Scholarship in environmental anthropology has historically asked questions about how humans relate to the interconnected biophysical and cultural processes unfolding in the locales where they live. The field is often defined as originating in theoretical approaches that privilege a longue durée perspective on human–environment interactions. From Franz Boas’s reflections on geography and cultural diffusion, Bronislaw Malinowski’s study of gardens and magic, and E. E. Evans-Prichard’s explorations of pastoralism and economy to Julian Steward’s analysis of cultural ecology and tradition, environmental anthropology has always encompassed a broad range of thinkers and conceptual tools. Less often acknowledged, however, is that this longue durée perspective has not always been applied in a way that explicitly reflects on how we cite or integrate new scholarship into the field.
A progressive environmental anthropology will take the field in a new direction. This reading list builds on scholarship that expands debates about the value of anthropology to the humanistic study of the environment. We have organized it according to themes as a way to put ethnographically oriented work in dialogue with other humanities and social sciences, as well as with engineering and the natural/physical sciences. These themes are guideposts for thinking about the environment in its many dimensions. To this end, each week of our imagined syllabus attempts to offer theoretical and regional breadth that pushes at the intellectual and practical boundaries of environmental anthropology.
This syllabus is a collaborative effort that does critical and necessary work. It offers a new genealogy that integrates diverse perspectives into the longue durée of human–environment interactions. To inaugurate it, the compilers of this reading list posed a series of questions that could inform our effort to more fully integrate what has, until now, been undercited scholarship in the field.
Who “is” environmental anthropology (who are “we”) and what texts encompass our canon? Is our canon adequate for addressing the possibilities and vulnerabilities of contemporary rapid environmental changes? How do the vocabularies of our field further or foreclose our trajectories of inquiry? Are we as a field systematically underciting and underreading contributions from women, people of color, indigenous authors, and others whose work might speak to or bridge difference?
The scholarship on this reading list explores processes of power and expertise and the way they work relationally to shape people’s claims to the environment. It strives to continue environmental anthropology’s movement beyond problematic imaginaries of nature as foundational, beyond a reifying focus on subalterity, beyond unproblematized images of marginalization, and beyond the uncritical use of the savage slot. Furthermore, this project is not concerned with listing people who are the most recognizable. Instead, it promotes critical intersectionality within environmental anthropology, articulating a political stance from which to rethink environments.
Above all, this reading list is an invitation. It is an experiment in crowdsourcing with the hope of starting a conversation among scholars interested in and committed to environmental anthropology. It does not offer definitive answers, but rather an exploration of what is already out there and how we can move forward. None of us know all of this material yet, and that is OK. Nor do we think that any one course could ever assign all of these texts. But we do envision the reading list as a resource for instructors and students who are inclined to explore (and contribute to) critical approaches to the study of the environment.
This syllabus would not exist without the generous input of the following contributors: Nikhil Anand, Sarah Besky, Jessica Cattelino, Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Ruth Goldstein, Stefanie Graeter, Stefan Helmreich, Elizabeth Hoover, Eleana Kim, Joe Masco, Juno Salazar Parreñas, Heather Paxson, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Paige West, and Jerry Zee. Please use the Comments section on the side of this post to suggest further additions.
For more on this syllabus check out the AnthroPod episode Roundtable Discussion: Reading List for a Progressive Environmental Anthropology, in which Guarasci and Moore are joined by collaborators Jessica Cattelino (University of California, Los Angeles), Eleana Kim (University of California, Irvine), and Laura Ogden (Dartmouth College).
Syllabus for a Progressive Environmental Anthropology
Week One: Environmental Histories
Bird Rose, Deborah. 2011. Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
Deloria, Vine, Jr. 2006. The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Man. Golden, Col.: Fulcrum Press.
Ethridge, Robbie. 2010. From Chicaza to Chickasaw: The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540–1715. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Hobart, Hiʻilei Julia, ed. 2018. The Foodways of Hawai‘i: Past and Present. New York: Routledge.
Mavhunga, Clapperton C. 2014. Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Merchant, Carolyn. 2003. Reinventing Eden: The Fate of Nature in Western Culture. New York: Routledge.
Mikhail, Alan. 2011. Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ortiz, Fernando. 1995. Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. Originally published in 1940.
Sivaramakrishnan, Kalyanakrishnan. 2015. “Ethics of Nature in Indian Environmental History: A Review Article.” Modern Asian Studies 49, no. 4: 1261–310.
Sigrid, Schmalzer. 2016. Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Week Two: Economies
Galeano, Eduardo. 1973. The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. Translated by Cedric Belfrage. New York: Monthly Review Press. Originally published in 1971.
Guthman, Julie. 2014. Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hébert, Karen. 2014. “The Matter of Market Devices: Economic Transformation in a Southwest Alaskan Salmon Fishery.” Geoforum 53: 21–30.
Pasternak, Shiri. 2014. “Occupy(ed) Canada: The Political Economy of Indigenous Dispossession.” In The Winter We Danced: Voices From the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement, edited by the Kino-nda-niimi Collective, 40–43. Winnipeg: ARP Books.
Peluso, Nancy Lee. 1994. Rich Forests, Poor People: Resource Control and Resistance in Java. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Pulido, Laura. 2016. “Geographies of Race and Ethnicity, II: Environmental Racism, Racial Capitalism and State-Sanctioned Violence.” Progress in Human Geography 41, no. 4: 524–33.
Roberts, Dorothy. 2012. Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Recreate Race in the Twenty-First Century. New York: The New Press.
Welker, Marina. 2014. Enacting the Corporation: An American Mining Firm in Post- Authoritarian Indonesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.
West, Paige. 2016. Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea. New York: Columbia University Press.
Week Three: Extraction
Appel, Hannah C. 2012. “Walls and White Elephants: Oil Extraction, Responsibility, and Infrastructural Violence in Equatorial Guinea.” Ethnography 13, no. 4: 439–65.
Besky, Sarah. 2013. The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ferry, Elizabeth Emma. 2013. Minerals, Collecting, and Value across the U.S.–Mexican Border. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Graeter, Stefanie. 2017. “To Revive an Abundant Life: Catholic Science and Neoextractivist Politics in Peru’s Mantaro Valley.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 1: 117–48.
Hayden, Cori. 2003. When Nature Goes Public: The Making and Unmaking of Bioprospecting in Mexico. Princeton, N.J.: University Press.
Hecht, Gabrielle. 2012. Being Nuclear: Africans in the Global Uranium Trade. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Li, Fabiana. 2013. “Relating Divergent Worlds: Mines, Aquifers and Sacred Mountains in Peru.” Anthropologica 55, no. 2: 399–411.
Li, Tania Murray. 2000. “Articulating Indigenous Identity in Indonesia: Resource Politics and the Tribal Slot.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, no. 1: 149–79.
Rolston, Jessica Smith. 2014. Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
Teaiwa, Katherina Martina. 2015. Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Week Four: Conservation/Biodiversity
Choy, Timothy. 2011. Ecologies of Comparison: An Ethnography of Endangerment in Hong Kong. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Davis, Diana K. 2007. Resurrecting the Granary of Rome: Environmental History and French Colonial Expansion in North Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press.
Feeley-Harnik, Gillian. 2001. “Ravenala Madagascariensis Sonnerat: The Historical Ecology of a ‘Flagship Species’ in Madagascar.” Ethnohistory 48, nos. 1–2: 31–86.
Guarasci, Bridget L. 2018. “The Architecture of Environment: Building Houses along the Great Rift Valley in Jordan.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 50, no. 3: 513–36.
Helmreich, Stefan. 2005. “How Scientists Think; About ‘Natives,’ for Example: A Problem of Taxonomy among Biologists of Alien Species in Hawaii.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 11, no. 1: 107–127.
Kaur, Amarjit. 1998. “A History of Forestry in Sarawak.” Modern Asian Studies 32, no. 1: 117–47.
Lorimer, Jamie. 2015. Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation after Nature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Lowe, Celia. 2006. Wild Profusion: Biodiversity Conservation in a Indonesian Archipelago. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Turner, Robin L. 2004. “Communities, Wildlife Conservation, and Tourism-based Development: Can Community-Based Nature Tourism Live Up to Its Promise?” Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy 7, nos. 3–4: 161–82.
Whyte, Kyle Powys. 2017. “Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene.” In The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, edited by Ursula K. Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, 206–215. New York: Routledge.
Week Five: Landscape/Place
Bhimull, Chandra. 2017. Empire in the Air: Airline Travel and the African Diaspora. New York: New York University Press.
Carroll, Clint. 2015. Roots of Our Renewal: Ethnobotany and Cherokee Environmental Governance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Finney, Carolyn. 2014. Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Gordillo, Gastón R. 2014. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Harris, Cheryl I. 1993. “Whiteness as Property.” Harvard Law Review 106, no. 8: 1707–1791.
Lavau, Stephanie. 2011. “The Nature/s of Belonging: Performing an Authentic Australian River.” Ethnos 76, no. 1: 46–64.
Mentore, Laura. 2012. “The Intersubjective Life of Cassava among the Waiwai.” Anthropology and Humanism 37, no. 2: 146–55.
Muehlmann, Shaylih. 2013. Where the River Ends: Contested Indigeneity in the Mexican Colorado Delta. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Ogden, Laura. 2011. Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Stoetzer, Bettina. 2018. “Ruderal Ecologies: Rethinking Nature, Migration, and Urban Landscape in Berlin.” Cultural Anthropology 33, no. 2: 295–323.
Voyles, Traci Brynne. 2015. Wastelanding: Legacies of Uranium Mining in Navajo Country. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Week Six: Development/Globalization
Asher, Kiran. 2009. Black and Green: Afro-Colombians, Development, and Nature in the Pacific Lowlands. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Bear, Laura. 2015. Navigating Austerity: Currents of Debt along a South Asian River. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Davidov, Veronica M. 2013. Ecotourism and Cultural Production: An Anthropology of Indigenous Spaces in Ecuador. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gregory, Steven. 1998. Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an Urban Community. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Lyons, Kristina Marie. 2016. “Decomposition as Life Politics: Soils, Selva, and Small Farmers under the Gun of the U.S.–Colombia War on Drugs.” Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 1: 55–80.
Martinez-Alier, Joan. 2003. The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation. Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar.
Powell, Dana E. 2017. Landscapes of Power: Politics of Energy in the Navajo Nation. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 1993. In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-Way Place. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Walley, Christine J. 2004. Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Week Seven: Species
Cattelino, Jessica R. 2017. “Loving the Native: Invasive Species and the Cultural Politics of Flourishing.” In The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, edited by Ursula K. Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann, 129–37. New York: Routledge.
Chen, Mel Y. 2012. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Choy, Timothy K., et al. 2009. “A New Form of Collaboration in Cultural Anthropology: Matsutake Worlds.” American Ethnologist 36, no. 2: 380–403.
Govindrajan, Radhika. 2018. Animal Intimacies: Interspecies Relatedness in India’s Central Himalayas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Langwick, Stacey Ann. 2018. “A Politics of Habitability: Plants, Healing, and Sovereignty in a Toxic World.” Cultural Anthropology 33, no. 3: 415–443.
Panelli, Ruth. 2010. “More-than-Human Social Geographies: Posthuman and Other Possibilities.” Progress in Human Geography 34, no. 1: 79–87.
Parreñas, Juno Salazar. 2018. Decolonizing Extinction: The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Sodikoff, Genese, ed. 2011. The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Suzuki, Yuka. 2017. The Nature of Whiteness: Race, Animals, and Nation in Zimbabwe. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Wright, Sarah. 2015. “More-than-Human Emergent Belongings: A Weak Theory Approach.” Progress in Human Geography 39, no. 4: 391–411.
Wynter, Sylvia. 1999. “Toward the Sociogenic Principle: Fanon, Identity, The Puzzle of Conscious Experience, and What It Is Like to be ‘Black.’” In National Identities and Sociopolitical Changes in Latin America, edited by Mercedes F. Durán-Cogan and Antonio Gómez-Moriana, 30–66. New York: Routledge.
Week Eight: Waterscapes
Anand, Nikhil. 2017. Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructure of Citizenship in Mumbai. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Bakker, Karen. 2010. Privatizing Water: Governance Failure and the World’s Urban Water Crisis. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Barnes, Jessica. 2014. Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Cruikshank, Julie. 2005. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Hoover, Elizabeth. 2017. The River is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hurston, Zora Neale. 1991. “Florida’s Migrant Farm Labor.” Frontiers 12, no. 1: 199–203.
Lave, Rebecca. 2012. Fields and Streams: Stream Restoration, Neoliberalism, and the Future of Environmental Science. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Rademacher, Anne. 2011. Reigning the River: Urban Ecologies and Political Transformations in Kathmandu. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Stensrud, Astrid B. 2016. “Climate Change, Water Practices, and Relational Worlds in the Andes.” Ethnos 81, no. 1: 75–98.
Subramanian, Ajantha. 2009. Shorelines: Space and Rights in South Asia. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Week Nine: Nature/Biotechnology
Benjamin, Ruha. 2013. People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Blanchette, Alex. 2015. “Herding Species: Biosecurity, Posthuman Labor, and the American Industrial Pig.” Cultural Anthropology 30, no. 4: 640–69.
Lamoreaux, Janelle. 2016. “What if the Environment is a Person? Lineages of Epigenetic Science in a Toxic China.” Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 2: 188–214.
Mackendrick, Norah. 2014. “More Work for Mother: Chemical Body Burdens as a Maternal Responsibility.” Gender and Society 28, no. 5: 705–728.
Mansfield, Becky. 2012. “Environmental Health as Biosecurity: ‘Seafood Choices,’ Risk, and the Pregnant Woman as Threshold.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102, no. 5: 969–76.
Paxson, Heather. 2008. “Post-Pasteurian Cultures: The Microbiopolitics of Raw-Milk Cheese in the United States.” Cultural Anthropology 23, no. 1: 15–47.
Satsuka, Shiho. 2015. Nature in Translation: Japanese Tourism Encounters in the Canadian Rockies. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Strathern, Marilyn. 1992. Reproducing the Future: Anthropology, Kinship, and the New Reproductive Technologies. New York: Routledge.
Week Ten: Science and Technology
Egan, Michael. 2010. “Mercury’s Web: Some Reflections on Following Nature across Time and Place.” Radical History Review 107: 111–26.
Haraway, Donna J. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.
Liboiron, Max. 2009. “Recycling as a Crisis of Meaning.” eTopia 4.
Plumwood, Val. 2002. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. New York: Routledge.
Subramaniam, Banu. 2014. Ghost Stories for Darwin: The Science of Variation and the Politics of Diversity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
TallBear, Kim. 2013. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Zee, Jerry C. 2017. “Holding Patterns: Sand and Political Time at China’s Desert Shores.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 2: 215–41.
Week Eleven: Toxicity
Agard-Jones, Vanessa. 2013. “Bodies in the System.” small axe 17, no. 3: 182–92.
Brown, Kate. 2016. “The Last Sink: The Human Body as the Ultimate Radioactive Storage Site.” RCC Perspectives, no. 1: 41–47.
Checker, Melissa. 2005. Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town. New York: New York University Press.
Cram, Shannon. 2015. “Becoming Jane: The Making and Unmaking of Hanford’s Nuclear Body.” Environment and Planning D 33, no. 5: 796–812.
Fennell, Catherine. 2016. “The Family Toxic: Triaging Obligation in Post-Welfare Chicago.” South Atlantic Quarterly 115, no. 1: 9–32.
Murphy, Michelle. 2017. “Alterlife and Decolonial Chemical Relations.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4: 494–503.
Petryna, Adriana. 2003. Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Roberts, Elizabeth F. S. 2017. “What Gets Inside: Violent Entanglements and Toxic Boundaries in Mexico City.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 4: 592–619.
Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Sophia. 2018. “An Uncertain Climate in Risky Times: How Occupation Became Like the Rain in Post-Oslo Palestine.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 50, no. 3: 383–404.
Sze, Julie. 2007. Noxious New York: The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Week Twelve: Climate Change/Anthropocene
Ahuja, Neel. 2015. “Intimate Atmospheres: Queer Theory in a Time of Extinctions.” GLQ 21, nos. 2–3: 365–85.
Calison, Candis. 2014. How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Davis, Heather, and Zoe Todd. 2017. “On the Importance of a Date, or, Decolonizing the Anthropocene.” ACME 16, no. 4: 761–80.
de la Cadena, Marisol. 2015. “Uncommoning Nature.” e-flux, no. 65.
Ghosh, Amitav. 2016. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hastrup, Kristen, 2013. “Anthropological Contributions to the Study of Climate: Past, Present, and Future.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 4, no. 4: 269–81.
Luciano, Dana. 2015. “The Inhuman Anthropocene.” Avidly, Los Angeles Review of Books, March 22.
Moore, Amelia. 2018. “Selling Anthropocene Space: Situated Adventures in Sustainable Tourism.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, August 3.
O’Reilly, Jessica. 2017. The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Stensrud, Astrid B. 2016. “Climate Change, Water Practices, and Relational Worlds in the Andes.” Ethnos 81, no. 1: 75–98.
Vaughn, Sarah E. 2017. “Disappearing Mangroves: The Epistemic Politics of Climate Adaptation in Guyana.” Cultural Anthropology 32, no. 2: 242–68.
Week Thirteen: Extreme Environments
Fortun, Kim. 2001. Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disasters, New Global Orders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Günel, Gökçe. Forthcoming. Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Johnston, Barbara Rose, ed. 2007. Half-Lives and Half-Truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.
Kim, Eleana. 2017. “Invasive Others and Significant Others: Strange Kinship and Interspecies Ethics near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.” Social Research 84, no. 1: 203–220.
Kimura, Aya Hirata. 2016. Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Masco, Joseph. 2015. “The Age of Fallout.” History of the Present 5, no. 2: 137–68.
Oe, Kenzaburo. 1996. Hiroshima Notes. Translated by David L. Swain and Toshi Yonezawa. New York: Grove. Originally published in 1965.
Olson, Valerie. 2018. Into the Extreme: U.S. Environmental Systems and Politics Beyond Earth. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Simmons, Kristen. 2017. “Settler Atmospherics.” Dispatches, Cultural Anthropology website, November 20.