As a sociocultural anthropologist, I study the different ways in which human societies meet their needs, settle their disputes, and make meaning of the world. As a political ecologist, I work to understand the ‘more-than-human’ nature of societies as well as the sociopolitical nature of ecosystems. My research on environmental politics is not just about struggles over resources, but also about encounters among different knowledge systems, cosmologies, and ways of being in the world. I employ both ethnographic and historical methods to trace how these encounters unfold at the local level, how they interact with global forces, and how they reverberate outward. My work asks, for example: whose beliefs and aspirations serve as the default for transnational conservation projects and how does this affect the communities whose lands are targeted for conservation? How, in turn, do these communities—including the other-than-human beings with whom they share the environment—intervene in and shape the practice of conservation?
My empirical research focuses primarily on the Philippines, where I have conducted approximately three years of fieldwork since 2006. A long-term project examines the micropolitics of indigeneity and environmental regulation on Palawan Island, a UNESCO “Biosphere Reserve” undergoing rapid social and ecological change due to settler colonization, agricultural intensification, bureaucratization, and capitalist expansion. My writing highlights the creativity and endurance of Palawan’s Indigenous communities as they navigate and intervene in these powerful forces of dispossession and change. In 2016, I connected this work with the Creatures Collective, an international collaboration of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, artists, and activists, who have come together in an effort to contest the colonial amnesia of contemporary ‘mass extinction’ narratives and to support the resurgence of more-than-human collectives in response thereto.
More recently, I have initiated a new, collaborative study of how Manila’s ‘traffic crisis’ interacts with social inequality, technocratic authority, and political subjectivity. By connecting urban political ecology, environmental history, and the anthropology of infrastructure, this project aims to offer ethnographic insights into a problem that permeates all aspects of life in this fast-growing mega-city. This project is part of a larger effort to promote collaborative and community-based methods in urban political ecology. With funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Alex Nading (Cornell University) and I are preparing to host a workshop at CMU on “Collaborative Ecologies: Anthropologies of (and for) Survival in the More-Than-Human City.”
Motivating all of these engagements is a commitment to: collaboratively producing knowledge that is accountable to the concerns of structurally marginalized communities; engaging with a wide range of scholars, practitioners, and activists; and contributing to broader efforts on behalf of social, environmental, and ecological justice. At CMU, I offer courses and mentor student research on Political Ecology, Environmental Justice, Climate Change and Climate Justice, Southeast Asia, Indigenous Rights, Globalization, Social Movements, Disasters, and related topics.
Additional information on my research, teaching, and public engagement is available on my personal website.
EducationPh.D.: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013
with Will Smith "Seeing Indigenous Land Struggles in the ‘Multispecies Cloud’ of Covid-19." Society for Cultural Anthropology Fieldsights (2020).
with Raqueeb Bey, Rachel Filippini, Sarah Martik and Aly Shaw. “Not good enough for whom? Pittsburgh is a place worth fighting for.” Public Source (2020).
with June Mary Rubis. “Concealing Protocols: Conservation, Indigenous Survivance, and the Dilemmas of Visibility.” Social & Cultural Geography (in press).
- “Euphemisms We Die By: On Eco-Anxiety, Necropolitics, and Green Authoritarianism in the Philippines.” In Beyond Populism: Angry Politics and the Twilight of Neoliberalism, edited by J. Maskovsky and S. Bjork-James. West Virginia University Press (2019).
- “Unraveling the Strings Attached: Philippine Indigeneity in Law and Practice.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 50.1 (2019): 107-128.
- with Tim Leduc, Audra Mitchell, and June Mary Rubis, with Norma Jacobs Gaehowako. “Living Protocols: Remaking Worlds in the Face of Extinction.” Social & Cultural Geography (in press).
- with Audra Mitchell. “Extinction.” In Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon, edited by C. Howe and A. Pandian. Goleta, CA: Punctum (2019).
- “Reframing ‘Disaster’.” In Disaster Archipelago: Understanding Hope and Vulnerability in the Contemporary Philippines, edited by C. Alejandria and W. Smith. Lexington Press (2019).
- “Surviving Carmageddon in Manila.” Edge Effects (2018).
- “A Forest of Dreams: Ontological Multiplicity and the Fantasies of Environmental Government in the Philippines.” Political Geography 58 (2017): 114-127.
- with Zev Trachtenberg, Antonio J. Castro, Kiza Gates, Asa Randall, Ingo Schlupp, and Lynn Soregan. “(Inter)Facing the Anthropocene: Representing an Interdisciplinary Interaction. Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities1 (2017): 18-38.
- “Environmental Politics and the Burden of Authenticity.” Palawan and Its Global Connections, edited by J. Eder and O. Evangelista. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press (2014): 346-370.
- “The Micropolitics of Indigenous Environmental Movements in the Philippines.” Development & Change 6 (2011): 1417-1440.
- Modern Southeast Asia: Colonialism, Capitalism, and Cultural Exchange
- How (Not) to Change the World
- Climate Change and Climate Justice
- Un-Natural Disasters: Societies and Environmental Hazards in Global Perspective
- Hostile Environments: The Politics of Pollution in Global Perspective
- Introduction to Global Studies
Department Member Since: 2017