Defining the Anthropocene tropical forest: Moving beyond ‘disturbance' and ‘landscape domestication' with concepts from African worldviews

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Version: Final published version
License: CC BY 4.0
Serval ID
serval:BIB_6F239EA0F534
Type
Article: article from journal or magazin.
Collection
Publications
Institution
Title
Defining the Anthropocene tropical forest: Moving beyond ‘disturbance' and ‘landscape domestication' with concepts from African worldviews
Journal
The Anthropocene Review
Author(s)
Fraser James Angus, Cosiaux Ariane, Walters Gretchen, Asiyanbi Adeniyi, Osei-Wusu Adjei Prince, Addo-Fordjour Patrick, Fairhead James, Kialo Paulin, Laurier Engone Obiang Nestor, Oslisly Richard
ISSN
2053-0196
2053-020X
Publication state
Published
Issued date
01/02/2024
Peer-reviewed
Oui
Language
english
Abstract
How natural and cultural forces shaping tropical forested landscapes are conceptualised is of vital importance to Anthropocene debates. We examine two concepts: disturbance and landscape domestication. From the perspective of disturbance, humans – whether ancient or modern – are a priori negative for tropical forests, outside of and alien to nature. From this view, the Anthropocene is a planetary scale aggregation of disturbance. A more just vision of tropical forests, accepting anthropogenic influence on biodiversity, would combine ‘disturbance’ with other concepts that capture human agency and intentionality. Landscape domestication proposes that humans can shape ecology and plant and animal population demographics, making the landscape more productive and congenial for humans, upgrading or degrading the biodiversity of tropical forests. Herein, forest peoples shape the Anthropocene itself through their ‘domestication’ of the forest. Yet this approach can overdetermine culture, ignoring non-human agency, whilst human impacts can be seen as the outcome of intentional modifications to increase landscape productivity, at worst a disavowed projection of ‘economic man’. Using the convivial scholarship framework of Nyamnjoh, we argue that these ideas give incomplete views of tropical forests in the Anthropocene and can be enriched by concepts derived from African worldviews with ‘relationality’ and ‘wholeness’ at their core. These are expressed in ohanife, deriving from Igbo language, ubuntu, from the Nguni language and ukama, a notion from Shona culture. Together these concepts evince an ‘eco-bio-communitarianism’ embracing humans, God, spirits, ancestors, animals and inanimate beings in a ‘community of beings’ irreducible to the culture-nature divide (moving beyond disturbance) and allowing for the agency and personhood of non-humans (moving beyond historical ecology). This is consonant with Indigenous Amazonian worldviews, such as that of Kopenawa. Approaching human-nature relations from Nyamnjoh’s idea of conviviality, we elaborate a less incomplete and more just perspective on the cultural and natural shaping of Anthropocene tropical forests.
Keywords
conservation, conviviality, historical ecology, ohanife, ubuntu, ukama
Open Access
Yes
Create date
03/02/2024 17:00
Last modification date
06/02/2024 7:17
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