Wednesday, November 30, 2022 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Herding The Fire: Technological Analogism In Pastoral Ecosystems
Anthropogenic fire practitioners and firefighters usually say that fire is a phenomenon that eats, walks, and gets nervous, just like a living being. As anthropologists, how can we take them seriously?
In this talk, I investigate the effects of such claims based on my fieldwork in an experiment of “integrated fire management” involving National Parks and Afro-descendant Quilombolas Territories in the Brazilian sa- vanna (Cerrado). I focus on perceptions about wildland fire behavior among environmental managers and Quilombola herders employed as rangers.
In a story of attempts to exclude ecological disturbances in the Cerrado, I show how the decline in livestock herds was followed by the rise of fire to the foreground of environmental management concerns. But this new relationship with fire remains part of a pastoral lexicon, supported by an- alogical comparisons between fire and cattle. Drawing from the anthro- pology of technical action, I argue that these analogies are ecological and technological. In other words, they are based not only on the effects of herbivory on the landscape, a feature shared both by cattle and fire, but also on their operational behavior. By using these analogies as a re- search method, my aim is to highlight correspondences between wildland fire ontologies and the technodiversity of local agropastoral systems.