Historical ecologies of tropical landscapes: new engagements between anthropologists and archaeologists
Pauline von Hellermann (Goldsmiths)
James Fairhead (Sussex University)
Michael Heckenburger
Wills 3.31
Start time:
8 April, 2009 at 16:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel brings together anthropologists and archaeologists researching the historical ecology of tropical landscapes, and reflects upon the new insights, opportunities and problems such new engagements between the disciplines generate.

Long abstract:

Historical ecology has emerged as a powerful analytical frame in which diverse collaborations between archaeologists and anthropologists have rethought the social history and shaping of tropical landscapes. In the Amazon, in particular, these collaborations have challenged both earlier anthropological representations of Amazonian societies - as small scale and unchanging - and earlier archaeological assumptions concerning their history. They have also generated new ecological understandings of the Amazon forest itself. However, such engagements between archaeologists and anthropologists are not without potential pitfalls. For example, there is a danger of producing circular arguments if archaeologists experimentally uses ethnographic reconstructions to identify past land use practices and anthropologists, in turn, interpret archaeological case studies of this kind as evidence of the continuity of local practices. There may also be problems in the practical implementation of joint research projects. This panel invites papers from anthropologists and archaeologists conducting research into the historical ecology of tropical landscapes, whether in the Amazon or elsewhere. They may discuss emerging new understandings of society and nature in tropical forest regions, or the ways in which the current engagement between anthropologists and archaeologists challenges existing ideas in either discipline. They may also reflect on practical experiences of collaboration, and any problems as well as opportunities joint projects or other forms of engagement can entail.