Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture

Aims and Scopes

Sustainability of Landscapes in Anthropocenic Trans-Himalayas
Yunnan Minzu University, Kunming, Yunnan, June 13–17, 2017


Yale Himalaya Initiative
Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies, Yunnan Minzu University, Kunming

Aims and Scopes

The Yale-YMU summer school is a five-day master class – an interdisciplinary environment dedicated for students and young scholars to work with leading specialists in trans-Himalayan studies on latest developments of conceptual ideas, theoretical approaches, and research methodologies. In this program, the “trans-Himalayas” is a multi-faceted conceptual-geographical idea that signifies the geological contiguity and the interconnectedness of ecological systems and human societies in the Central Himalayas, the highlands of Southeast Asia and Southwest China, and the extended Tibetan plateau. This emphasis on the multidimensional connectivity of human societies and geo-ecological systems in the region is meant for participants to engage dialogues and debates with historical-ethnographically specific arguments, current theoretical trends, and shifting conceptual paradigms of trans-Himalayan studies concerning habitats, livelihoods, and human-earth relations in the twenty-first century.

The theme of the master class this year is the changing landscapes and evolving experiential understandings of sustainability in the current geological epoch scientifically recognized as the Anthropocene manifested both as human induced geological alterations and as a range of profound changes in ecological, livelihood, and affective arenas of humankind. The diverse trans-Himalayan habitats, nations, ethno-linguistic communities are an integral part of worldwide public and scholarly discourses on the environmental health of the earth and the wellbeing of human societies living in the Anthropocene. Set in the framework of environmental humanities, this designated theme is the primary conduit connecting our participants with the latest theoretical literature on the Anthropocene and interdisciplinary responses from sciences and humanities, and with the existing case studies of anthropogenic impacts and human agentive responses in the trans-Himalayan regions. Participants’ guided immersion in this transdisciplinary body of literature and the interactive lectures delivered by the invited specialists and peer presenters are planned for critical inquiries into the complex meanings of sustainability in the senses of both modern industrial and indigenous sustenance economies. Since the advocacy of the “sustainable development” in UN’s The Brundtland Report three decades ago, the global environment has actually deteriorated while development in the industrial sense is sustained. In this global context, the master class encourages participants to take the opportunity to explore innovative sustainable modes of living and production that are symbioses of traditional environmental knowledge and modern technologies.

Framed in environmental humanities as an interdisciplinary trend in the broadest sense, the lectures, discussions, and documentary film viewing of the master class are clustered under five themes entitled:

(1) The Anthropocene in environmental humanities
(2) Multi-specied landscapes in the trans-Himalayas
(3) Sustainability vision I – dominant modes of development
(4) Sustainability vision II – traditional knowledge
(5) Transboundary governance of natural-cultural landscapes

A reader will be compiled with relevant journal articles and book chapters as required and/or optional reading assignments. In addition to lectures and discussions, participants will also benefit from viewing films and videotaped lectures archived at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Yale Himalaya Initiative.

A number of the selected contents of the lectures will be translated from English to Chinese and published as Trans-Himalayan Study Reader, Vol. III: Sustainability of Landscapes in the Anthropocene (tentative title) serving as a textbook or a reference volume for graduate students, scholars and specialists in Chinese language readerships. The translation volumes of Yale-YMU Summer School in previous years are forthcoming from Academy Press (学苑出版社) respectively entitled Trans-Himalayan Study Reader, Vol.I: Zomia, Frontier and Transregionality《环喜马拉雅区域研究编译文集一:佐米亚、边疆性、跨界性》,Trans-Himalayan Study Reader, Vol.II: Environment, Livelihood and Culture《环喜马拉雅区域研究编译文集二:环境、生境、文化》. We encourage students and young scholars from different nations and ethnic backgrounds to participate and partner in this ongoing translation-publishing project.

Schedules, June 13–17, 2017

Daily hours, 9:00 – 16:00

July 12 – arrival and registration

July 13 – The Anthropocene in environmental humanities

July 14 – Multi-specied landscapes in the trans-Himalayas

July 15 – Sustainability vision I – dominant modes of development

July 16 – Sustainability vision II – traditional knowledge

July 17 –Transboundary governance of natural-cultural landscapes 
             (The master class ends at 16:00).