Outsourcing the Sacred Cow: Disentangling local responses to social and ecological change in the MM Hills.

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 22nd February 2016

Dr. Puri will discuss recent research in the MM Hills on local responses to landscape changes, including invasive Lantana camara, forest policy changes, and social-economic changes, particularly wage migration. Synergy between a multitude of drivers makes determining the consequences of change and the causes of human responses problematic, methodologically speaking. Preliminary findings from a mixed methods approach suggests that such a synergy is depleting labour and alienating forests, and thereby driving cattle raising into decline or to lowland communities for all or some of the year. For some households, this may, in fact, herald the return to a pre-colonial system of transhumance. Dr Puri will also preview parts of a video documentary on the Sankranti festival, where villagers discuss how this annual harvest/renewal festival for people and cattle has been affected by social and environmental changes.

Dr. Puri is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology and the Director of the Centre for Biocultural Diversity, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent in Canterbury, UK. He also convenes Kent’s Ethnobotany MSc programme with the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Email: rkp@kent.ac.uk.

Trained as an ecological anthropologist and ethnobiologist, Dr. Puri has worked in Borneo, Vietnam, India and Europe on a variety of topics: ethnobiological knowledge systems, historical ecology, wildlife trade, and applied conservation anthropology. Some of this work is published in the books, Bulungan Ethnobiology Handbook (CIFOR 2001), Deadly Dances in the Bornean Rainforest (KITLV Press, 2005) and Conducting Research in Conservation: A Social Science Perspective (Routledge 2010).

His recent work has been on local adaptation to climatic variability and environmental change. He first came to ATREE in 2011, as a co-investigator on the ESPA project Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change, where he worked with ATREE staff on local adaptation to Lantana camera in the MM Hills, southern Karnataka. This work has drawn him into research on invasive species, and other ways changes in biodiversity due to climate change threaten biocultural diversity and local livelihoods. He is now thinking about how anthropologists can contribute to climate change science, and specifically developing mixed methods for studying local responses to environmental change. That work is published in The uniqueness of the everyday: Herders and invasive species in India, in the book Climate Cultures (Yale UP 2015).