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The Nomadic Lifeworld and Its Response to Desertification in Alpine Wetlands and Grasslands in the Tibetan Plateau
This lecture explores the causes and responses to desertification, which unusually took place in Alpine wetlands and grasslands in the Tibetan Plateau. By comparing the local perceptions of two landscapes (desert and grassland/wetland), one could found (a) there is no vernacular notion of “desertification” in local Tibetan vocabulary, this term is borrowed from Mandarin, (b) for locals, the formation of a piece of desert on wetland is not a disaster but a gift from nature, (c) moreover, influenced by Buddhism, locals describe one sandy hill – a piece of desert – as the Sumeru mountain, the sacred five-peaked mountain considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. However, in recent decades, in this area the desertification as a “serious disaster” category has become common sense. Governors, experts and locals have all made efforts to turn desert into grassland. We can wonder what are, for the actors involved, the main causes of this “disaster”? Scientists and experts gave explanations qualified as “scientific”. Most of these interpretations reduce the desertification phenomenon to overgrazing, and look down the nomadic life style. This frame dominates the desertification relief and depressed the local perceptions and agency. In the last 2 decades however, despite more investments and efforts, the desertification became much more serious. This situation inspired local people to rethink the cause of desertification and their own role in the desertification relief. Some successful local practices began to reshape the understanding of the perception of desertification. By this case study, this lecture tries to raise topics about the relationship between religion and disaster perception, the relationship between expert knowledge and local traditions, and how locals can play an important role in the state sponsored projects.
Tang Yun, Professor of Anthropology à la School of Ethnological Studies de la Southwest Minzu University (Chengdu, China)
Sandrine Revet, CERI, Sciences Po-CNRS.
Responsable scientifique : Sandrine Revet, Sciences Po-CERI