Dr James FraserLecturer
My research interests converge on the question of how people can live well - socially and environmentally – in the Anthropocene. I am interested in understanding the knowledge and politics that ‘other’ peoples’ draw on in confronting the multiple challenges that this entails. This question draws together two distinct research strands:
The first strand has sought to illuminate the creation and use of ‘anthropogenic’ landscapes by forest and rural peoples in Amazonia and West Africa. Through the knowledge and practice of horticulture and agroforestry they improve soils and produce edible and useful plants and trees whilst conserving ‘natural’ forest biodiversity. These sustainable and resilient agroecological patches are threatened by the aggressive expansion of socially and environmentally destructive models of economic development such as industrial logging, mining, agriculture and megadams.
The second strand has been driven by the need to address such threats. Here I am concerned with understanding and supporting forest and rural peoples’ political struggles for recognition and autonomy, including rights claims to the common use territories that ensure the persistence of the abovementioned agroecologies, along with social, environmental and climate justice moments, food sovereignty and other manifold forms of living well in the Anthropocene.
My most sustained fieldwork engagements are in Brazilian Amazonia, and I have also worked in West Africa (Liberia) and Central America (Nicaragua). I work collaboratively with a variety of scholars and activists, including many from the Global South.
I draw on theory and methods from the disciplines of Geography and Anthropology and from the research programmes of Political and Historical Ecology, Postcolonial and Development Studies. My research is transdisciplinary in that it combines engagement with social movements with both critical and quantitative social science and GIS, along with natural science (ecology and soil science) approaches.
I hold a CONFAP UK Academies Fellowship 2019-2021 “Socio-ecological resilience, territory and conflict in Western Pará, Brazilian Amazonia”, based at the Federal University of Pará.
I was Visiting Fellow at the Federal University of Western Pará, Brazil, 2016-2019 under the H2020 Odyssea network.
I contribute to several undergraduate and postgraduate modules and am convener for:
LEC 322 Environment, Society and Politics in Amazonia (taught with Luke Parry & Jos Barlow)
LEC 320 Africa: Geographies of Transformation (taught with Camilla Toulmin)