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Hosted by the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)

Activity 1

Forest Mind: Cognitive Territories and Sacred Plants

Speaker: Ursula Biemann

In this artist talk, Ursula Biemann will discuss her work collaborating with Inga Indigenous leaders and educators, co-creating the project Devenir Universidad - a platform for biocultural education in the Putumayo region of Colombia ( Devenir Universidad engages with the living cognitive territory of the Amazonian rainforest and the ways in which the indigenous communities can protect and transmit knowledge generated over millennia. Biemann will focus on her recent artist film, Forest Mind (2021), which unites diverse strands of knowledge on the metaphysics of plants, on plant-human relationships, and the coding of life with its form of storing information. Drawing on scientific as well as shamanic perspectives of engaging with the world, the video takes an ecocentric worldview in search for the intelligence of nature. The film(s) will be accessible to view beforehand. 

Ursula Biemann is a Swiss artist and theorist, whose practice centres on fieldwork, often in Indigenous territories, and the creation of networks between different fields of knowledge. Her work reflects on diverse forms of environmental degradation and its related historical and contemporary forces, creating through her videos, books and installations critical perspectives on the dynamics of extractivism and also proposing alternative, ecocentric modes of ecological and epistemological relatedness.

All are welcome to attend this free seminar, which will be held online via Zoom at 18:00 GMT. You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register.

Thursday 11 May 2023

June 2023

Forest Thinking/Thinking Forests
GERMINATIONS is an annual series of activities launched in June 2022 to pluralise and diversify the Environmental Humanities field. Experimenting with multicultural, multilingual, transdisciplinary, and multimodal initiatives, it cultivates awareness of the spectrum of work in EH beyond Anglo-European academic networks. It is hosted by the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) and convened in collaboration with scholars based at the universities of Essex and Bristol.

This year, GERMINATIONS is organising a series of activities under the title Forest Thinking/Thinking Forests

The importance of forests to efforts to address contemporary environmental challenges is now broadly recognised. At the COP27 summit in 2022, Brazil’s president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, stated: “There is no climate security for the world without a protected Amazon,” and pledged to “spare no efforts to have zero deforestation and the degradation of our biomes by 2030.”

Yet government action cannot be effective without a consideration of the socio-cultural significance of forests to those who live in and with them. The publication of Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think in 2013 marked an important milestone in the development of critical efforts to understand forests as systems of signification and relation that point us towards a post-anthropocentric ecological ethics. 

Kohn is careful to acknowledge his intellectual debts to traditions of forest thinking in Latin America, not least that of the Runa people of Ecuador’s Upper Amazon and the anthropological work of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. In the context of ongoing deforestation and usurpation of Indigenous lands, knowledge systems of coexistence and kinship with forests that move beyond extractivist paradigms are at the forefront of struggle.

How, then, might the task of thinking with or as forests be taken forward? 

GERMINATIONS proposes three online activities to address this question. 

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