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Mapping the Sacred: Preserving Life-giving Ecosystems Symposium

October 13, 2017 @ 8:00 am - October 17, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

Mapping the Sacred: Preserving Life-giving Ecosystems Symposium, a grant-writing workshop and community-based participatory mapping training module, will be held between October 13 and 17, 2017 at the American Institute for Indian Studies Headquarters (AIIS) in Gurgaon, India.

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; the Earth Institute; and South Asia Institute, the project draws together an interdisciplinary research collective of scholars from Columbia Arts & Sciences (MESAAS, Anthropology, Religion, and Earth and Environmental Sciences); forestry specialists affiliated with Yale and Cambridge; tribal rights scholars who work on conservation anthropology and religious issues; and activists from the indigenous-rights and conservation groups  Vindhya Bachao, SGEA, and Digital Democracy

Collaboration among these entities will facilitate knowledge exchange and discourse on indigenous-led forest conservation and land rights activism in India, Ecuador, Peru, Papua New Guinea, and the arctic coastal region of Alaska. During the grant writing workshop, the team will finalize a 3-year project grant proposal to fund a participatory cartography research initiative with Adivasi, scheduled tribes, and scheduled caste community members through in-country partners at Vindhya Bachao and SGEA in India, and Digital Democracy in Ecuador. We also will aim to collaborate with AC4 in Peru, PNG Institute of Biological Research in Papua New Guinea, and sovereign tribal councils of Alaska. This project would provide the necessary funding to conduct preliminary assessments of natural landscapes, organize future GIS trainings, and make any preparations which are critical to the success of the planned ongoing research.

Mapping the Sacred will establish a network of knowledge and resources between indigenous organizations and universities around the globe. A mutually beneficial relationship will be developed wherein technological infrastructure and trainings will provide aid to ongoing indigenous efforts related to environmental and cultural preservation in exchange for insight on local indigenous communities and practices. The goal for the symposium follows from this belief that all interactions with indigenous groups should be co-constituted and symbiotic. In such a spirit, we aim to reach consensus on guidelines for the gathering, storage, and organization of ethnographic and cartographic data related to sacred spaces and rituals.

Creation of a digital compendium/archive will follow to assist in narrating the temporal and metaphysical features of natural landscapes through uniquely indigenous frameworks. Participants will also scrutinize the incipient research blueprint and budget and will work together to develop site-specific guides in preparation for applying the collaboratively-developed methodology and data security procedures across project research sites.


October 13, 2017 @ 8:00 am
October 17, 2017 @ 5:00 pm


American Institute for Indian Studies
Gurgaon, India