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.
In spring 2021, I co-organized an interdisciplinary conference, Un/Predictable Environments: Politics, Ecology, Agency, with colleagues in Belfast and Allahabad. Thanks to funding from SSHRC and the Public Humanities Hub at UBC, a video archive and blog are now available.
I currently serve on editorial boards for two open-access academic publications: 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.
|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.
2021. Heatherington, Tracey. “Havens Against the Blight: Daydreaming Agriculture in the Future Past”, in Moveable Gardens: Itineraries and Sanctuaries of Memory, Virginia Nazarea and Terese Gagnon, eds., pp.199-222. University of Arizona Press.
2021. Heatherington, Tracey. “Fertility’s Fate: Agrarian Anxieties and the Social Life of Seeds”, in Seedways: The circulation, control and care of plants in a warmer world, Beppe Karlsson and Annika Rabo, eds. Series: Kungl. Konferenser 104, pp. 207-226. Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. Open access.
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. May 2, 2017. Open access.
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.
Victor Turner Book Prize for Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology (AAA), 2010.
Australian Anthropology Society Best Essay Prize, 2013.
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 ethnographic research and sincere human engagements can change the way we frame “global” concerns. I welcome students with both applied and theoretical interests.
ANTH 210 001 Winter Term 1
When you think of home, what does it taste like? We eat culture everyday. Food systems are a celebrated and essential part of social life. Culturally meaningful ingredients and recipes reflect upon specific ecological adaptations and histories of landscape. Our memories, identities, and sense of well-being are tied to the foods we produce, collect, prepare and share with others. While some food traditions are deeply rooted in place, others emerge from the processes of globalization, migration, innovation and change. Different cultural perspectives inform debates around food security and food sovereignty, and commitments to food system transformation. In our course this term, we will consider case studies of culture, agriculture, food and environment in global context.
ANTH 360 100 Winter Term 2
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 professional development for new graduate students 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 will visit class to share their experiences as you envision your own future at UBC and beyond.