Die Amerikas: Forschungskolloquium zu den Amerikas aus kulturwissenschaftlicher Sicht
Prof. Dr. Paula Ungar (Rachel Carson Center)
Walking the lines: science and politics in the drawing of ecosystem boundaries in the Colombian Andes
Cartographic boundaries are conventional lines drawn intentionally over complex encounters between worlds that intermingle in infinite ways. Between 2013 and 2016 I participated in a research project in Colombia carried out by the Humboldt Institute, the national institute for biodiversity research, whose task was to produce the knowledge needed by the Ministry of the Environment for the delimitation of the country’s páramos. The products of our job were the maps of the limits of these quite extraordinary and intensely disputed ecosystems and specific policy guidelines for “promoting their governance”. Delimitation, according to the valid legal framework –with which we disagreed-, meant the official adoption of páramos’ limits for prohibiting mining and agriculture inside them.
Páramos are indeed exceptional places, in more than one sense. These cold tropical ecosystems that exist almost exclusively in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, above approximately 3000 meters, have fascinated naturalists since the 18th century up to our days because of their organisms’ extraordinary adaptations to extreme weather conditions -giant flowering rosettes with hairy leaves, bright green cushions on extensive tapestries of mosses and natural meadows, mutualist associations between species; their unique biological diversity -they are megabiodiverse archipelagos in an already megabiodiverse country- and their key role in water regulation and provision for most of the country´s inhabitants -they are often called “the places where water is harvested”. Páramos’ daunting landscapes, traversed by fog and splattered with lakes are also the sacred birthplace of humanity for Indigenous peoples; priority places for establishing national protected areas; home of displaced Andean campesinos; support for extensive potato and onion fields owned by urban elites and objects of desire for multinational gold and coal mining companies, in association with an extractivist State.
Our work of transforming the intricate, dynamic and human-transformed encounter between páramos and their surroundings into a series of neat lines with legal implications, with the collaboration of research groups from all over the country and from different disciplines, was political at every step. Bushes, grasses, trees, insects, floods, clouds; ministers, senators, journalists, politicians, miners; and, of course, scientists -dead and alive- have roles in the story of the emergence of these lines. I want to show how, as we were drawing these boundaries -in fact, in order for them to exist as such powerful facts and travel to newspapers headlines, Congress, the president´s agenda and territories- we were drawing other equally conventional and difficult lines, between worlds that also constantly produce each other: science and politics; nature and culture; local, regional and global scales.
The making of a map requires looking at the field with distance and equipment, intentionally selecting features that serve the purpose of the map, adjusting on the process. At this stage of my work, I am only starting to step back from my practice to pick up the characters and to identify some possible milestones in order to tell my story of how the páramos maps came into being.
Wann? Donnerstag, 3. November 2016, 18 -20 Uhr
Wo? Oettingenstr. 67, Raum L155 (Obergeschoss)
Veranstalter: Institut für Ethnologie Lageplan
Mehr Informationen zu Vorträgen am Institut für Ethnologie im Wintersemester 2016/17 finden Sie unter „Veranstaltungen".
Sie können auch das Archiv mit den Veranstaltungen der vergangenen Jahre besuchen.