The resilience of indigenous intelligence

Authors Rival, L.
Year of Publication 2009
Type of Publication Book Chapter
Open Access No


This chapter examines some of the reasons why resilience has become such an important concept for scientists interested in developing sustainability science on a planetary scale. On the basis of two ethnographic projects, one documenting the resilience of Makushi manioc cultivation to weather extremes, the other exploring the built-in resilience of landscape restoration work, I show how local knowledge – or indigenous intelligence – fundamentally depends on learning how to learn in living environments. I conclude with a reflection on the contribution anthropology should aim at making to the development of the new science of integrated social-ecological systems. This task requires that we continue to document ethnographically and compare analytically cultures of resilience and sustainability all around the world. We also need to rethink a number of key concepts (in particular ‘value,’ ‘human agency,’ ‘intentionality,’ ‘life’ and ‘materiality’) in the light of practices and modes of living aimed at protecting the evolving maintenance of integrated social and ecological systems, as these practices both raise and attempt to answer questions which are profoundly anthropological.