Written by Moriah Lavey
Observing the 16th International Society of Ethnobiology was my first experience with
ethnography outside of an undergraduate research methods class. And what a time it was. I
came face to face both with the challenges of collaborative event ethnography in general, as
well as some context specific issues that arose institutionally at the ISE.
Collaborative event ethnography as a methodology, is challenging. Though valuable, it is
difficult to take on a field site that is temporally constrained and incredibly jam packed. The
four days of the conference were the only opportunities we had to collect data and make observations. For example, on day three, I was tired, frustrated about the language barrier, and a bit distracted due to some personal concerns that arose, and I know it impacted the way I collected data. The events that I attended on day three will not happen again, so the pictures I did not take will remain undocumented, and that is unfortunate. Additionally, even with the five of us spending multiple hours a day within the conference, there is so much that occurred that was beyond our reach. Especially in the first three days, I was consistently doubting myself, feeling like I was not seeing nor doing enough,
despite the entirety of my days being spent observing and participating. Thankfully at a team
meeting, Laura affirmed that this sentiment is common in doing CEE’s. Not to mention it
certainly is tiring to invest the majority of your waking hours physically, mentally, and
emotionally invested in the goings on of the ISE.
Doing the field work was demanding, but also rewarding. To be documenting the ISE was certainly enjoyable. The events that I observed, and especially the ones I could linguistically understand, were fascinating, and the conference itself was a historic event. But outside of the challenges inherent within collaborative event ethnography, the ISE itself posed its own obstacles.
As a team, I believe we underestimated the extent to which the three members who did
not speak Portuguese were excluded from the events at the conference. Of the twelve events
that I went to, only one was explicitly in English, while three were equipped with translation
services. This limitation certainly created obstacles to my ethnographic observation,
understanding, and analysis of the events that I witnessed. Not to undervalue context clues like
vocal tone, volume, body language, and materials like slides and videos, but to be disconnected
from what was actually being discussed, and especially from the conversations that were had in
event question and answer sessions, barred me from a lot of content. Not speaking the
language, however, did provide us with a powerful experiential viewpoint, that of being a
participant unable to access the common language of the space. It cannot be understated how
this linguistic difference impacts the ability to participate and contribute to the events.
All in all, being part of a collaborative event ethnography at the ISE in Belém has been a
powerful learning experience, challenging me both in ways that I anticipated and in ways that
caught me by surprise. Through this experience, however, I feel myself to have grown as a
person and as an ethnographer.
Written by Michelle David
The 2018 International Society of Ethnobiology Congress has come to a close. This conference not only created a space for people from across the world to meet, but also a space for discussion, dialogue, and collaboration. After four days of lengthy yet lively sessions, a Letter from Belem+30 was created to revisit the original 1988 Declaration. The letter was read aloud and presented on two large screens for all ISE attendees at the Closing Ceremony. One of the women invited to read the letter, a Quilombola leader, announced, “when I signed this letter, it marked one of the greatest moments in my life.” The letter included clauses that renounced existing rights violations against Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Peoples, and Local Communities; empowered Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Peoples, and Local Communities to protect their lands and knowledge; defended the inherent ties between and importance of respecting biological and cultural diversity; reaffirmed free, prior, and informed consent for both private and public projects; and called upon national governments to uphold these protections.
On the first day during the Opening Ceremony, Pepeyla Miller, President of the International Society of Ethnobiology, reminded all attendees to “communicate, communicate, communicate…and listen.” Listening to the letter as it was read, I was pleased to hear some of the proposed language from the two Forum dos Povos (People’s Forum) sessions I attended. I would like to believe that the Indigenous and Local Peoples who spoke up to defend and propose their own ideas felt some mix of satisfaction, empowerment, and hope as their ideas were presented to a large auditorium of eager listeners, knowing their audience would soon be the world.
Despite the creation of the Letter from Belem+30 and all the collaboration I witnessed these four days, I can’t help but come back to one message from the opening speaker at the Closing Ceremony: “Don’t forget that we have a lot to do after this event. We have a lot to work on as researchers, as people… as partners, from the communities and the social movements we work with. And it’s necessary that we learn some more to denounce, to shout it out, to feel dignified.”
Tomorrow is the last day of the ISE Congress, which should bring exciting things for Congress attendees. So far, there have been many spaces for indigenous voices to be heard, which very much differs from the normal academic conference program. The Feira de Sociobioversidade (Sociobiodiversity Fair) is certainly the liveliest part of the space, which invites different NGOs, activist groups, academic societies, and even food vendors to create a market in the midst of the Hangar. It is exciting to see Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Communities inserting themselves into the daily activities and panels. We’ve seen everything from academic panels to forums, provide space for Indigenous voices, and I don’t foresee the last day of the Congress being any different.
We’ve heard from various participants that ISE is the liveliest and most fun conference they’ve been involved with, in fact, as I’m writing this, I just witnessed researchers I know dancing between the stalls at the Feira, while Michelle and myself sit in an empty stall to catch up on work. Our team is exhausted from the CEE process, yet meetings are a rewarding space as they give us the opportunity to talk about our daily experiences and make connections across events. CEE is definitely not for the faint of heart. Sleep may be futile, but our data is not!
It’s day 2 at the ISE 2018 Congress and time is already flying by. It feels like just yesterday I was a mere undergraduate student learning about collaborative ethnography on campus, and here I am working on a research team in Brazil. The transition from research assistant to field research has been difficult, but I’ve learned a lot. One lesson I’ve learned after only 72 hours in Brazil is the importance of language. I have no experience with Portuguese, and I naively did not expect this to be an obstacle in the field. Even the smallest questions like, “where is auditorium A?” become a confusing slur of words and a jumble of hand motions. It’s almost impossible to be self-sufficient with this language barrier, so the collaborative nature of our team is particularly important for me.
Body language and context will suffice for basic questions, but things become more complicated during events. Since the schedule is in English, I have a general sense of each event before attending, but I am unable to get a comprehensive understanding of the content. I have felt intimidated walking into these events that I won’t understand. I am exhausted from trying to pull out the few words and phrases that I recognize and construct a possible narrative based on the event theme. Despite the challenges of a language barrier, I have been able to gain something from each event. Instead of writing down every single word (which I would do in an English-speaking event) I am able to look around the room and see how people respond to each speaker. I can also devote more time to spatial awareness, taking in the environment of each event space. My contextualizing skills are getting some great exercise as well. I’ve been reminded of the uneasy feeling of dependency and confusion that many non-English speakers may feel in the US, and I feel privileged to live in a place where most people speak the language that I’m most familiar with. There are also the multiple Indigenous languages to keep in mind, but I’ll tackle one at a time.
Luckily we have 2 Portuguese speakers (Laura and Emily) to guide us through the language barrier and ensure that we are not ordering the wrong thing at restaurants.
Written by Moriah Lavey
The 2018 collaborative event ethnography team for the International Society of Ethnobiology Congress has assembled! The five of us (one faculty member, one graduate student, and three undergraduate students) are in Belém, Pará in Brazil, eagerly preparing for the start of the conference tomorrow morning. I have spent the last two days exploring the city on my own, adjusting to the time difference (a meager two hours, but travel is tiring!), the language barrier, and a vastly different space. I have spent much of my time alone, walking around, taking the environment in, and anticipating this next week and a half of arduous but incredibly exciting work.
And now we are here! It really and truly is happening, with Laura adding ‘all at once’. I feel as though I spent so much time in anticipation and preparation, it is hard to make sense of the fact that the time has come. Tomorrow we will be in the field, putting into practice all that we have talked about over the last few months. We are staying at the Stada Hangar Hotel with the Hangar Centro de Conveções e Feiras da Amazônia, the site of the ISE, visible from our window. The Hangar is a massive geometric structure with windows covering the exterior that demands attention. While it certainly is daunting from the outside, the english-speaking owner of the hostel I was staying at previously assured me it feels even bigger on the inside. I am curious to see how the five of us will be able to navigate, occupy, and eventually map out the space. Our goals are lofty, but I believe in the team’s ability to do meaningful work over these next four days and beyond. I am experiencing similar levels of excitement and overwhelm, and I figure that is a good sign. Ready or not, ISE, here we come!
Written by Sarah Huang
This project is interested in better understanding the modes of representation, which can also be considered through consideration of how space is created. While the main site of the World Conservation Congress occurred in the Hawaii Convention Center, there were also other places around Honolulu where our team engaged with the WCC at various side events and team meetings. This map displays the location of these particular sites, which raises questions about how we can think about space in relation to a large event like the World Conservation Congress. For example, what was the presence of the WCC in Honolulu, and also how present were conceptualizations of 'Honolulu' and 'Hawaii' at the WCC? Who created these narratives about place, and how did the conference physically construct and perform those particular narratives?
For an interactive version of this map and more information about side events that we attended, please click here.
Posted by Sarah Huang
The P2I team has returned from our trip to the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii. Please enjoy a gallery of photos taken throughout the conference at the Honolulu Convention Center, team meetings, and various places throughout the city.
Written by Sarah Huang
As we begin to wrap up our time here in Hawaii and as the World Conservation Congress concludes, motions and the programme will be decided on today. This programme sets the agenda for the next four years for the IUCN and member organizations. Today, Laura asked me what I wanted to see happen after the WCC. I responded with something about wanting to see more meaningful engagement of the youth, as stated in the IUCN's goals. But, after thinking about it a little longer, I began to dream a little harder about where the conservation world could go.
This year's WCC theme, "Planet at the Crossroads", has been used to describe the the current crisis that we have on our hands, as the planet is warming, species are becoming extinct, and the natural world is collapsing. The speed and intensity at which this is occurring has put humans at a crossroads; in our decisions to do or not do something - and if we do, then what exactly should we do? I consider myself one very, very small part of this crossroads, but I, along with the other 10,000 or so folks here, have big dreams for this planet.
So back to Laura's question, what do I want to see happen after the WCC? I want to see the planet at the crossroads to meaningfully include all people within this crossroads, especially those who have been silenced, left off the agenda, and not invited to the conservation table. My own interests in gender based violence in environmental development have revealed the ways in which women are criminalized for protecting their environments and live in communities where their bodies are no longer safe as industrial development moves into their homes. And yet their crossroads, and the agenda that is meant to address their challenges, is not represented here at WCC.
I turn to a gender and environment event that I attended a few days ago. The Women's Environment and Climate Action Network (WECAN) implored us to consider our relationship to women, violence, and the environment. Indigenous women put their bodies on the line and the increase in violence and murders of indigenous women for the benefit of all of us is increasing. We wouldn't be able to live without the waters and forests that surround us, and yet we often don't consider who is on the front lines, ensuring that these resources are there for us and our future generations. We see this currently happening in the NoDAPL, North Dakota Access Pipeline, where indigenous women were putting their bodies in harm's way to protect their sacred burial sites. And yet long history of the violence against indigenous women goes unrecognized, and women are continuously silenced, criminalized, and forgotten.
Looking at the current 2017-2020 programme for the IUCN and then also thinking about this event that I attended on violence, as well as the countless stories of violence that I heard at COP21 in Paris, on various activist news outlets from North Dakota, Honduras, and other places; I can't help but wonder why violence is exacerbated on certain actors more than others. The politics and systems that allow for violence on our environment and the raping of land by mining companies and dam construction are the same ones that allow for indigenous women to be raped, abused, and murdered.
At the opening ceremony here at WCC just a mere 10 days ago, a representative from United Nations Environment Programme said that we need to stop playing the blame game; blaming countries and blaming industry. Well, in the next four years after this WCC, I want to see more of the blame game. I want to see more member nations and organizations calling out the actors who allow for a perpetuation of colonialism on our environments and on indigenous women. It is only by pointing the finger and calling attention to the actors, actions, and frameworks that colonize our environments and women that we may begin to address these violent acts. We need a disruption of the current ways that we define and address our crossroads; one that brings indigenous women, their violent experiences and realities to the forefront, much in the way that they have put themselves at the forefront of protecting the natural resources that we depend on.
As we leave Hawaii and the World Conservation Congress, I only hope that the next four years will not replicate the past four years of indigenous women disappearing in mining towns and indigenous women activists being murdered and terrorized by their governments. Instead, I hope that we being to push the bounds on our governments and projects and programs that allow for these types of violence to occur in order for a more safe environment.
Written by Baylee Bunce
This post is part of our digital ethnography of the World Conservation Congress conducted by nine students in Laura Zanotti's Anthropology of Water (Anth392) class at Purdue University.
As the IUCN's World Conservation Congress comes to a conclusion, I have been able to watch the development of Marine-centered issues across my various sites. As most of my sites have booths at the WCC, it has been great to also see them share information about the work they have been actively doing in real time at the event. Many of my sites have shown increased activity during the WCC, especially the larger organizations Mission Blue and the Marine Conservation Institute. And although smaller organizations have sometimes had limited updates, the few updates have provided very useful comments on different issues, such as marine litter and indigenous rights and activism.
Across multiple sites there has been a lot of attention paid to both Motion 26 and #30by30. From what I understand of Motion 26, it has incredibly important implications for both indigenous rights regarding natural resources and bodies of water. I find the relevance to the current situation in South Dakota very interesting and I am eager to see how it plays out towards the end of the WCC. The campaign for 30% of oceans protected by 2030 has also been very prominent in the posts from most of my sites. I've noticed that support for the petition is commonly accompanied by #RightsofNature and #HarmonyWithNature, implying the link between oceans and global environmental wellness and responsibility. The addition of "harmony" has been a newer hash tag and I think the emphasis on the idea of nature having explicit rights along with the possibility of living well with nature is a discourse that I want to follow as the congress begins to conclude.
Finally, the majority of updates that have drawn my attention are those that speak to the relationship between marine issues and people explicitly. An article posted by Marine Conservation International talked about the links between poverty and marine conservation, particularly the importance of conserving marine resources to avoid or alleviate poverty in various places of the world. I have also seen more connections being made by sites between indigenous rights and conservation, particularly articles promoting the inclusion of indigenous rights and ideas into environmental policy decisions.
Overall, I have seen issues related to marine conservation develop in very different, but connected ways across my different sites. While much attention is still paid to Obama's designation of the large Marine Protected Area, those updates are now including critical discussion around the topic. Most of the sites have increased their attention to critical discussion and avid activism as the WCC has progressed. I expect to see this become even more apparent in the next two days.
By Kate Yeater
Waking up to our first sunrise in Honolulu, I looked out the hotel window and saw dark foggy clouds in the distance, sandwiched between high-rises. As the morning fog dissipated and I put on my glasses, I realized those weren’t clouds at all but mountains! Since that moment I longed to get out of the tourist-filled city around us and explore the natural wonders of O’ahu. Our busy research schedules at the World Conservation Congress paused for a moment on Thursday, September 8th, as the Congress took a free day. This allowed our team a rejuvenating day away from the Convention Center and exploration of the island. While Savannah, Liz, and Kate H. went to Hanauma Bay to snorkel with sea turtles, fish, and coral, Sarah and I walked to Diamond Head on the southern coast of the island. Diamond Head, known locally as Lēʻahi, is a 300,000-year-old volcanic crater. Sarah and I hiked through tunnels, across the crater, and up stairs to reach the summit, which overlooks the coast and Pacific Ocean beyond.
Our afternoon was spent shopping for gifts for friends and family, laying on the beach, paddle-boarding, and catching up on homework. We ended our day off with a team dinner to share our stories from the day. With just two days left of the Member’s Assembly, the 2016 WCC is quickly coming to an end and our flight back to the mainland will come much too quickly. It was wonderful to spend a day in the fresh air, salty sea, and sunshine here in Honolulu before we begin the last push of this whirlwind research trip.
COP21 Paris 2015 & WCC 2016
Follow our team as we cover international environmental policy making meetings.
Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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