Tracey Heatherington

Environmental anthropology, Anthropocene studies, political ecology of nature conservation, multi-species ethnography, power & resistance, critique of neoliberalism, sustainable food systems, ethnographic writing and reflexivity, anthropological engagements with fiction.

As an ethnographer, I explore the evolving global imaginaries that beckon us to define environmental problems like biodiversity conservation and food security in modernist, often economistic, terms.  I witness and celebrate the mischiefs that can be worked upon these ethnocentric constructions by people who see the same issues from other cultural perspectives, shaped by grounded experience, by sociality, materiality, historicity, and by languages that affirm more-than-human kinships and affects. Informed by science studies, feminism and Indigenous voices, I strive to practice reflexive, collaborative and engaged scholarship.

My current research critically examines global projects of conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. I consider how world food security is shaped not only by the unfolding impacts of climate change, but also by how we frame understandings, ethical commitments and collaborations we articulate in response to them. Multi-sited fieldwork has previously taken me to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, the Global Crop Diversity Trust at the UN Sustainability Hub in Germany, and the Iowa-based Seed Savers Exchange nonprofit organization. I am expanding this work to consider diverse examples of people and organizations who create space for alliance between plant scientists and the small farmers, NGOs and Indigenous communities who represent not only the source but also the living future of heritage varieties.
While my own research projects are primarily centered in European contexts, I frequently work with students whose geographic interests are closer to home, or elsewhere entirely, but who share a passion for the way qualitative research and sincere human engagements can change the way we frame “global” concerns. I welcome students with both applied and theoretical interests.

As a Sociocultural Anthropologist interested in globalization, development and political ecology, I examine environmental concerns in the context of social justice.

My early research analyzed how powerful discourses about nature conservation can reproduce colonial and racist visions of culture and environment. I undertook an extended ethnographic case study on the island of Sardinia, Italy, during the period of institution-building at the European level, when European states sought to establish new national parks. I return to Sardinia periodically to extend research on agriculture, food systems and sustainability.

I continue the critical study of biodiversity conservation at a broader scale, in relation to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. My current research examines diverse cultural projects of seed banking and seed saving, including the envisioned role of agricultural science, technology and institutions in international efforts to adapt to climate change.

Transdisciplinary engagements, including the ecological humanities and natural sciences, are vital to my work. I have participated in various teaching initiatives that transcend disciplinary boundaries, and I have previously been a Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and a Fellow at the Center for Twenty-First Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

I currently serve on editorial boards for the Journal of the Italian Society of Cultural Anthropology (ANUAC), and the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures (AJEC). I am also a co-editor for the book series, Critical Green Engagements: Investigating the Green Economy and its Alternatives, at the University of Arizona Press.

2020. Heatherington, Tracey. “Seeds” in The Anthropocene Unseen: A Lexicon, pp. 404-409. Cymene Howe and Anand Pandian, eds. Punctum Books, 2020. Open access.

2020. Heatherington, Tracey. “Polyphony for the Ivory Tower Blues: Critical Pedagogies in Graduate Professional Development” in Collaborations: Anthropology in a Neoliberal Age, pp. 85-104. Emma Heffernan, Fiona Murphy and Jonathan Skinner, eds. Routledge, 2020.

2017. Heatherington, Tracey and Bernard C. Perley, “Fieldnotes from Svalbard: How Global Dreamings Take Root in the Arctic Frontier” Europe Now special issue on the Anthropocene. Open access. May 2, 2017.

2014. Heatherington, Tracey. “Tasting Cultural Ecology: Foodscapes of Sustainability in the Mediterranean”. Research essay. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. 14(2):16-26, May 2014.

2010. Heatherington, Tracey. Wild Sardinia: Indigeneity and the Global Dreamtimes of Environmentalism. Culture, Place and Nature Series, University of Washington Press, March 2010.

ANTH 100A 400 Term 2

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 

Anthropology is a discipline that seeks out different cultural perspectives on human experience. The things we tend to take for granted about modernity and progress, about gender and social roles, the “nature” of biology and environment, how the economy works, and the way we are meant to live with other people and species are all challenged by learning alternative ways of understanding, feeling, and “being in the world”. This class will introduce anthropological approaches based on cultural relativism. We survey ethnographic case studies from various regions of the world to reflect critically upon histories of colonialism, ethnocentrism, power, resistance, and cultural resilience.


ANTH 360 100 Term 1

Introduction to Ecological Anthropology

From climate justice and food sovereignty to Standing Rock and Extinction Rebellion, today’s anthropologists engage many important debates related to culture and environment. This course introduces how we understand human ecology and environmental issues “from the bottom up”, in the context of rooted histories and living cultures. Looking at case studies of resource extraction, climate change, biodiversity conservation, agricultural adaptation, ecotourism and attempts to “green” the economy, we explore how ethnographic methods support Indigenous and local perspectives around the world, as people perceive, challenge and reshape the global processes and structural inequalities that affect them and their home places.



ANTH 506A, Term 1-2

Current Research in Anthropology

This course is designed to support your professional development as you begin your graduate program in Anthropology. Connect with your cohort as you learn the expectations associated with classes, research, teaching, applying for grants, presenting, publishing, interdisciplinary work and community engagement in Anthropology. Plan to acquire core skills that can be transferred across different possible career paths and glimpse the “big picture” of academic life and professional opportunities. Faculty mentors and others visit class to share their experiences as you envision your own future at UBC and beyond.

Victor Turner Book Prize for Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology (AAA), 2010.

Australian Anthropology Society Best Essay Prize, 2013.