Environmental Kin Study

Isabel Scheur, Fall 2021

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word Kin means “your family or your relatives.” Something that has a strong personal connection and ever present in the daily lives of a person. Family and relatives are words most associated with human beings, but as the world evolves that word has turned to also include non-human beings such as pets. Zoe Todd and Anja Kanngieser adopt this word in their work, “Environmental Case Study to Environmental Kin Study,” presented at the Decolonizing Histories in Theory and Practice forum.[i] Zoe Todd is a Canadian anthropologist and scholar of Indigenous, and human-animal studies. Their research is on fish, colonialism and legal-governance relations between Indigenous people and the Canadian State.[ii] Anja Kanngieser is an award-winning geographer and sound artists who specializes in environmental injustice through multiple mediums.[iii] Together they created the idea of a Kin study, inviting a more embedded, expansive, material, and respectful relationship between people, species, and lands.

Their proposed kin study is an alternative way of research then a regular case study, it builds off work of Indigenous Scholars. It shifts classical environmentalism to one that is more considerate to the complex relationships at play in ecosystems and communities. Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe scholar Vanessa Watts and Mohawk scholar Sandra Styres help to create this new form of study by understanding Land and place as correlational. Place refers to physical geographic space and Land (capital “L”) is more than a physical geographic space.[iv] It is a place where spirituality exists, and the living beings present on that Land are all connected. Todd and Kanngieser use this idea of Land to claim that when research or studies are performed, the connection to Land as equal to humans (as family or relatives) must and should be considered. All these scholars ground themselves within relationality and reciprocity with environmental kin studies. These are concepts that drive and underpin Indigenous cosmologies and legal orders. By connecting through relationships with ecological beings’ conservation becomes more ethical, seeming to agree with the ethical concept of “treat those how you wish to be treated” and applying it to all environments, species, and land.

One piece of Media that has helped me to understand this topic is a poem by Upolu Lumã Vaai:

[i] Kanngieser, Anja and Zoe Todd. 2020. “From Environmental Case Study to Environmental Kin Study.” History and Theory 59 (3): 385-93.

[ii] Carleton University. Department of Sociology and Anthropology; Zoe Todd (Associate Professor). 2021. https://carleton.ca/socanth/people/todd-zoe/

[iii] Anja Kanngieser. Transversal Geologies: Biography. 2020. https://amkanngieser.com/bio

[iv] Kanngieser, Anja and Zoe Todd. 2020. “From Environmental Case Study to Environmental Kin Study.” History and Theory 59 (3): 385-93.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: