I am a Sociocultural Anthropologist interested in globalization, development and political ecology. I examine environmental concerns in the context of social justice, using case studies to explore the evolving global imaginaries that beckon us to define environmental problems like biodiversity conservation and food security in modernist, often economistic, terms. As an ethnographer, 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.
I co-edit a book series, Critical Green Engagements: Investigating the Green Economy and its Alternatives, at the University of Arizona Press. I also 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), and I have recently joined the Scientific Committee of SOAS GLOCAL, and the Publications Board of UBC Press. It is an honour to be part of these remarkable collaborations.
Transdisciplinary engagements, including the ecological humanities and natural sciences, are vital to my work. 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.
NEW COURSE! Ethnography of Energy & Sustainability (ANTH 303C)
Global visions of modernity and development were founded upon the extractive fossil fuel economy. Today, the climate emergency demands fundamental change in how cities run and how countries develop. This course explores the human dimensions of energy resource extraction, production and consumption, through the lens of ethnographic case studies from different parts of the world. We consider critical debates around energy systems and sustainability from the perspective of political ecology and climate justice, giving particular attention to the cultural and historical contexts of evolving energy frontiers.
Anthropocene Imaginaries (ANTH 540)
Representations of culture and environment have compelling implications for human rights and Indigenous sovereignties over land, water and natural resources. As geologists debate whether we are living in “The Anthropocene”, critical theorists are learning to ask new questions about historical and structural inequalities, for human security is shaped not only by changing climates, but also by how we frame the understandings and ethical commitments we articulate in response. This course explores evolving concerns around the climate and nature emergency, and considers how cultural visions and aesthetics of place in the twenty-first century are interconnected with emerging global discourses about environmental security, governance and power. Blending perspectives from the environmental humanities, STS, and anthropology, we will reflect upon ethnographic approaches to political ecology and the idea of “the Anthropocene”.
Gardens of Culture: The Anthropology of Food Systems (ANTH 437)
From Indigenous Brazil, to the Phillippines, and rural Italy, the “nature” of food systems is mutually engaged with culture. Anthropological insights show us that local foodways are holistically rooted in histories of place, senses of identity and belonging, and social life. Every farm and household plot is a garden of culture, producing not only the food that sustains our bodies, but also connections to family and community, relationships with nature and climate, and particular understandings of the world. These gardens of culture are deeply impacted by colonial relations, economies of scale, global transformations and rapid environmental change, yet they are also keys to survival and sustainability. Learning to understand the perspectives of food producers in their own terms—including Indigenous and rooted knowledge systems, languages, local experiences, priorities and heartfelt commitments— is needed to cultivate viable multispecies futures.
Ecological Anthropology (ANTH 360)
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.
Eating Culture (ANTH 210)
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.
|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.|
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. I consider how world food security is shaped not only by changing environments, but also by how we frame understandings, ethical commitments and collaborations we articulate in response to them.
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.
Victor Turner Book Prize for Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology (AAA), 2010.
Australian Anthropology Society Best Essay Prize, 2013.
Students interested in ethnographic approaches to sustainability, conservation debates, climate change, and political ecology are encouraged to contact me. It may be helpful to read some of my academic-facing work first, in order to assess the compatibility of research interests. My expertise is primarily centered in European contexts, however, I also work with students whose geographic interests lie elsewhere. What is important is that you should 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.