Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, University of Oslo

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Santa Cruz
Ways of Burning the Australian Bush: Fire, Nature, and Change in a Contemporary Settler Society

Since the nineteen-fifties, forest managers in the South West forest region of Western Australia have been carrying out a program of planned prescribed fire un-paralleled in Mediterranean climate regions anywhere in the world. Every year, the Department of Parks and Wildlife burn a significant proportion of their estate with low intensity burns inspired by aboriginal pre-European forms of burning. Through these practices, they aim to create mosaics of burnt and un-burnt patches that promote healthy ecosystems and safe conditions for people to live in. In recent years, a set of pressures, notably related to a drying climate, is altering the condition under which fire managers burn the forest. A tension between the two main goals of fire management--burning for biodiversity and burning for protection of lives and infrastructure--is intensified. My dissertation project explores continuities and changes in fire practices in Western Australia, and aims to describe a unique form of landscape intervention and its contemporary patterns of practical transformation. Drawing on environmental history, science and technology studies, and studies of settler colonialism, this project asks how prescribed burning has emerged as a project of making livable landscapes in a highly fire prone part of the world, how fire managers are understanding and dealing with the changes they associate with climate change, how fire management can be understood as a central part of the settler process, as well as a nature practice that troubles our assumptions about settler colonialism; and how fire practices in Western Australia can help us understand the ways people develop capacities to live in dynamic landscapes.