Department of Social Anthropology
bsas seminar

Stine Krøijer: Environmental Alterity: Trees, Oil Palms and the limits to relational ontology in Lowland Ecuador

Bilde av jungel som speiler seg i stille vann
Mike Kollöffel

The Department of Social Anthropology is happy to announce the upcoming seminar with Prof. Stine Krøijer from the University of Copenhagen: Environmental Alterity: Trees, Oil Palms and the limits to relational ontology in Lowland Ecuador.

For the past 10 years, most studies of human/nature relations and multi-species entanglements have taken ‘the relation’ as a self-evident analytical starting point (see ex. Blaser 2009; De la Cadena 2010, 2015; Tsing 2015). This paper explores the limits of relationality by taking ethnographic point of departure in an emptiness (po’say’yo) that emerged after the Siekopai – an indigenous group living along the Aguarico River in the Ecuadorian Amazon – decided to clear-cut part of their forested territory to engage in commercial palm oil production. Zooming in on a shaman’s relation to the trees of the forest and in the plantation, I describe how two forms of alterity emerge under the shadow of the substitution of a forested agro-ecosystem with a commercial agro-industrial one. I show how the oil palm plantation is space of environmental alterity, at best inhabited by ‘potential affines’ (Viveiros de Castro 2001). Historically, Amazonía has been looked upon from Europe as one of the planet’s last wild, unknown and untouched places while terms like the ‘Plantationocene’ (Haraway 2015) wrongly seems to suggest that plantations are spaces of absolute human mastery.. Following the example of the Siekopai, a continued analytical attention to non-relationality – spaces, beings and entities that resist attempts at knowing and relating to them – suggests that environmental alterity is not an external and stable ‘nature’, but any realm – such as the plantation - that are not (yet) susceptible to encompassment and incorporation.

Stine Krøijer has a broad interest in political culture and activism in Latin America and Northern Europe. I have worked with the performative aspects of protests, time, intentionality and political cosmology among European anarchists and among indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon. With a background in the NGO world I also have an interest in the impact of climate change on social life, the escalation of conflicts around extractive industries, the politics of nature and development.          

The event is organized by The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen.

Light refreshments will be served in the Corner Room after the talk. All interested are welcome!