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The Roots of Success

Dr Barbara Bodenhorn

I am currently engaged in an interdisciplinary exploration of environmental projects in forest communities in Mexico. With Dr. Laura Barraza, I work in two forest communities – Ixtlán de Juárez, Oaxaca (Zapotec) and San Juan Nuevo Parangaricutiro, Michoacán (Purhépecha) – both recognised as indigenous communities with the right to manage their own natural resources. They stand out for the degree of success they have enjoyed in the organisation of environmentally sound and economically competitive development strategies based on the exploitation of property held in common. The project explores the environmental knowledge of adolescents, the ways in which this influences their sense of community identity, and the ways in which local organization fosters such identity. As such, this depends on the collaboration between researchers, educational institutions, municipal, as well as communal authorities in the realisation of pre-specified objectives as well as for the organic development of activities that emerge during the course of our research. The more strictly anthropological focus includes arctic material and thus draws on a comparison between three distinct fieldsites.

In 2006 I organised an interchange uniting students from the two Mexican communities and from Barrow, Alaska to participate in environmental research taking place in all three communities. In terms of personal research, this afforded me the opportunity to explore perceptions of environmental change across a wide range of expert perspectives.

Funding to extend this interchange for a further three years is currently being sought. Research focus has expanded to examine successful learning that occurs despite grave language differences.

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