Tasting the Anthropocene: Flavour, Desire, and the Reassembling of Ecology in the Forests of North East Madagascar
Fiacha O'Dowda (University College London)
Paper short abstract:
In North East Madagascar, fallow lands, resting after shifting forest cultivation, provide a lens through which to examine emergent novel ecologies of the Anthropocene and the international and interspecies entanglements of taste upon which distinctions between Anthropocene and Holocene pivot.
Paper long abstract:
Environmental History of Madagascar has long highlighted the role of human settlement in forest loss and species extinctions, with responsibility primarily attributed to shifting cultivation. Such arguments reproduce discourses of environmental degradation as being fundamentally entwined with human subsistence needs, and thus frame Madagascar as exemplary of the myriad forms of intensive species death and irreversible landscape modification that are core to many interpretations of the Anthropocene concept. Ethnographic research on fallow and forest use demonstrates how a contemporary vanilla boom has led to a prevalent overshadowing of the primary subsistence functions of shifting cultivation by desires to produce valuable crops for export. Such intensification leaves diminishing space and time for fallow land to rest and consequently for forest to regrow, ensuring that geographically distant desires for the flavour of vanilla work to reshape local ecologies in fundamental ways. This paper argues that the view from the fallows can help illustrate how the Anthropocene continues to be produced through incommensurable desires situated in spatially distant regions of the world, that in turn work to reconfigure assemblages of life. Mapping such desires that shape the global circulation of substances through which the Anthropocene comes into being is of fundamental importance for an understanding of the social and market inequalities that produce the Anthropocene, and can contribute to attempts to disaggregate the idea of an monolithic "Anthropos" universally responsible for the destruction of Holocenic assemblages of life.
- Social Anthropology