VMU Vytautas Kavolis Interdisciplinary Professorship welcomes Eunice Blavascunas, an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
After 20 years of research into the conflict of the Białowieża Forest in Poland, a conflict involving foresters, national park employees, ecological activists, local people, and biologists, professor Blavascunas wants to share insights about how to think in comparative perspectives, especially when one is working in an organization driven by firm and historical ideas about what is best for nature.
Between 1995 and 2017, a Lithuanian – American Anthropologist, Eunice Blavascunas visited and lived in the Białowieża Forest region interacting with foresters, biologists, ecological activists and locals. This time period saw seismic shifts in identity as individuals tried to reform society after the fall of communism. Professor Blavascunas traces these shifts, looking particularly at an eccentric and famous biologist, Dr. Simona Kossak, an animal rights activist who worked at the Institute for Forest Research.
In her public lecture How the Communist Past Troubled Relationships between Foresters and Biologists: The Białowieża Forest, Poland, on the 22nd of March, Blavascunas will explore Kossak in relation to foresters who worked in a new and corporatized state organization, and biologists at other research institutes active in building civil society in the 1990s. How did these people refer to and understand the communist past as a factor in utilitarian use of the forest and the conservation ethic that gained steam after 1989, when a strong nature protection movement challenged foresters’ management practices. Blavascunas tells this story as an outcome of personal and often painful alliances she made in order to do ethnographic research in this location.
On her final day of the visit program, professor Blacascunas will give a lecture on Rewilding Europe: Europe as hyperbole and the animals that move across borders, as rewilding in Europe relies both on the agency of animals and upon NGOs, policy and discourse. What are the conceptual tensions engendered in rewilding discourse and practice? Rewilding practices are situated within a history of European region making and agricultural policy, which should be understood front and center as a move that must confront the agency of animals, those both within and outside of human control. This lecture looks at the tangled history of konik horses and wild boar in the politics of Europe-making.
Prof. E. Blavascunas teaching visit at VMU runs under the VMU Vytautas Kavolis interdisciplinary Professorship program. Professorship scholarship has been established by the Dana Gedvila Fund, which is administered by the Lithuanian Foundation. Kavolis Interdisciplinary Professorship is a cooperation program dedicated to the visits of Lithuanian diaspora lecturers at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU). It aims to strengthen both the interdisciplinary approach in the study programs and the ties with the Lithuanian diaspora academic community.