Mikko Äijälä, University of Lapland, email@example.com
Jarno Valkonen, University of Lapland, firstname.lastname@example.org
The naturecultural communities panel is centred around the multidisciplinary naturecultural research. The notion of naturecultures has been developed in the fields of environmental humanities and social sciences to emphasise the inherent messiness of the lived world and the inseparability of social and biophysical elements. Naturecultural approach commences from the premise that humans do not merely dwell in this world only with others of their kind but, instead, live and breathe together also with innumerable forms of non-human beings. It underlines that what is seemingly ‘natural’ is always simultaneously ‘cultural’ and vice versa. Thus, the naturecultural approach provides a relational perception of the world where humans and all sorts of non-humans inhabit the same earth and ‘continually create conditions for each other’s existence’, as Tim Ingold argues. The naturecultural communities are always based on shared knowledge, practices and ultimately culture.
The panel aims to provide a scientific forum to present and promote the use of naturecultural approach in the field of human-non-human-environment relationality research. The panel welcomes theoretical and empirical presentations that examine e.g human-animal relations, infrastructural being, multispecies practices, dwelling or ontological politics in various practical contexts.
Session 4: Wednesday 8:30 - 10:00
Chair: Mikko Äijälä and Jarno Valkonen (University of Lapland)
1) Garbography: Knowing with waste
Olli Pyyhtinen and Stylianos Zavos, Tampere University, Finland, email@example.com
Based on the on-going research of ours and our colleagues in the ERC-funded WasteMatters research project, the presentation explores modes of thinking and knowing in and along naturecultural encounters and entanglements with waste. Advancing from traditional, anthropocentric social scientific methods that operate mostly around language and signification, the presentation focuses on the dynamics of waste matter itself and the respective onto-epistemological and methodological implications of such an approach. Drawing from, and combining an array of insights by thinkers such as Ingold, Latour, and Haraway, we suggest that to know waste, it is crucial to care-fully attend to the details of everyday, affective, and minoritarian encounters and entanglements with and along waste matters. We need to map waste flows and follow the respective processes of sorting out, discarding, reappropriating, transporting, processing, and (re)valuing; pay attention to how waste sticks by, tarnishes, grows mould, rots, and decomposes; and examine what happens to discards as they flow, spill over, leak, mix, and mutate. In the art of following, which is key to what we call garbography (a combination of the words ‘garbology’ and ‘ethnography’), the knowing subject is not situated outside of the world she seeks knowledge of. Rather, the two are intertwined to the extent that thinking and knowing amounts to a process of thinking- and knowing-with. Garbography thus comes with more-than-human emphases, as it explores ways of knowing beyond the human in naturecultural collectives.
2) Shared visions of a culture of material restraint: A research plan to investigate the marginal voices in sustainable futures planning and visioning
Hanna Saari, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org
The modern lifestyle is in a crisis. Our relationship to the material world is proven to be destructive to a degree that puts the continuity of human civilisation as we know it into question, and we still don’t have sufficient means of renewing our relationship with the material reality in a socially acceptable manner. Therefore, new social imaginaries and related discussions are needed. As can be observed with the rise of populist politics and the often aggressive discussion culture on issues surrounding the green transition, there are currently groups that feel left out in the societal and political discussions surrounding the transition. As changing lifestyles intrudes the everyday life and habits of everyone, issues such as identities, values and power relations are present, although often unrecognised in the discussions. To truly promote a just transition, these deep structures of culture and their variance in our society should be understood. This would form a starting point from which the material agency of all societal groups could be promoted.
To untangle these questions, I present a research plan to explore the citizen groups that are currently left at the margins of discussions surrounding sustainability transitions. These could include groups like rural youth or car enthusiasts, for example. I plan to use workshop or interview methods to explore their beliefs, values, hopes and fears related to sustainability transition. I will focus on finding preferred, imaginable futures as well as strengthening these groups’ agency in shaping the future. In this presentation, I will present my initial theoretical and practical approaches to carrying out this work.
3) Entangled Lives in a High Arctic Valley: Microbes, Birds, Foxes, Humans, and Muskoxen
Kirsten Hastrup, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, email@example.com
Relations are of many kinds and unfold at different scales. Life hinges on relations within and between species, be they solid or fragile, old or new, obvious or unseen, but always central for the life and growth of naturalcultural communities. This presentation takes its point of departure is a prominent valley in High Arctic Greenland, rising from the sea to glacier-covered heights, and being home to multiple species with each their history, and each their dimension, from microbes to muskoxen. The valley demonstrates how a livable Arctic has emerged and unveils the complex ground on which the Inughuit have walked for a long time, becoming part of a singular natureculture.
The valley sets a scene where multiple actors perform and make up a living theater. The actors include algae, copepods, birds, foxes, bears, people, and many more – including muskoxen, that make such impression on the anthropologist, who is new to this natural theater. Ruins of ancient stone-houses in the upper valley reminds us about the place of humans in this story – possibly relatively marginal compared to the other living beings in the valley, but still central in the topography of the mounting slopes and the different levels of life. The presentation is based on collaborative fieldwork but speaks for itself.
4) PhD project: Co-design of Kiiminkijoki river basin management – Network building and translations of environmental knowledge
Olli Haanpää, University of Oulu, Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Envisioning sustainability transformations in large social-ecological systems requires understanding of the relational networks between various actors with differing and sometimes conflicting interests. Simultaneously, local as well as scientific environmental knowledge are in many ways uncertain, partial, and open to interpretation leading to difficulties in environmental governance. A key question is who manages to mobilize the collective of human and non-human actors to support their interests and how the state of the environment is conceived.
In this paper I focus on the controversial groundwater extraction plans in Viinivaara region located in Kiiminkijoki river basin. The said plan involves almost a 20-year-old but still ongoing dispute about the potential risks the devised groundwater extraction might pose to the ecology and hydrology of the surrounding area including the river. Most importantly, there are great differences in the interpretation and utilization of key environmental indicators. I analyse how different actors define the current state of the local environment, and how these definitions are contested in the struggle to stabilize the actor network to support certain interests.
This paper pertains to my doctoral research closely tied to the MATKI-project, in which a land use sector climate change mitigation plan is co-designed with stakeholders of Kiiminkijoki river basin. My objective is to analyse the nature-cultural networks that emerge from envisioning the river basin management while paying attention to the technological artifacts, natural objects and environmental knowledge involved in the process. The methods are guided by relational viewpoints and sociology of translation described in actor network theory.
5) Could the locals’ long-term mistrust of the authorities be conceptualised as local knowledge? A case study on Teno river salmon management
Mikko Äijälä and Jarno Valkonen, University of Lapland, Finland, email@example.com
There is growing interest and also body of knowledge towards the “integration” of Indigenous knowledge and values with Western science into sustainable governance and management of natural resources. Indigenous knowledge is often understood as traditional practices or vocabularies related to nature and its use. This kind of knowledge system informs the decision-making of everyday life and is transferred to further generations. Instead, for example, local people's criticism of authorities, research or politics, or their claims for their own rights have been interpreted as beliefs, interest claims or opinions. Relying solely on these kinds of conceptualisations can risk harming Indigenous communities and reifying colonial legacies.
In this presentation, we focus on the role of locals’ mistrust towards scientific knowledge and practices held by the authorities in the management of Teno Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the Sámi homeland in Finland. We discuss an example from a particular community in Utsjoki, that has suffered the most when the government of Finland regulated a total fishing ban of the Atlantic salmon in Teno river. By taking examples from our fieldwork and interviews conducted in the area, we discuss whether, for example, the locals' historically long-lasting speeches about mistrust of the authorities could be interpreted–instead of beliefs or opinions–as indigenous knowledge, and if so, what that would mean.
Session 5: Wednesday 10:00 - 11:30
Chair: Mikko Äijälä and Jarno Valkonen (University of Lapland)
6. Dwelling in animate landscape
Sonja Laukkanen, University of Helsinki, Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org
In my paper I will discuss Tibetan relational ontology and different practices connected with dwelling in the animate landscape of Meili Snow Mountains, Yunnan, China. These mountains are part of a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, a world biodiversity hotspot and a pilgrimage destination. Originally the highest peak Khawa Karpo (6,740 meters) was a fierce gnyan warrior god, a yullha zhidak, a regionally important pre-Buddhist deity mountain. Now it is known as neri, one of the holiest mountains in Tibetan Buddhism.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are six classes of beings: gods, demigods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hellish beings. In addition, the landscape is inhabited by pre-Buddhist chthonic beings such as sa bdag inhabiting the earth, klu in water and trees, and btsan and gnyan who live in mountains. Deities and spirit forces pervade the physical environment such as lakes, forests, waterfalls, springs, rocks, stupas, monasteries, and shrines as well as people. Disturbing these beings can lead to retribution in the form of disease or natural disasters but they can also be beneficial if propitiated appropriately.
The interdependency of beings is articulated with Tibetan concepts of snod and bcud (container and contents). There exists different kinds of ‘containers’, such as persons, households, monasteries, villages or even the entire universe. Contents include sentient beings as well as different more-than human beings and forces. The container and its contents are interdependent or dependently arising, thus maintaining relations with many kinds of beings is central for dwelling in Meili Snow Mountains.
7) Sensing waste with dogs: Inter-species learning with canine companions
Niina Uusitalo, Tampere University, Finland, email@example.com
This paper presents an ongoing study which investigates how dog owners sense waste with their canine companions. The methodological viewpoint of knowing with other species means acquiring new modes of embodied attention and awareness. The data consists of interviews recorded with a GoPro-camera (N=8) with dogs and their owners on walks or at home. The data also includes photographs taken on the research visits. Additionally, I gather autoethnographic data (texts, photos and GoPro videos) with my own dog.
Sensing waste with dogs is a form of multi-species learning where both species learn shared embodied languages. The dog owners learned to sense waste in new ways in dog-human waste encounters: they noticed waste more often in urban environments and learned to identify potentially hazardous waste. Dog owners often attempted to manage dog-human waste encounters: scanning surroundings for waste, monitoring the dog’s ways of smelling, commanding the dog to release items. The waste encounters also allowed another kind of multi-species learning: dog owner’s learned to appreciate animal instincts and sense of smell, but also to imagine waste as something interesting and valuable from the perspective of the dog.
Finally, the paper discusses how dog-human waste encounters bring to light naturecultural entanglements as cultural understandings of waste become renegotiated and established through embodied practices. These encounters also carry within them the historical collaboration between humans and dogs, which has changed both species.
8) “Almost wild”. Sled dogs in the making between Greenland, Switzerland and France
Aurélie Hendrick, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland, firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a sled dog? For veterinary science, for archaeology or for the mushers who live and work with them on a daily basis, it can be “enacted” in different ways, which may diverge or overlap. Inspired by earlier work on empirical ontology and material semiotics (Mol 2002; Lien and Law 2011, 2012), this paper seeks to test the hypothesis of a multiple sled dog by asserting that it is first and foremost the product of relationships intertwined in situated contexts of interaction. Assuming that practices but also discourses are performative acts, it is interesting to see what effects these narratives and practices have on the dogs themselves and the resulting human-animal relationships. As domesticated animals, sled dogs are associated with particular narratives about their biological nature, their working abilities and their intra-species sociality in the case of pack life that can be read through the prism of the wild. Here I would like to raise some ambiguities related to these categories based on an ongoing multi-site thesis work in Switzerland, France and Greenland. I would find it interesting to show how the wild is enacted in different ways: sought after and repelled, exotic and frightening, authentic and outdated. From Greenland to France via Switzerland, I propose to follow the tracks of a sled dog in the making, using the tools of qualitative investigation, in order to shed light on certain partial connections that constitute it, neither totally natural or cultural, neither totally wild or domesticated, but always in “becoming with”.
9) To be or not to be: A Fungi Manifesto
Wenrui Li, KU Leuven, Belgium, email@example.com
This paper views fungi as a departure point to rethink the dichotomies (human/non-human, animals/plants, nature/culture) and categories that we are accustomed to from the perspective of posthuman anthropology. Firstly, it briefly introduces the history of the classification of fungi and how fungi can be seen as a metaphor that breaks the existing categories. Secondly, it focuses on the fungal mycelium and how it connects and communicates between different species. The shape of mycelium also converges with Ingold’s meshwork and can be used to conceptualise the beings in the world beyond the division between us and others. Thirdly, the paper investigates the distinctive way fungi absorb nutrition and grow; this heterotrophic feature makes fungi the decomposer in the ecosystem, which is always linked with decay. However, new life is also born from this process. Finally, it re-examines the relationship between humans and fungi as a not so smooth collaboration, which leads us to think of multiple ways of co-existence and biosocial becoming. A manifesto that criticises dichotomic thinking and states what we as humans could learn from fungi can be found at the end of this paper.
Session 6: Wednesday 11:30-13:00
Chair: Sanna Valkonen and Anne-Maria Magga (University of Lapland)
10) Rewilding, restoring or creating new naturecultures? Revisiting Techno Garden -scenarios and current engineering practices with nature
Hannu I. Heikkinen, Olli Haanpää, Simo Sarkki, Aleksi Räsänen and Élise Lépy, University of Oulu, Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate change, water quality problems and biodiversity loss are pressing concerns of today, which force us globally and locally rethink what nature conservation and management means in practice. It has been debated that environmental problems have escalated to a level where protecting nature by passive means and trusting to nature’s own recovery speed and processes is not enough. Therefore, environmental engineering methods and Techno Garden scenarios (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005) are becoming more prominent way how to halt biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change. This is especially visible in the land use sector climate change mitigation projects in which carbon sequestration and storages are tried to be increased and catchment level water management projects that target increased water quality after decades of intensive land use. However, environmental engineering does not solve the root causes.
This paper is based on ‘Co-planning of land use sector climate change mitigation in the Kiiminkijoki river catchment’ (MATKI) project. We examine of the current practices in catchment level environmental management which aims to support and renew aquatic ecosystem functions rather than restore nature to a specific temporal context or a ‘natural state’. Important is to elaborate transparently what social-ecological impacts active and intrusive methods may have and how far we are willing to accept these impacts. The key is to discuss these means as an alternative to often deceiving discourses on rewilding or restoring something which probably represent just certain power relations and a selected possibility in the nature-culture continuum.
11) Natureculture and health: Living with mosquitoes and the risk of vector-borne disease in Mauritius
Karine Aasgaard Jansen, Christian Michelsen Institute, Norway, email@example.com
Mauritius, in the Western Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. In one impoverished neighbourhood in a suburb of Mauritius’s capital Port Louis, residents not only share a close-knit environment with each other, but also with the Aedes mosquito. The Aedes is a carrier of diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, and between 2005 to 2007 more than 30 per cent of the island’s total population were infected with chikungunya during an epidemic outbreak. The Aedes thrives in artificial reservoirs created by urban spaces such as gardens and backyards, especially in areas where people live in close proximity to each other. Wastelands scattered throughout the neighbourhood also contribute to the proliferation of mosquito breeding grounds. These dwellings and spaces act as zones of contact between nonhumans and humans, and thus facilitate the spread of vector-borne diseases. As a result, public health policies advocate for the destruction of mosquito breeding grounds despite residents’ various uses of these so-called neglected spaces.
This paper, based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, draws on multispecies ethnography to discuss how the entangling of human lives with those of mosquitoes affects the diffusion and understanding of vector-borne diseases such as chikungunya in Mauritius. I argue that living with mosquitoes entails more than just efforts to get rid of them. Challenged by public health policies, residents of this neighbourhood often question the biomedical aetiology of chikungunya because it threatens to negatively impact their familiar surroundings and interactions with their environment.
12) Nature/culture of household food/waste
Ulla-Maija Sutinen, Tampere University, Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Food waste is often defined as any edible food that ends up as discarded from the food chain. However, more research attention is needed to fully understand the “ending up” part of the definition. In everyday setting, the divide between food and food waste is far from straightforward. Instead, it is blurry and multifaceted. The presentation approaches the boundary between food and food waste from a naturecultural perspective. Food/waste elucidates the deep connectedness and blurry boundaries between nature and culture. Food is vital for human life and represents biophysical matter that gradually decays. At the same time, food and food waste are laden with cultural meanings. These include, for instance, the cultural understandings edibility of food, ritualistic practices around eating and moral obligations of feeding the family ‘good food’.
This presentation puts the attention on the ways how the biophysical elements of food are intertwined with cultural considerations, and vice versa. Food/waste is a constant interplay between material cues (e.g., emerging moldy spots or change of a texture) and cultural interpretations (e.g., cultural and social conventions). The focus is on household context, where this interplay is carried out on an everyday basis. The naturecultural interplay constructs the householders’ life, and is enacted in versatile ways, including practices of assessing of food, orchestration of schedules with the ruthless lifecycles of food products and choreographies around waste sorting and discarding. The presentation builds upon conceptual work around the topic and early insights from ethnographic fieldwork following the flows of waste in households.
13) Implications of Reversing Nature and Culture: A Critique of Viveiros de Castro’s Gesture of Ontologization in Perspectivism and his Decolonial Claims
Ana Abril, Central European University, Austria, email@example.com
In this paper, I investigate the political and ethical implications of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s self-inclusion into a decolonial project with his idea of perspectivism. In Cannibal Metaphysics (2014), the Brazilian anthropologist concludes that from perspectivism emerges an ontology that reverses the terms nature and culture as they are understood in Western metaphysics. Humans and animals share the same ontological status, as persons, and their differences take place between their bodies. This Amerindian way of living in the world instigates a decolonization of thought, according to the scholar.
My critique of Viveiros de Castro’s self-inclusion into practices of decolonization regards his obliteration of the question of the animalization of the colonized-Other and how this animalization is seemed as inferior in the tradition of Western thought. Building on Jacques Derrida’s work and by analyzing the etymology and use of the word cannibal and its connection to the idea of the dog/wolf, I demonstrate, on the one hand, how the rhetoric about the colonized-Other is inseparable from the idea of the animal/beast, and on the other hand, the political importance of cannibalism as a signifier for colonial alterity. By ontologizing, Viveiros de Castro neglects the political significance of the rhetoric of cannibalism and animalization of the Native populations. In addition, Viveiros de Castro does not approach one of the main questions for Indigenous and critical decolonial scholars, which is that decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life.
Session 7: Wednesday 14:30 - 16:00
Chair: Sanna Valkonen and Anne-Maria Magga (University of Lapland)
14) Ski tourism and relational materiality
Outi Rantala, University of Lapland, Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org and
Peter Varley, Northumbria University, UK, email@example.com
In this paper, we ask what it is to ‘do’ being a tourist-in-place, and how to be part of the naturecultural relations to the world, as a tourist. It has recently been suggested that to overcome the problems of tourism we must apply concepts that do not rely on business-oriented, growth obsessed paradigms, but instead connect with concepts based on relational ontologies and post-anthropocentric theorising. However, the experiments with relational approaches seem too often to get wrapped up in an anthropocentric, romanticised place rhetoric. Here, our aim is to experiment with privileging the non-human forces inherent in tourism, and particularly those evident in our multisensual and affective engagements with the plasticity, shifting materialities and sensing of ourselves in and of the world: being-in and being-with. Hence, in our paper we apply the naturecultural approach to the example of skiing, variously construed, from highly organised mass tourism versions in the Alps to independent self-supported journeys in the Finnish forests. Our reflections are based on ethnographic field notes from our ski trips in resorts and a national park, and in our own backyards.
15) André Leroi-Gourhan on the domestication of reindeer: human-non-human environment interaction
Lufeng Xu, École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reindeer, first wild and then domesticated, dominated the work and lives of different ethnic groups and, like people, were subject to changes in climate and environment. The French ethnologist and prehistorian André Leroi-Gourhan published La civilisation du renne in 1936, in which he focused on the domesticated culture of the reindeer and pointed out that in contact with the modern world, this domesticated culture was in fact in a fragile ecosystem that could hardly maintain its precarious state. Leroi-Gourhan's theory on the domestication of reindeer in the Tundra-Taiga space still deserves further discussion today.
In this regard, my communication will first point out how Leroi-Gourhan addresses the interaction between reindeer, humans and the environment during domestication; then I will analyse his comparison of three types of domestication across Eurasia: the Lapp (Sámi) reindeer in Scandinavia and especially Finland, the Tungus reindeer in Mongolia and the Chukchi reindeer in the Siberian region. Finally, I will put Leroi-Gourhan's theory of domestication in dialogue with that of today's scholars who have been subjected to the ontological turn (notably Roberte Hamayon, Philippe Descola and Tim Ingold).
16) Human-Microbial Relations: The Naturecultures of Vegan Cheeses
Sarah Czerny, University of Rijeka, Croatia, email@example.com
According to European Union legislation, cheese is a product made from milk, where milk is defined as a “normal mammary secretion obtained from one or more milkings”. As such it is defined as coming from animal origins. With this in mind, in this paper I want to consider the place of plant-based or vegan cheeses that are made from plant milks, such as cashew milk or soy milk. Such cheeses are often presented as copies or analogs of “real” cheese, and cannot be sold as cheese, but instead must be sold using terms such as fauxmage or cheez.
I explore the relation between plant-based and dairy-based cheeses from the perspective of microbial-milk-human relations, which I do through a consideration of the work of a vegan cheesemaker based in Sardinia and the relations they have with local microbial communities. As I describe, many of the interactions they have with local microbial communities are similar to those that dairy-based cheesemakers have, which raises the question of whether vegan cheeses should be analytically treated as copies of real cheese? By looking at cheese production from a natureculture perspective, the argument I make is that whilst some human analytical work may seek to determine and define cheeses as being either a natural or cultural product, the microbial cultures in the cheeses are not doing this. Microbial sociality is thriving in and around both plant and dairy-based cheeses, where their sociality disrupts human-centric definitions of cheese.
17) Beaver and Human Relations of Prehistoric Hunters of Eastern Finland
Emilia Jääskeläinen, University of Oulu, Finland, firstname.lastname@example.org
In Finland human hunters have been living with beavers since the Stone Age and thus beaver has been an important game animal for its fur, meat, teeth and castoreum. Traditionally the zooarchaeological research has focused on perceiving the animals as resources utilised by humans but there has been a shift towards more relational approach in human-animal-relations in current zooarchaeological research. The beavers and humans were connected through reciprocal relations, embodied knowledge and sharing the world they lived in. The categories between humans and non-human are situational and porous and there is no clear division between subject and object.
Beavers have their own distinct activities such as felling trees and building lodges and dams which are visible and recognisable features. Other non-humans, such as elk and hare, would also profit from beavers’ activities and be drawn towards the areas beavers inhabited. The beaver’s nocturnal nature and a way of living in the water and on dry land must have been a curious feature that affected the ways beavers and their activities were perceived. Utilizing an archaeological case study from prehistoric Eastern Finland, I will argue that beavers were more than a resource to be acquired and used only for human purposes. Beaver’s activities affected humans and other non-humans, they had powers and capabilities of their own, and they played a part in constituting the knowledge of the living world. This was trough living together in the same world and not in separate ones.
18) Cultivating love in a post-Soviet landscape: an ethnography of human-plant relations in the Belarusian countryside.
Aliaksandra Shrubok, Uppsala University, Sweden, email@example.com
My paper reflects on ethnographic material coming from the fieldwork conducted in the depopulated landscapes of a rural area in Central-North Belarus. The majority of people dwelling there are elderly women, who often live alone since their spouses have already passed away and their children have moved elsewhere. While the collective farms are closed down, fields and pastures are withdrawn from active agricultural use, non-residential houses are bulldozed, and new marginal spaces and experiences are emerging. Many local social structures have changed dramatically, and many social networks have become fractured and loose. Being in many ways stricken from social reproduction, the women concentrate their attention and care on (re)production of vegetal life. My research focuses on how local women, marginalized in many ways, construct and experience their relationships with plants as driven, as they said, by love. I am wondering, where does this love come from, and what does it mean for my interlocutors to love the plants and to be loved back by the vegetal beings. I consider the implications of the relations between people and plants for metaphor and notions of the (re)production of social life and re(creation) of some sort of order, an ontological security, if you will, in a post-Soviet modernity.