Ethnographies of Expert Collaborations in and through Ecological Landscapes

Panel for the American Anthropological Association (AAA) 2021 Meeting

Baltimore, November 17-21

Organizer: Ekin Kurtiç, Junior Research Fellow, Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University

Discussant: Kristina Lyons, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Humanities, University of Pennsylvania

Anthropological inquiries into the enactment of expertise and formation of expert knowledge stress the need to attend to forms of “collaborative labor involved in sustaining expertise in situated practice” (Carr 2010, 19). Tracing ethnographically the role of collaborative labor in the making of environmental expertise requires broadening the scope of the analysis by taking into consideration its ecological entanglements. This panel attends to the politics of expertise through the lens of more-than-human relations as they configure the course and dynamics of collaborative practices.

In times of drastic environmental transformations and ecological crisis, scientists and engineers engage in collaborative work across different fields of expertise as well as with state actors, private companies, and communities in their efforts to order, regulate, utilize, exploit, extract, conserve, or restore ecologies. Environmental resistances and grassroots initiatives forge webs of collaboration with technoscientific and legal experts in raising rights claims and enacting socio-ecological justice. These power-laden collaborative encounters are charged with divergent understandings, aspirations, values, and claims; they also take place in and through dynamic more-than-human landscapes composed of waters, soils, forests, pastures, minerals, microbes, and animals among others.

This panel explores how the everyday political dynamics of expert collaboration shape and are shaped by ecological worlds and landscapes. Which environmental knowledges and values emerge out of, and which ones are glossed over by, collaborative expert practices? What is the role of ecological landscapes in forging, mediating, limiting, or disrupting collaborations in knowledge production and claim-making? How are social, political, and institutional hierarchies and power asymmetries (re)produced through expert collaborations in governing the environment? What is the socio-ecological life of these collaborative efforts? How do these coalitions impact the lived experience of human-environment relations on the ground?

We call for papers that ethnographically examine: 1- the ways in which politically loaded cooperation among experts as well as between experts and other human actors such as state officials or citizens reconfigure environmental imaginaries, knowledges, narratives, and relations; and 2- the role of ecological landscapes in enabling, channeling, or distorting the power differentials in collaborative practices.

To be considered for this panel, please send a 250-word abstract with a paper title, your name, affiliation, and email contact to by May 18, 2021.