This interdisciplinary project investigates how the humanities and social sciences can contribute to new modes of conservation and environmental management that are responsive to the complex histories and politics of species introductions. It does so by asking methodological questions about how to study 'global' environmental problems that unfold in highly diverse ways in different places. The project probes these large questions through the case of introduced trout.
Originally located only on the North American West Coast, rainbow trout are now one of the world's most widespread fish, found in more than 100 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. From the late 19th century onward, European colonists, typically British men, translocated vast numbers of trout and salmon as they remade rivers to support fly-fishing, a practice they associated with upper-class culture. Other groups, including the Japanese government, were inspired by these efforts to 'improve' freshwater fisheries by translocating fish. Rainbow trout often thrived in new places, yet they have generated new social and ecological dilemmas. While often creating new economic opportunities by attracting fly fishing enthusiasts, trout have also driven out other species, altered nutrient regimes in aquatic ecosystems, sparked new property claims, and created complicated debates about environmental management.
While non-native trout are a 'global' problem, they have had remarkably different effects in each location where they have come to live. How, this project asks, can environmental scholars best attend to the specificities of how a seemingly singular phenomenon (i.e. introduced trout) unfolds differently in various sites? To this end, the project's scholars (from anthropology, biology, history, literature, and sociology) will collaboratively examine the histories and ongoing effects of introduced trout in a range of sites, including the UK, Japan, South Africa, and Patagonia. Data collection has now begun, and the research teams have met twice to compare findings and develop shared methods and approaches. This has been followed up with three online workshops, where we among other things have begun work on the co-written project book publication.
How can we better bring the spatial and scalar insights of the humanities to bear on questions of global environmental change?
This original basic research project seeks to address the above question by exploring how scholarship on scale in anthropology can help us rethink the 'global' of global environmental problems through ethnographic research. It takes the widespread introduction of rainbow trout as its case. Non-native trout are a 'global' problem: Distributed to all corners of the world as part of European colonial efforts, introduced trout have reconfigured ecologies and social formations in each location they have come to live. However, they have done so in remarkably different ways. The project examines trout worlds in four primary locations (UK, Japan, South Africa, and Patagonia) with the goal of studying the sites as an interconnected meshwork of trout and human relations. Research at each location explores both site specificities and cross-site connections through 1) exploration of histories of colonial trout introductions and 2) how people and other species currently live with the effects of introduced trout. Theoretically, the project´s approach expands the tools of world systems analysis by bringing them into dialogue with multispecies ethnography. In doing so, it develops a new mode of collaborative ethnography for studying global connections.
Situated within the growing field of 'environmental humanities', the project aims to make important contributions to humanists´ ongoing efforts to probe the relations between nature and culture. It also opens up anthropology´s analytical frames by centering landscapes, rather than human-only societies, as conceptual units. In addition to social scientists and humanists, the audiences for this research include environmental conservation professionals and the general public, who will be reached through articles in conservation journals and fishing magazines, as well as a 30-minute documentary film.