Northwestern Events Calendar


Phurwa Gurung: "(Un)seeing like a conservationist: Politics of translating nature/culture in the pluriverse"

When: Wednesday, June 15, 2022
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Joshua Shelton  

Group: The Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Lecture Series

Category: Academic


Phurwa Gurung is a doctoral candidate in Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder. In this lecture, he will critically examine what happens when particular enactments of nature-culture dichotomy by the Nepali state actors through its conservation projects intermingle and clash with Dolpopa ways of knowing and being with the environment. Drawing on insights from short-term ethnographic field research and extended personal experiences growing up and working in Dolpo, Northwest Nepal, he will present a particular “modern” practice that I call “seeing like a conservationist”; that is, the ways in which national park staff and conservationists represent Dolpo landscape and people and translate them into concrete interventions. “Nature”, in these practices, emerges as a selection of things out there that are anything but humans. Gurung draws on socially embedded Buddhist/Bonpo frameworks to advance a situated critique of mainstream conservation and present multiple ways of knowing and being with nature. “Nature”, within emergent Dolpopa frameworks, is less about things and more a metaphor for the interconnected relations in which humans, more-than-human beings, and the inanimate earth are enmeshed into and through which they become who they are. At the same time, he will also reflect on the challenges and opportunities of translating across partially connected but uneven worlds. He thus puts the “ontological turn” in productive conversation with critical Indigenous studies while pushing back against the tendency of the former to erase Indigenous thoughts and thinkers.

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