Professor of Development Studies
Institute of Geography and Sustainability
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Jan 20, 2023, 3:35 PM - 5:00 PM
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People have long transported diverse trees called ‘acacia’ across oceans. In a surprising number of cases, these trees contribute new social-ecological and aesthetic landscapes, shaped by how humans use the trees and by how the trees grow and spread by themselves. In this presentation, I describe the history, geography, and social context of ‘acacia’ through empirical case studies in several landscapes around the world, including A. mangium in central Vietnam, R. pseudoacacia in western France, and A. dealbata in highland Madagascar. I then consider what the mix of idiosyncratic stories and common patterns that emerges from treating ‘acacia’ as the object of analysis can tell us. At a conceptual level, it pushes us to reconsider what ‘natural history’ means in the Anthropocene. At a topical level, the cases raise questions of winners and losers, of framings and discourses, of ecology, and of belonging which are relevant to invasion biology, to regional development, to people’s lives and livelihoods, and thus ultimately regarding our approach to sustainability and transitions.
Christian Kull is a political ecologist interested in the social dimensions of environmental change in developing countries, islands, and highlands. He investigates the human dimensions of topics like invasive species, fire, tree planting, and agrarian change. The forest transition in Vietnam is his current focus; past fieldwork concentrated around the Indian Ocean rim, particularly Madagascar, which for instance led to the book Isle of Fire: the Political Ecology of Landscape Burning in Madagascar. Educated in the United States (including a Master of Geography at CU Boulder), he has held university posts in Montreal, Melbourne, and Suva (Fiji). He is currently Professor of Development Studies at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
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