Dr Nina Moeller

ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2016-17

Dr Nina Moeller

ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2016-17

Nina Moeller ISRF

Nina’s academic background is in philosophy, sociology and anthropology (PhD 2011, Lancaster University: ‘The Protection of Traditional Knowledge in the Ecuadorian Amazon: A Critical Ethnography of Capital Expansion’). She has worked in Latin America and Europe – amongst other things as a consultant to indigenous organisations, NGOs and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

She is particularly interested in the politics of Access and Benefit Sharing; the material dimension of different knowledge systems; seeds and property relations; food sovereignty; autonomous development; the Amazon; and open source methodologies.

Her ISRF project re-launches her explorations of the ‘local’ complexities of ‘global’ socio-ecological change, and of the ‘local’ manifestations of ‘global’ discourses. It is entangled with her quest to understand how non-market relations and practices are fostered or undermined in today’s world.

Between planetary urbanization and thinking forests, or, Ikiam University and its living laboratory – a study of socio-ecological change in the Ecuadorian Amazon

This ISRF fellowship would allow an intensive fieldwork period (8 months) in the Ecuadorian Amazon, in order to begin investigating the processes of socio-ecological change surrounding the development of Ecuador’s recently founded Regional Amazonian University, Ikiam (meaning ‘forest’ or ‘nature’ in the indigenous language Shuar). Ikiam plays a key role in the Ecuadorian government’s strategy for ‘structural change’ towards a ‘green and knowledge-based economy’ as part of its overall ‘post-neoliberal’ modernization project.

The proposed project sets out to understand Ikiam’s effects as well as its origins. In particular, I will investigate the socio-ecological relations that are produced or reconfigured by Ikiam, as well as the national and international discourses and policies on a transition to a ‘green economy’, which underpin Ikiam’s development through valorisation and justification.

With a cross-cutting focus on people’s lived experiences, including the heterogeneity of their interpretations and valuations of socio-ecological change, I will use ethnographic and participatory research methods to inquire into the complexities of this change ‘on site’, addressing (a) access to resources, (b) processes of accumulation, dispossession and marginalisation, (c) social metabolism (use of energy and materials, and disposal of waste). Critical discourse analysis will be used to approach the question of Ikiam’s value in and to national and international political-economic projects and their articulation into wider global processes.

With an unusual combination of theories, and the mixed method approach which I developed in my doctoral research, the project will transcend the economistic understandings of socio-ecological conflicts, as well as the understandings of global connections as uni-directional, which are predominant in ‘political ecology’. The project will also contribute to the discussions in Ecuador on how to further develop Ikiam and realise its intentions – equitably.

Securing funding for a second phase will be greatly enabled by this ISRF fellowship.

Research Outcomes

  • Moeller, N. I. (2018) ‘Haphazard knowledge production: thoughts on ethnography and mess in the urbanising Ecuadorian Amazon’, in Messy Ethnographies in Action (pp. 33-43). Vernon Press.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at lars.cornelissen@isrf.org.