Crossing Traditions

Embodying Ecology Through Experiential Art

Embodied Ecological HeritageThe Ad Hoc Team
It was a rhythm that had begun to feel like part of me. My body moved without conscious direction, plucking out a soft ball of masa and flattening it on the low, wooden table. The soft repetitive thuds of my fingers against the cool corn, finely ground and moist, created a sound, comforting in its familiarity. As I made each round tortilla, one hand reaching for another ball as the other passed the completed circle toward the firehearth, I watched a young girl deftly twist dried corn kernels from the cob, catching them in her hand and tossing them at her feet for the waiting chickens. Eating corn, the chickens would grow strong and healthy, and then provide ideal nourishment. I drifted through this familiar scene until the pain in my back brought my awareness back to my body, breaking the rhythm of the moment. Fortunately, work here is shared, help was quickly offered and, without a word, my place was taken and the rhythm continued.

Making tortillas, and much of the work in this subsistence farming community, is critical to daily life, reflecting an intimate connection between a healthy body and the natural environment it interacts with and learns from. Traditional activities, or those that people trace back to what “Maya people do,” are critical not simply because they are valued in the community or because they provide a healthy, local source of food. They are critical because practicing them actually changes individual bodies through phenomenological experience. Heightened sensory experience changes us, both mentally and physically. Experiencing traditional activities, through everyday ritual, can make us well.

“Embodied ecological heritage” was conceived in response to the lack of ways to adequately conceptualize the links between a healthy body (and mind) and traditional ecological knowledge and practice. It takes into account gaps in existing discussions and conceptualizations surrounding the health/TEK link, extending beyond ethnobotanical intersections toward a richer understanding of how bodies change through ecological interactions.

Kristina Baines

We invite you to fill out the form below, as an academic and/or artist, should you be inspired to participate and collaborate in our ever-growing traveling and virtual exhibitions!

The “Organizers”

Kristina Baines
Victoria Costa

The “Artists”

Daniel Velazquez

Deanna Charles

Vaimoana Niumeitolu


Cultures of Wonder

Gina Margillo

The “Community Members”

Featured in this video are members of the community of Santa Cruz in the Toledo district, Belize. Hoping to convey what inspired the development of the embodied ecological heritage framework, we asked them to describe their practices important to their lives and well-being. We hope that the connections they make will enhance the discussions provided by the academics, leading to a more holistic understanding of how embodied ecological heritage might be used in a wide variety of contexts.

Big thanks to:

Bascilio Teul, Vice-Alcalde

Florentina Pop

Elutero Mes

Martha Pop

Ezekiel Canti

The “Academics”

We gathered the pieces for this video installation from anthropologists in various stages of their careers working in applied and academic settings around the world. Hoping to share a wide range of insights, we gave them a simple request: to define the terms “embodied” and/or “ecological” and/or “heritage” as they related to their own work, and to each other. Asking them to self-record a conversational-style monologue, we hoped to convey the fluidity of the terms and concepts they represent, while capturing their personal connections and applications of our installation’s theme, “embodied ecological heritage.”

Thanks so much to:

Rebecca K. Zarger – University of South Florida

Chas Salmen – Univeristy of California – San Francisco – School of Medicine

Paige West – Tow Associate Professor – Barnard College and Columbia University

douglas carl reeser is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, and is a contributing editor at Recycled Minds and Anthropology News. He is currently working on his dissertation based on research in southern Belize, examining the intersection of State-provided health care with a number of ethnic-based traditional medicines. He also loves food.

Kate Fayers-Kerr – University of Oxford

Kerry Hawk Lessard – Native American Lifelines

Amy McLennan is a DPhil student in Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Her attention is currently focused on the political, social and economic change that has coincided with obesity emergence in a small Pacific island nation. In her DPhil thesis she is specifically interested in the trope of ‘living for today’: what it means in daily practice, where it has come from, and how it is linked to the way in which we relate to food, money, material goods, and to each other. In her work she predominantly draws on biocultural and critical medical anthropological theory, although she also makes use of material from history, economics, epidemiology, sociology, public health and human geography.

Mabel Sabogal – University of South Florida

Hannah Graff – National Heart Forum (UK)

Elizabeth Murray – University of South Florida

We invite you to click below, as an artist and/or academic, to offer your own contribution to our ever-growing traveling and virtual exhibitions!

ACADEMICS!! Click here to learn more and/or to send us a message!

ARTISTS!! Click here to learn more and/or to send us a message!

Click here to see photos of our Innovent at the American Anthropological Association's annual meeting in San Francisco, 15 November 2012!

Click here to see photos of our PopUp event at the Hayes Valley Farm in downtown San Francisco, 18 November 2012!

Click here to see photos of our exhibition at the Gray Mockingbird Community Garden as part of its Interdependence Day Celebration on 12/12/12!

Click here to see photos of our installation at the Growing Green Communities: Preserving Food Traditions conference, 12 January 2013!

Creative Commons License
Reconsider Dissemination: “Embodied Ecological Heritage” by Victoria Costa and Kristina Baines is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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