG60
Date and Start Time 05 July, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 1


  • Sebastian Benavides (University of Aberdeen) email
  • Francesca Marin (University of Aberdeen) email

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Discussant Andrew Whitehouse (University of Aberdeen)

Short Abstract

What is understood as natural and anthropogenic according to diverse temporalities? We welcome papers about temporality in conservation contexts exploring the heuristic possibilities and limits of concepts like "Anthropocene", anthropogenic threat, biological invasion, and socio-ecological systems.

Long Abstract

This panel addresses usages and understandings of time within conservation contexts. It seems that environmental policy-making, scientific practices, "local environmental knowledge" as well as their implementations (protected areas, wildlife protection, etc.) rely on notions of time that deserve more anthropological discussion, especially in a time when concepts such as Climate Change and Anthropocene cross several disciplines and the public debate.

In particular, official conservation may hold the illusion that by controlling space it is also possible to control time. This is often achieved by creating protected areas where bioprocesses are managed following ideas of pristine pasts. Notwithstanding, how can human institutions deal with more-than-human temporalities?

Scientific modes of perception and registry of time are only some of the possible attunements (Ingold 2000) to environmental change that we find in diverse conservation practices. Assuming that people involved and affected by conservation programs experience and refer to different temporalities, defining boundaries between "natural" and "anthropogenic" dynamics does not result in a straightforward process. Thus, different temporalities might lead to contradictory definitions of what is understood as "nature" and "natural".

Should not conservation policies fully recognise their attempt to control temporal processes and not only spatial configurations?

Do time and prediction of possible events play a part in the power exerted by different actors in conservation initiatives (e.g. predicting effects of environmental risks)?

We welcome papers addressing these questions as well as further exploration on heuristic possibilities and limits of concepts like "Anthropocene", anthropogenic threats, biodiversity, biological invasion, and socio-ecological systems.


Exotic species, biological introductions and the temporalities of the Pampean landscape

Author: Caetano Sordi (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil )  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore the phenomenon of biological introduction from the point of view of its temporal and dynamic aspect, based on the case of the European wild boar (Sus scrofa) in the Pampa biome of Southern Brazil

Long Abstract

Several criticisms on the notions of 'biological invasion' and 'invasive alien species' stress the spatial character of these concepts, in the sense that each biological species is identified as naturally belonging to a particular geographical domain. Drawing on the ideas developed by Tim Ingold (2000), Gary Backhaus (2005) and others on the temporal dynamics of landscape formation, this paper will explore the hidden and rarely mentioned temporal aspects of biological introductions, focusing on the reactions raised by the presence of European wild boars (Sus scrofa) and its crossbreedings with domestic pigs in the Pampa biome of Southern Brazil.

The pampean landscape will be described as the contingent product of a set of more-than-human entanglements, whose formation and perdurance is linked to the lifecycle of other eurasian animals as exotic as the wild boar, but considered as "native" by local people. The paper will show that these classifications are historically based and highly rooted on the traditional ways of managing the pampean landscape, as well as on a pervasive "pastoral ideology" (Galaty et al. 1990) that goes far beyond the natural/cultural and animal/human divide.

Friction in a private conservation project- an approach from a perspective centred in the "emplacement temporality" of place

Author: Martin Fonck (Pontificia Universidad Católica)  email

Short Abstract

This paper intends to make a contribution to the understanding of the emplacement tensions between conservation projects and local communities centred in the “emplacement temporality” of place.

Long Abstract

This paper intends to make a contribution to the understanding of the emplacement tensions between conservation projects and local communities. A focus on temporalities of conservation can provide a broader explanation about the wider context of tensions between peasant and environmentalist perspective and life in nature. In turn, a focus on relation with non-humans and infrastructures on conservation in time can provide a broader attention to practices of conservation in the lived place. The paper analyses a private project of environmental conservation, a case study called "Santuario el Cañi", in the mountains of southern Chile, in the region of Araucanía. The goals of environmental conservation focus in preservation for a future time, and particularly in this case study, look to provide forest for future generations. Instead, the old relations in the mountain are in an "emplacement temporality" by means of the traditional peasantry practices of movement through landscape and the situated knowledge about changes in the environment. The use of fruits (piñon) of old trees "Araucária" and cattle grazing is related with change of season and treads in the internal dynamics of landscape. Conservation intensions attach environments to a desirable state of relation. In practice, there appear negotiating processes among humans, animals, trees and fences, which in the every day life, stress the conservation proposition about creation of futures environments. The process of life in the place reveals a deeper understanding of conservation as emplaced temporalities in ongoing dispute situated in the footsteps of the mountain.

Nature out of time: back-from-extinction narratives and the 'dreamtimes of environmentalism'

Author: Yann Toussaint (University of Western Australia)  email

Short Abstract

Indigenous, environmentalist and popular narratives surrounding the rediscovery of species once believed to have been extinct – and debates over the future management of such species - provide insights into the diverse ways that both Nature and Time are imagined in the Anthropocene.

Long Abstract

The rediscovery of species believed to have been extinct, along with the the discovery of species deemed 'new to science' (however well known they might have been to Indigenous peoples), reinforces many environmentalists' discursive constructions of 'nature' as simultaneously timeless yet threatened. These back-from-extinction narratives frequently position such species as emissaries of an ancient and wild Nature even as their continued survival is heavily dependent on contemporary scientific practice and technological intervention. Moreover, in Australia, attempts to manage habitat for such valued species requires making decisions around preferred 'natures' and include interventions such as fire suppression, revegetation and the control of invasive species within a rapidly changing ecological, climatic, hydrological and socio-cultural system. Such rediscoveries also highlight divergences in scientific opinion as to whether such species should indeed be accorded conservation value - they may be relictual or functionally extinct - and to the importance of timescales in conservation decision-making. At another level these rediscoveries further destabilize notions of 1788 as the benchmark for 'biotic nativeness' in Australia (Head, 2012). Furthermore, Indigenous peoples may explain such rediscoveries from a perspective that reveals very different conceptions of time and, consequently, very different attitudes towards the temporal dimensions of nature and the relationality that underpins being-in-the-world for both human and non-human actors. Finally, this paper builds on the work of Heatherington (2010) in an attempt to understand how environmentalist narratives of time and nature risk eliding a pre-European and a pre-human past in constructing an idealized version of nature as pristine and eternal.

Botanical time and legal time in an urban forest garden

Author: Melissa Demian (University of St Andrews)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the challenges faced by urban forest garden projects by means of Batesonian concepts such as the steady state - which a forest garden achieves with the help of human 'collaborators' - and the observer-centric world, in which property regimes are included as observers.

Long Abstract

This paper represents an initial foray into asking how the temporality of what might be called the 'plantscape' of a city, and that of its 'lawscape', are held in tension by the human actors who attempt to mediate between them. The conundrum was made visible to me through my involvement with Lyneham Commons, a forest garden initiative in Canberra, Australia. The basic idea of a forest garden is to cultivate trees, shrubs, and ground cover plants, all of which should have an edible or medicinal use, so that they eventually form a self-sustaining system that requires little in the way of maintenance.

Urban forest gardens face particular challenges precisely because they are cultivated on land held and managed under complex public property regimes. The Lyneham Commons project, for example, is not permitted to cultivate a 'complete' garden until the local authority is satisfied that the initial stage of the project is viable. But in forest gardening terms, the project cannot be deemed viable until it has reached the 'steady state' of a self-sustaining system, an entity achieved years in the future after plants have matured both above ground and below, in cooperation with a mycorrhizal network. But none of these processes occur in the absence of any human intervention. It is here that I wish to draw on the work of Gregory Bateson to examine both the notion of the steady state and of the observer-centric world, where the latter can stymie the former when one of the observers involved is a bureaucracy.

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