Courtney Stafford-Walter, Henfrey, Thomas: Edges, Fringes, Frontiers. Integral Ecology, Indigenous Knowledge, and Sustainability in Guyana. New York: Berghahn Books, 2018. 256 pp. ISBN 978-​1-​78533-​988-​2. (Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology, 23) Price: $ 120.00 in:

Anthropos, page 225 - 226

Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774,

Browse Volumes and Issues: Anthropos

Bibliographic information
jours, la décentralisation est, pour de nombreux acteurs, une désillusion, une réforme en panne, dans laquelle no‐ tamment les communes rurales sont dans une précarité prégnante” (10). Subsiste une question importante: fallait-il adopter sans précautions et/ou sans adaptation ce modèle – dé‐ mocratie et décentralisation – dans des pays où les re‐ pères historiques et les structures sociales appelaient peut-être d’autres formules? Christian Bouquet ( Henfrey, Thomas: Edges, Fringes, Frontiers. Integral Ecology, Indigenous Knowledge, and Sustainability in Guyana. New York: Berghahn Books, 2018. 256 pp. ISBN 978-1-78533-988-2. (Studies in Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobiology, 23) Price: $ 120.00 Throughout his career, Dr. Thomas Henfrey, a Senior Researcher at the Schumacher Institute and a Research Fellow in the Centre for Ecology, Evolution, and Envir‐ onmental Change at Lisbon University, has primarily focused on ethnoecology and the production and main‐ tenance of ecological resilience. In this book, he looks at the relationship between cultural and ecological resi‐ liency, and the locations where these overlap. Henfrey offers a complex and creative way to rethink the climate crisis, with a sharp critique of dominant, Westernshaped approaches, emerging from his ethnographic material, and guided by a complicated and nuanced the‐ oretical framework. Through an explanation of the three central concepts edges, fringes, and frontiers, Henfrey paints a picture of modern engagement with the environment from two radically disparate perspectives. The first is that of soci‐ eties participating in Scott’s High Modern Capitalism, where both humans and the environment are seen as re‐ sources that can, with the proper manipulation, produce profit. He uses the term Babylon to refer to these groups of people, and builds a compelling critique of this form of engagement with both humans and the environment by putting it in dialogue with the practices, beliefs, and lifeways of indigenous communities in general, and the Wapishana people from southern Guyana in particular. Edges are the spaces where ecological or cultural sys‐ tems overlap, and mutually enhancing interactions can take place. Fringes are the spaces where biodiversity and cultural diversity can grow and flourish in these overlapping spaces, and these tend to occur in indigen‐ ous contexts. While frontiers, on the other hand, reduce total diversity, marked by ecological or cultural simpli‐ fication and loss of overall knowledge, a process associ‐ ated with Babylon. Throughout the book, Henfrey strives to understand why indigenous communities tend to produce fringes, while Babylon produces frontiers, despite the fact that in the Babylonian context many re‐ sources and countless scientific endeavours have been dedicated to understanding the intricacies of environ‐ mental and resource management. The book is broken down into three main sections. First, Henfrey explores and critiques several theoretical positions, carefully building his own analytical frame‐ work. In the second section, he systematically applies this analytical framework to his ethnographic material, gathered with the help of his Wapishana informants, with a particular focus on subsistence-based agriculture and hunting practices. In the final section of the book, Henfrey draws all of the previous work together to highlight what this means for intercultural interactions, uses historical examples to demonstrate these conclu‐ sions, and provides some suggestions for future re‐ search. Henfrey carefully develops an extensive analytical framework to approach his ethnographic material. Des‐ pite finding some quite serious faults in several of the the‐ ories he explores, he manages to bring together some complex and previously unrelated approaches into some‐ thing he is able to apply to the situation of his Wapishana informants. Striving to employ a holistic approach for analysis, Henfrey begins by exploring Wilber’s Integral Theory and as such engages with Gebser’s theory of five structures of consciousness and Graves’ Spiral Dynam‐ ics. Following this, Henfrey traces the historical shifts and transformations in Anthropology more widely, and demonstrates how this pushed forward new ways of enga‐ ging with subjective and intersubjective human-environ‐ ment relationships, providing the backdrop for today’s starting points in Environmental Anthropology. This book’s engagement across disciplines does not preclude a rigorous interrogation of the theoretical material and as such the connections the author builds are solid, direct, and straightforward for the reader. While a book review does not allow the space to en‐ gage with these discussions in the appropriate depth, I will provide a brief description of Gebser’s five struc‐ tures of consciousness, as it is crucial in illustrating Henfrey’s wider conclusions about indigenous epistem‐ ologies. Gebser lays out a series of structures of con‐ sciousness that he argues occurs as individuals and soci‐ eties “develop” over time. Starting with archaic, moving to magic, he then identifies mythical, mental, and fi‐ nally integral. According to Gebser’s analysis, Babylon, and particularly their approach to science, falls rigidly into the mental structure of consciousness. In contrast, Henfrey argues that the Wapishana are able to engage with the integral structure of consciousness, where they can draw upon any of the structures depending on the context. He argues that this is an expression of systasis, and the key feature that distinguishes between Babylo‐ nian and indigenous engagements with the world. In section two, Henfrey explores the ethnographic as‐ pect of his work. The book is based on 18 months of ethnographic field research amongst the Wapishana, who live on ecological edges, residing in the savannah and farming in the bordering forests. He took a typically anthropological approach of participant observation during his time in Maruranau, as well as carefully map‐ ping out spaces. Conducting over 200 interviews, com‐ Book Reviews 225 Anthropos 115.2020 bined with his own observation, he was able to gather knowledge about ecological resource use and typical Wapishana interactions with the environment. Using Gebser’s structures of consciousness as a con‐ ceptual tool, Henfrey draws on particular examples to illustrate that the Wapishana are able to move effort‐ lessly between the magic, mythical, and mental struc‐ ture in their dealings with the environment. By explor‐ ing cultural beliefs in nature spirits, Amerindian norms and prohibitions, and rationalist choices about resource overuse, he demonstrates various contexts in which the Wapishana would use all three structures of conscious‐ ness. Henfrey illustrates that the magic and mythical structures encode ecosocial knowledge that contributes to sustainable resource use. The main aspect of this dis‐ cussion highlights an indigenous flexibility that allows decision-making to take place in any of these structures, based on the particular situation at hand. Henfrey as‐ serts that this ability, this continual systasis, allows the Wapishana to create, support, and maintain cultural and ecological fringes, rather than frontiers. Despite engaging with a highly varied history of the‐ ories emerging from different disciplines, developing a complex analytical framework, systematically exploring his ethnographic material, and developing well-groun‐ ded but complicated conclusions, Henfrey does an ex‐ cellent job of guiding the reader along on his journey. He consistently draws important connections for the reader and provides ample examples and evidence to support his claims throughout the book. The one aspect where I think this book could improve is something that Henfrey himself identifies towards the end of the book, and this is an increased interest and en‐ gagement with indigenous subjectivities. While the book is incredibly compelling, and it provides some ground breaking conclusions, I was searching for a dir‐ ect engagement with what the Wapishana informants themselves thought about Henfrey’s concepts and anal‐ ysis. This book can provide a jumping off point for an in-depth exploration of environmental and cultural resi‐ lience, and in any future research those indigenous voices should be at the foreground. Overall, this book provides a new way to explore our environmental crisis, and fundamentally rethink Babylon’s, understanding of, characterization of and en‐ gagement with our natural environment. Henfrey argues that working with indigenous communities alone will not prevent the creation of frontiers, as Bablyonian sci‐ entists tend to dominate intercultural interactions and thus create frontiers. Henfrey cannot stress enough the importance of indigenous design, retention, and in‐ terests in future discussions regarding environmental conservation and sustainability. As all of our other at‐ tempts at mitigating the climate crisis continue to fail, this book provides a depth of engagement with a viable alternative, as well as a path towards hope for a differ‐ ent future. Courtney Stafford-Walter ( Hetherington, Kregg (ed.): Infrastructure, Environ‐ ment, and Life in the Anthropocene. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019. 304 pp. ISBN 978-1-4780- 0148-5. Price: £ 20.00 “Infrastructure, Environment, and Life in the Anthro‐ pocene” edited by Kregg Hetherington concretizes the importance of studying infrastructure in environmental‐ ly uncertain times as much as it dissolves it. For the contributors in this volume, dissolving is not a retro‐ gressive act. Instead, dissolving is written as a disman‐ tlement of universalism in experiences of ecological de‐ terioration (Carse, Hetherington, Muehlmann, Zeider‐ man); as a method for building anew (Jensen, Wakefield and Braun); as an interrogation of assumptions (Anand, Ballestero); and as a refusal of objectification (Gordillo, Masco, Meyers). Although such a contentious term at the center of the volume’s analysis could prompt a defi‐ nitional debate (see D. Haraway, Anthropocene, Capi‐ talocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene. Making Kin (Environmental Humanities 6.2015.1: 159–165; ), any entertain‐ ment of the “Anthropocene” as a singular concept or setting is quickly refused. Instead, the chapters offered in this volume position the Anthropocene not as an en‐ closed object of study but as an unsettled domain from which to understand how life, environment, and infra‐ structure conceptualize and frame one another. The chapters are distributed across three sections: “Reckoning with Ground,” “Lively Infrastructures,” and “Histories of Progress.” The volume’s tone is set by An‐ drea Ballestero’s opening chapter. In her work on the ju‐ risdiction of aquifers and water policy in Costa Rica, Ballestero examines an aquifer’s elusive and loosely de‐ fined boundaries to show how these spongy bodies be‐ come “thinkable as infrastructures” (21). An aquifer’s continuous temporal, material, and conceptual shifts shatter the technological and legal facts that provide the very foundations on which to govern them. Instead, through an analysis of how we come to know infrastruc‐ tures, Ballestero shows how scientific devices and tools literally figure out the underground. As aquifers sift and flow through sediment, they are always part and parcel of modeling the “underground”; their figures (financial‐ ly and formally) cannot be separated from their environ‐ ment. Thus, in thinking with sponges as flexible con‐ ceptual frameworks, Ballestero unravels with ease any distinct perceptions between what is figure and what is ground, what is infrastructure and what is environment. While in some instances the categories of “infrastruc‐ ture” and “environment” are only separated by bureau‐ cratic imagination, Stephanie Wakefield and Bruce Braun dive into the world of speculative design, where infrastructural plans for the mediation of coastal dam‐ age in United States are redefining the material compo‐ sition of the “built environment.” Through living archi‐ tecture – structures that hinge on species life-cycles – Wakefield and Braun address temporal dimensions of life that challenge common rhetoric around death and dying in times of environmental catastrophe. The au‐ 226 Book Reviews Anthropos 115.2020

Chapter Preview



Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.


Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.