Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Psychological Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Environment and Environmental Inequality
Secondary Theme: Climate Change
Anthropologists have become critical interlocutors with and contributors to efforts to inform future decisions and policies to combat the threat of climate change. In addition, anthropological efforts have been deeply enmeshed with issues of environmental justice and the impacts of environmental and ecological dysfunctions on the communities we study. To a great extent, this extant work has emerged out of political ecology-informed ways of studying these problems.
The tradition of applying psychological anthropology to examine how people understand the natural environment – including traditions that can be traced back to the cognitive anthropology-foundations of ethnoscience and their role in study of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) – has played a critical role in capturing the diversity of ways in which people interact with and know the natural world. Unfortunately, there has been a relative paucity of psychological anthropologists who have focused their attention on environmental problems. A new focus on the “wicked problems” (Rittel and Webber 1973) of climate change has refocused the attention of psychological anthropologists on critical environmental challenges. This session brings together scholars who apply theories, methods, and analytics from psychological anthropology – broadly conceived – to issues around climate change, environmental sustainability/adaptability/resilience, political ecology, and the role of psycho-cultural processes in the study of socio-ecological systems. We consider a number of topics around communities impacted by (or impacting) wicked environmental problems. We illustrate how psychological anthropologists have and/or can worked across disciplinary boundaries – especially with natural scientists – to contribute to studies of socio-ecological problems. In addition, many papers explicitly address the impact of systems of power, politics, history, and capitalism on both the environment and the psycho-cultural in their case studies.
This panel considers a number of questions: How are identities shaped and narrativized in relation to environmental challenges, problems, and experiences; and how might those identities matter for solving (or contributing to) environmental problems? How are the contradictions embedded in many wicked environmental problems navigated, and how might that navigation reflect itself in the negotiation of shifting or contextualized selves? How might the anxiety associated with this navigation become part of our understanding of action/inaction in the face of climate change? How do people understand the agency of nature and the environment; and how might interactions with that agency help to shape psycho-cultural states or processes? How are shifting experiences of “nature” – including natural disasters - reshaping cultural models and schemas and systems of power? How does the loss of one’s expected environment shape experiences of trauma and loss or, alternatively, create new horizons of experience and new imaginings of the future? How are environmental problems embodied? How might new experiences with the environment prompt compassion and awe? How does the intrusion of global capitalism into environmental processes produce a nature that harms?