Interaction, Ecology and Society Department
Ethnobiologist at IRD
Campus du CNRS
1919, route de Mende
34293 Montpellier 5
Tél. : +33/0 4 67 61 32 34
Fax : +33/0 4 67 41 21 38
Ethnoecology of tropical forest peoples
Focus: Indigenous peoples - Environment: Tropical forests - Discipline: Ethnobiology - Tools: Participatory anthropology, quantitative food consumption surveys, nutritional ecology - Themes: Multidisciplinary approach of food, local adaptation to climate change - Other keywords: Anthropology of food, biocultural interactions, knowledges and know-how, hunter-gatherers, climate change.
Over the past two decades, Edmond Dounias has mainly focused his research on the evolution of dietary regimes and food strategies among societies that highly depend on their changing natural environment for their daily subsistence. Health and food security of local communities are predominant aspects of well-being. They are preliminary conditions to development and they appear on top of the claims and expectations of forest-dwelling peoples.
Building up on his long experience of forest hunter-gatherers in Central Africa (Kola, Baka and Bedzan in Cameroon) and South-East Asia (Kubu of Sumatra), Edmond Dounias recently oriented his research activities on the interactions between health status, food and land-use system of formerly nomadic hunter-gatherers of Borneo - the Punan - who have been forced to sedentarization and who are facing drastic changes of their ecological, social and political environments and who have to adapt rapidly to new economic opportunities. In a context of profound disruption of the political, institutional and juridical frameworks in Indonesia, Edmond Dounias tried to assess the incidence of such process of regional autonomy on local land tenure and customary rules of resource management in communities whose livelihood still highly depends on forest. Using anthropology of food as a guideline, he measured the consequences of social change on the patterns of spatial and social mobility, and on the dietary regime and health status. These activities were carried out among the Punan of the Malinau District (East-Kalimantan), as part of a vast land-use planning research plan carried out by the "Forest and Livelihoods" programme of Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Current research question
What are the cultural and adaptive responses of forest dwellers to the increasing environmental uncertainty in the context of climate change?
Research approach consists of positioning food at the epicenter of our research protocol. In essence, food is an ideal object for scientific interdisciplinary analysis as it allows to study tight interconnections between (i) health, (ii) nutritional status, (iii) biology ad ecology of resources, (iv) land use system and (v) cultural choices. Food is a hybrid research topic. What is at stake is no only the absorption of nutrients in order to cover physiological needs. Food fact has first to do with a given natural environment, with its own climatic, edaphic and biotic characteristics. Following on their particular seasonality, distribution and accessibility, resources are harvested following precise acquisition patterns along with technical itineraries that are specific to a given human society. Before being eaten, resources are transformed using a culturally particular technology. Resources are also exchanged and transactions intervene either in market or in social network context. Food consumption is based on various social codes that condition meal processing. These codes are the emanation of a system of thought that has integrated the cultural and ecological attributes of the society. The system of thought mediates the relations between a human society and its physical and natural environment. At the crossroads of a vast corpus of scientific disciplines, food is a privileged research topic to catch the adaptive strategies elaborated locally as a response to a changing environment.
Fieldwork among the Punan of Borneo lasted in 2006. Publishing of research results is in progress. Edmond Dounias recently passed his accreditation to supervise research (HDR: Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches) at the University of Montpellier 2. Ongoing field activities concern the follow-up of development initiatives based on research results and conducted in partnership with associations/NGOs (Médecins du Monde, Help Doctors, Yayasan Adat Punan - Association for the Preservation of Punan Tradition). Edmond Dounias is leading the team “Social management of nature” within the Research Unit 199 of IRD “Socio-environmental dynamics and resource governance”. He is also coordinator of the "Forests and Human Health Initiative" at CIFOR.
Publications de l'équipe 2011 - 2012
(Chercheur Université Tokyo)
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