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Hannah Swee

Abstract

In Far North Queensland, a region in the northeast of Australia, cyclones are an annual risk. As a result of this frequency of cyclonic activity, different forms of cyclone knowledge exist ranging from disaster management information to local conceptualizations. For the people that inhabit this region, cyclones are a lived reality that are known in different, seemingly contradictory ways. Drawing on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Far North Queensland from 2012 to 2015, this article explores how local cyclone knowledge is assembled from a variety of heterogeneous factors that change and fluctuate through time, and are subject to an ongoing process of evaluation.

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Hannah Swee and Zuzana Hrdličková

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A Crystal Ball for Forests?

Analyzing the Social-Ecological Impacts of Forest Conservation and Management over the Long Term

Daniel C. Miller, Pushpendra Rana, and Catherine Benson Wahlén

ABSTRACT

Citizens, governments, and donors are increasingly demanding better evidence on the effectiveness of development policies and programs. Efforts to ensure such accountability in the forest sector confront the challenge that the results may take years, even decades, to materialize, while forest-related interventions usually last only a short period. This article reviews the broad interdisciplinary literature assessing forest conservation and management impacts on biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and poverty alleviation in developing countries. It emphasizes the importance of indicators and identifies disconnects between a rapidly growing body of research based on quasi-experimental designs and studies taking a more critical, ethnographic approach. The article also highlights a relative lack of attention on longer-term impacts in both of these areas of scholarship. We conclude by exploring research frontiers in the assessment of the impacts of forest-related interventions with long incubation periods, notably the development of predictive proxy indicators (PPIs).

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Constanza Parra and Casey Walsh

ABSTRACT

The articles in this section were written by social scientists from different parts of the world doing research on the complex relationship between human beings and the natural environment, and on the role of cultural ideals in shaping environmental history. The interdisciplinary character of the papers generates original insights about the socio-cultural dimensions of the environmental problematic, which have been neglected when compared with economic and political dimensions. This introduction reviews the contents of the proposed special symposium and situates the articles in relation to discussions about the social role of utopias, imagined and real.

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Introduction

People and Plants

Kay E. Lewis-Jones

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Evert Van de Vliert

ABSTRACT

This theory-based study tests the interactive impacts of the demands of thermal climate and wealth resources on variations in privileged culture represented by mental health, personal freedom, and political democracy. Multiple regression analysis of aggregated survey data covering 106 countries shows that cultures vary from minimally privileged in poor countries with demanding climates (e.g., Azerbaijan and Belarus) to maximally privileged in rich countries with demanding climates (e.g., Canada and Finland). In between those extremes, moderate degrees of privileged culture prevail in poor and rich countries with undemanding climates (e.g., Colombia and Singapore). Rival explanations and competing predictors, including degrees of agrarianism versus capitalism, latitude and longitude, and parasitic disease burden, could not account for these findings in support of the burgeoning climato-economic theory of culture.

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Stefan Böschen, Jochen Gläser, Martin Meister, and Cornelius Schubert

Recent years have seen an increasing interest in materiality in social research. Some might say that materiality is now back on the agenda of social research. The challenges of bringing materiality back have spurred lively debates about material agency, most of which, however, are leveled at the largely dematerialized theories of the social in the social sciences, for example, in material culture studies (Appadurai 1986; Miller 1998) as well as science and technology studies (Latour 1988; Law/Mol 1995). Since the turn of the century, a marked shift towards the material has emerged (cf. Hicks 2010), ranging from questions concerning nature (Grundmann/Stehr 2000) and everyday objects (Molotch 2003; Costall/Dreier 2006; Miller 2010) to issues of cultural theory (Reckwitz 2002), post-phenomenology (Verbeek 2005), ethnography (Henare et al. 2007), distributed cognition (Hutchins 1995), and materiality in general (Dant 2005; Miller 2005; Knappett/Malafouris 2008). A perspective on materiality is now being developed in diverse fields such as archaeology (Meskell 2005), economic sociology (Pinch/Swedberg 2008), political science (Bennett 2010; Coole/Frost 2010), and organization studies (Carlile et al. 2013). Yet the status of the material remains debated in the evolving fields of various “new” materialisms (cf. Lemke 2015).

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The Anthropocene

A Critical Exploration

Amelia Moore

The Anthropocene is everywhere in academia. There are Anthropocene journals, Anthropocene courses, Anthropocene conferences, Anthropocene panels, Anthropocene podcasts, and more. It is very safe to say that the Anthropocene is having a moment. But is this just a case of fifteen minutes of fame, name recognition, and bandwagon style publishing? The authors in this issue of ARES think not, and we would like to help lend a critical sensibility to the anthropological consideration of the concept and its dissemination.

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Less Than One But More Than Many

Anthropocene as Science Fiction and Scholarship-in-the-Making

Heather Anne Swanson, Nils Bubandt, and Anna Tsing

How might one responsibly review a field just coming into being—such as that provoked by the term Anthropocene? In this article, we argue for two strategies. First, working from the premise that the Anthropocene field is best understood within its emergence, we review conferences rather than publications. In conference performances, we glimpse the themes and tensions of a field-to-come. Second, we interpret Anthropocene as a science-fiction concept, that is, one that pulls us out of familiar space and time to view our predicaments differently. This allows us to explore emergent figurations, genres, and practices for the transdisciplinary study of real and imagined worlds framed by human disturbance. In the interplay and variation across modes for constructing this field, Anthropocene scholarship finds its shape.