Events

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 -
6:15pm to 8:00pm
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Common Room, CSWR, 42 Francis Ave., Cambridge

Anthropology as Cosmic Diplomacy: Toward an Ecological Ethics for the Anthropocene

Eduardo Kohn, author of the book How Forests Think and associate professor of Anthropology at McGill University, will discuss his research on three projects in and around the tropical forests of Ecuador whose goal is to capacitate "sylvan" thought, which may provide insight into the planetary human-driven ecological devastation that some call the “Anthropocene.” Sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions.

Forests think. This is neither a metaphor nor a cultural belief. There exists a kind of thinking, which I call “sylvan,” that is made exquisitely manifest by tropical forests and those that live with them. This kind of thought extends well beyond us humans and, in fact, holds our human forms of thinking. Thinking with the sylvan logics that thinking forests amplify can provide an ethical orientation—a mode of thought—that is adequate for these times of planetary human-driven ecological devastation that some call the “Anthropocene.” I here discuss three projects in and around the tropical forests of Ecuador whose goal is to capacitate sylvan thought. This research, which has brought me into collaboration with indigenous leaders and shamans, lawyers and conceptual artists, and even forest spirits and archaic pre-hispanic ceramic figures, has encouraged me to see my anthropological vocation as a kind of “cosmic diplomacy.” This form of diplomacy is “psychedelic” in so far as its goal is to make manifest the mind, manifesting the nature of sylvan thinking on whose behalf it advocates. Another word for this kind of emergent mind is “spirit.” I here explore alternative “sylvan” means to give voice to the spirits among us, and I trace the challenge this poses for how we should think about what it means to be human.

Eduardo Kohn is the author of the book How Forests Think, which has been translated into several languages. It won the 2014 Gregory Bateson Prize and is short-listed for the upcoming 2018 Prix littéraire François Sommer. His research continues to be concerned with capacitating sylvan thinking in its many forms. He teaches Anthropology at McGill University.

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions.

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CSWR

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Harvard University
Center for the Environment

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