Climate Change Otherwise: Indigenous Knowledge and the Coloniality of Reality

Climate Change Otherwise: Indigenous Knowledge and the Coloniality of Reality

Anders BURMAN

Department of Human Geography, Human Ecology Division, Lund University, Sweden

Several studies have shown that indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and attention has been drawn to indigenous knowledge as a component of climate change adaptation strategies. This paper argues, however, that in order to take indigenous knowledge seriously – i.e. not as “culture” in supposed opposition to “science” – indigenous realities and understandings of climate change need to be taken seriously. This is so because knowledge is not produced in an ontological void. Rather, knowledge is produced in relation to notions concerning the nature of reality and being. Moreover, in order not to make a mere instrumentalist use of indigenous knowledge, this paper argues that not only the practical outcomes of indigenous knowledge ought to be assessed, but also the ontological lifeworlds within which such knowledge is generated. This paper is based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork in the Bolivian Andes.

 

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I received my PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Gothenburg in 2009. 2009 to 2011 I was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. I am currently a Senior lecturer at the Human Ecology Division at Lund University where I teach undergraduate and graduate courses, mainly related to Political Ecology and Environmental Anthropology.

I have published profusely on issues concerning indigenous peoples and movements, activism, cosmology, gender politics, political ontology, the issue of decolonization and knowledge production in relation to central topics of Political Ecology and Environmental Anthropology with a geographical focus on the Andes, Bolivia and Latin America.

I am currently engaged in a comparative research project called “Indigenous peoples and climate change”, focusing on how climate change is perceived and explained differently by different actors and from different ontological life worlds in Latin America. My research focuses primarily on the contradictions arising from the encounter between hegemonic notions of “nature” and “climate” and indigenous knowledge and understandings of the Andean landscape and cosmos. I aim to understand how these contradictions are negotiated and articulated in the indigenized political language of the Bolivian State and emerging oppositional indigenous movements, in a debate on climate justice.

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