Innovative Approaches to Ecological Globalization: Anthropology on the New Pangaea

Name of applicant

Heather Anne Swanson


Aarhus University


DKK 3,785,000



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Accelerate


I am building a research group that focuses on ecological globalisation - i.e. how practices of trade, development and management remake ecologies by connecting geographically distant places. The world's continents have been separated for millions of years, and their flora and fauna have diverged: now, our industrial transportation practices are increasingly mixing them. As an anthropologist, I ask how my discipline can contribute to understandings of these new transcontinental connections and their effects. My key questions include: what social and historical factors shape species introductions, how new species disrupt existing social and natural relationships and create new ones, and what conflicts emerge over how to live with animals and plants that arrive in new locales?


My project is important because it jointly uses the insights of the arts and sciences to address ongoing debates about introduced species and their management. It brings scholarship on political economy, social history, and cultural practices into closer dialogue with biological research on non-native species. In doing so, it aims to contribute to building a new field called environmental humanities (EH). EH asks how the humanities can contribute to addressing pressing environmental concerns. One of the challenges of EH is to develop effective modes of interdisciplinary engagement: my project directly addresses this challenge within the context of species introductions and invasive species management.


My research group will address the questions described above through in-depth case studies that combine ethnographic and historical/archival methods with serious attention to bioscience research and collaborations with natural scientists. It builds on my previous research on fisheries management in Japan and Chile, as well as my recently initiated project on how wooden shipping pallets move insects between once-distant forests, killing trees not adapted to their presence, and creating novel management controversies. Because my group aims to advance a new field, it will focus not only on cutting-edge research but also on talent-development, creating an environment for "interdisciplinary cross-training" where young scholars can think and work creatively across the arts and sciences.

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