02 JUN 2022 (THU) 15:05-15:35

The human-nature relationship of Yunnan in the discourse of Anthropocene: From the perspective of socio-cultural context and bottom-up action

Mr SHEN Zijing


Yunnan, located at the southwest border of China, has long been regarded as one of the regions with the most pristine and diverse natural environment but relatively underdeveloped economies in the meantime. The development of Yunnan requires a delicate balance between diverse socio-cultural contexts, urgency for economic advancement, and conservation of the natural environment. Recently, Yunnan has achieved a lot in two national strategies of ‘ecological civilization’ and ‘poverty alleviation’, being the first province in the legislation on biodiversity conservation and national park, establishing ecological compensation systems, while lifting more than 6 million people out of poverty. The complicated negotiation between the nation’s development objective, local governments’ policies, and indigenous communities’ social norms and cultural traditions makes Yunnan an ideal site for the socio-cultural geographical exploration in the discourse of Anthropocene.

This research plans to study the human-nature relationship of Yunnan with reference to the discourse of Anthropocene. Wuliang-Ailao Mountain Area is selected as an example to illustrate the impact of socio-cultural indigeneity and self-organised actions on environmental protection. This research will engage with the Anthropocene concept through archival research, questionnaire survey, in-depth interview, and participatory observation by working with two theoretical paradigms in development research: indigenous knowledge and diverse economies. The former will shed light on how localised knowledge, ethnic beliefs, and other socio-cultural factors shape people’s environmental cognition and behaviour, and how knowledge embedded in local contexts interact with universal knowledge and national objectives. The latter will frame the logic of self-organised behaviour in the process of formulating environmental practices, highlighting the significance of mundane and bottom-up actions at the individual or community level.

Theoretically, this research aims at unravelling the Anthropocene concept with indigenous knowledge and diverse economies, revealing the role of indigenous knowledge in Yunnan’s development, reframing the logic of bottom-up actions at the individual or community level, and theorising how the economies, politics, emotion, cognition and daily life of local people shape their awareness of and response to the global changes. Empirically, this research will summarise the experience of environment preservation in Wuliang-Ailao Mountain Area as empirical evidence to appeal for more attention from the policymakers on the differentiated socio-cultural backgrounds. Besides, this research will also offer transferable models of individual or community actions in environmental protection to provide references for other regions in similar situations.