A genealogy of environmental resistance

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David Gilbert
Date and Time: 
Monday, April 15, 2013 - 12:00pm

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


The passions and actions of rebellion have long sparked research. Since the 1960's the discipline of anthropology has led a shift in the study of social mobilizations, movements and contested terrain by bringing in cultural, political, economic, and historical context to the equation. Often left out, however, has been an appropriate recognition of the interactions between the natural world and collective action. The need for a more refined understanding of the role of what people consider the 'environment' in contentious politics has become even more urgent with the controversial world-wide emergence of agrarian mobilizations that combine novel forms of environmentally oriented ideology with ecologically grounded agricultural practice.

This paper-in-progress traces previous efforts at accounting for the many ways ecology influences many kinds of struggles, from Wolf's (1969) Peasant Wars, to Scott's (1985) Weapons of the Weak and Peet and Watts' (1996) Liberation Ecologies. I bring these authors' insights with me as I describe a few of the expressions of resistance that I have witnessed unfold in the forests, family-farms and industrial commodity-crop plantations of Sumatra. I argue that to better understand forms of resource-related conflict and rural social mobilization we must reject all forms of analysis that treat the natural and social as two separate spheres and work towards a holistic, ecologically informed approach.


David Gilbert is a 3rd year environmental anthropology PhD student.

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