Reflecting on Crisis Narratives in Forests: Anthropological Perspectives

Friday, February 19, 2021 - 8:30am to 10:45am



Panel 2 Presentations (1 hr 15 min)

Reflecting on Crisis Narratives in Forests: Anthropological Perspectives

Break (15 min)

Panel Discussion + Q&A (45 min)

Crises do not always receive the same attention. In tackling crisis narratives and responses, how do crises gain attention – and from whom? When do they lose that attention? Panelists will speak to the conditions of contestation in their site among the various stakeholders, balancing the coverage of novel, emerging threats to tropical forests and crises that are chronic and cyclical. They bring to the panel a wealth of experience with their interlocutors from Malaysia, Nigeria, and Kachin state in Burma.

  • What crises have you or your interlocutors encountered in the forests?

  • How important is narrative framing for these issues? What tensions come from the different types of crisis narratives in the community?

  • What is “crisis” in the local language. How are these conceptions similar or different to an English imaginary “crisis?”

  • What has the role of COVID, as an apparently abrupt crisis, been for those in your site?

  • Bushmeat presents an interesting physical artifact - as a site of consumption, illegality, or commoditization. It has been brought to particular attention given its potential role in virus spillover, giving rise to the contemporary COVID-19 crisis. What is the role of bushmeat or foodscapes in the forest, especially during times of crisis when these practices may have been disrupted?

  • What are the managerial governance practices or solutions that have been brought to bear on these problems?

Panel Recording


Pauline von Hellermann

Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Pauline von Hellermann is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Goldsmiths University in London. Her research on landscape change, policy and crisis narratives in Nigeria and Tanzania sits at the intersection of political ecology and historical ecology. She currently holds a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship (2018-2021) with​ the project Red Gold: A Global Environmental Anthropology of Palm Oil. Her publications include numerous journal articles, Multi-sited Ethnography: Problems and Possibilities in the Translocation of Research Methods (Routledge 2011, edited with Simon Coleman) and Things Fall Apart? The Political Ecology of Forest Governance in Southern Nigeria (Berghahn 2013). 

Laur Kiik

School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford

I have studied war-torn Burma’s Kachin region since 2010, focusing on nationalism and nature. My first publications are now (slowly) coming out, including on the Chinese Myitsone mega-dam project, on Kachin popular nationalist worldviews, and on the anthropology of nature conservation. My doctoral research explored how struggles over nature led the Kachin ethnonational movement to encounter Burmese ethnic majority activists and Western biodiversity conservationists.

Lye Tuck-Po

School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia

I’m an environmental anthropologist with experience in consultancies, newspaper reportage, NGOs, teaching and training, and independent research. I joined USM in 2010. My primary research focuses on the environmental knowledge and relations of local communities, especially Southeast Asian tropical forest dwellers. My long-term work is with the mobile, hunting-and-gathering, forest-dwelling Batek (Orang Asli) of Pahang. This study developed into an abiding interest in the knowledge and knowing of landscapes and in indigenous epistemologies.I’ve also conducted fieldwork with Khmer and Kuay communities in central Cambodia. There I switched my attention from forests to hydrological systems, and from hunting-and-gathering to agriculture, and investigated contemporary classifications of religious sites in the pre-Angkorian templescape of Sambor Prey Kuk monument complex. I’m currently preparing a book of photographs depicting the agricultural cycle in my field village. I continue to be interested in forest management and politics, vulnerability and climate change adaptations, the politics of knowledge, Southeast Asian societies and cultures, and the Orang Asli and other indigenous minorities of Malaysia.