Alternative Ethics in the Politics of Knowledge and Authority: Focusing on Human-Environment Relations in China, Tibet and South Korea

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Alternative Ethics in the Politics of Knowledge and Authority: Focusing on Human-Environment Relations in China, Tibet and South Korea
Stream: Anthropology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Authors:
Yeon-ju Bae, University of Michigan, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Xiao Ke, University of Pennsylvania, United States (presenter, chair)
Suvi Rautio, University of Helsinki, Finland (presenter)
Shuting Zhuang, University of Chicago, United States (presenter)
Sumin Myung, Johns Hopkins University, United States (presenter)
Jay Schutte, Colorado State University, United States (discussant)

Abstract:

We explore alternative ethics and their political work through ethnographic investigations in China, Tibet, and South Korea: contexts that have undergone drastic sociopolitical change accompanied by an increasingly complicated politics of ecological thinking. Recent scholarship has provided important insights into the emergence of alternative ethics in non-Western environmentalism (Cadena and Blaser 2018) – through interactions of different knowledge schemes, authorities, and environmental ideologies on human and nonhuman agents. Drawing on a wide-ranging set of methodologies, our panelists examine how practitioners relying on different authorizations and institutionalizations of knowledge come to create and alter ethical understandings of their own social and ecological worlds. We ask: What is the relationship between ethics and positionality, and in what ways emergent forms of ethics are motivated by and facilitate the political intricacy across humans and environment?

Drawing on local entanglements of myth and morality in Guizhou province (southwest China), Suvi Rautio criticizes the violence caused by China’s state-led reforestation projects. Juxtaposing state environmental campaign and lama’s teachings, Xiao Ke analyzes styles of persuasion and hierarchies of moral affects in Tibetan environmental and wildlife ethics. Shuting Zhuang explores the Tibetan Buddhist-activists’ initiative that scientifically and morally locates new non-human species in discussing what she calls “species-ization.” Investigating practitioners’ forms of knowledge and rhetorical strategies in a Korean Buddhist environmental village, Yeon-ju Bae illustrates the political and ethical interrelations of socio-ecological worlds. Sumin Myung discusses “emergent ethics” coming out of uncertainties in forests by examining Korean field scientists’ activities and navigations in the era of climate change.