Oral Presentation Session - Executive Session Status Awarded
Sponsored by: AAA Executive Program Committee
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Anthropocene
Secondary Theme: Climate Change
As climate change wreaks increasing havoc around the world, scholars are recognizing the personhood of sacred landscapes and accompanying cosmopolitics that challenge Western assumptions about the human. What is still needed, however, is a better understanding of how cosmopolitics intersect with prevailing views of the causes and effects of climate change: resource extraction, global environmental devastation, moral crisis, economic restructuring, and societal health. This panel contributes to studies of the Anthropocene by reconciling the politics of ontological inclusion with those of climate change action. We explore how resilient understandings of agential sacred spaces are engaging with pragmatic responses to the effects of climate change to address radical social, political, and economic transformations. And we attend to religious approaches to what is otherwise described as “nature,” which construct the social through sacred landscapes, serve as important sources of community knowledge and identity, and form cultural and political resources for peoples making sense of rapidly changing environments.
Religious and cosmological knowledge and ways in which such knowledge informs community responses to climate change are rarely incorporated into “climate science,” national and international debates, consensus-building efforts, or policy forums. With some departures, such as the 2015 papal encyclical Laudato Si’, normative climate deliberations typically promote highly technical, and technocratic, approaches to bridging STEM-based climate science with political practicalities. While these deliberations routinely employ the lexicon of mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, their terms too often lack specific referents and fail to appreciate what climate-induced change might mean on the ground, for particular ecosystems and communities. We begin to address this lack of attention to the sacred as a key resource for community responses. The panel focuses on how climate change is affecting the social connections between communities and environments, cosmologies and landscapes, but also how environmentally embedded symbolic resources are mobilized as communities respond to climate change at different scales.
Panelists range in their geographic focus from Bolivia and Peru in Andean South America to Mexico, the Indian Himalayas, and the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. They study a number of complementary concerns, including how local cosmological frames for relating to the non-human have come to inform international climate ethics; how climate-induced vulnerabilities precipitate the rethinking of values connected to sentient places, with implications for collective health, justice, and political activism; how so-called political theologies of climate change beliefs about subterranean energy resources and influence energy debates in petro-states; how failures to propitiate mountain spirits are implicated in community efforts to address concerns about water or to inspire collective action around changing patterns of rainfall; and how ideas about non-human agencies like the wind contend with competing forms of knowledge in local and national debates about renewable energy infrastructure. Each presentation explores how these variously imagined sacred landscapes help to configure and articulate conversations around the kinds of anxieties, adaptations, and resiliency of communities facing the consequences of climate change