The Political Life of Trees – University of Copenhagen

The Political Life of Trees

- A Comparative Investigation of the Political Entanglement of Humans and Trees among Indigenous People and Radical Environmental Activists

Fotograf: Mike Kollöffel ©

Fotograf: Mike Kollöffel ©

Conflict over forests is not a new thing, but over the past 10 years forests and trees have become the objects of renewed political interest. In the international climate negotiations, forests are represented as important carbon sinks, and their conservation as key to mitigating global climate change. At the same time, escalating conflicts around extractive industries such as logging and oil exploitation and an upsurge in environmental and climate activism, in different ways point to the multifaceted political life of trees.

The project sets out to investigate human interaction with trees in order to describe and theorize the forms of politics and political potentiality emerging from this interaction. The focus is on political activism and escalating conflicts, and combines this with a theoretical inquiry into the entanglement of material objects and human projects. Fieldwork is undertaken in the Ecuadorian Amazon and among radical environmental activists. My comparative engagement with the political life of trees aims to contribute to the current debate on comparative methodology within anthropology by exploring how trees, as scales of change in the two contexts, can theorize each other. This is supplemented with data already generated during the climate negotiations.