UCL Anthropology


Alice Vittoria

UCL Emailalice.vittoria.18@ucl.ac.uk
Year of Start: 2018
Supervisors: Jerome Lewis (1st) and Lewis Daly (2nd)
Subject: Social Anthropology
Fieldsite: Republic of Congo

PhD Research

Contested Forests in the Congo Basin: Logging, Conservation and the BaYaka

The aim of the research is to investigate the impacts of logging on the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and social organization of BaYaka communities living in the Mimbeli-Ibenga timber concession in the northern Republic of Congo. As the logging company - Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB) - operating in the area has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), it needs to comply with sustainability standards set by the organization in order to protect and maintain high conservation value forest; this research will thus also explore how hegemonic concepts of sustainability play out at the local level and how they inform conservation initiatives. Through long-term anthropological fieldwork, I will consider BaYaka’s ecological knowledge and practices - particularly in the realm of human-animal relations and sociality - as well as their conceptualizations of the forest and its inhabitants, and the extent to which they have changed as a result of resource extractivism in the region and the ensuing decrease in resource availability, specifically wildlife. I will furthermore examine the ways in which limitations on access to the forest and reduced mobility are transforming BaYaka’s egalitarian ethic, cultural practices and social organisation.

The research will provide ethnographic data on the socio-ecological changes faced by Pygmy communities in the Congo Basin. On a theoretical side, it will contribute to building theory in the anthropology of nature, indigenous knowledge research and the field of political ontology as it will deal with issues of forest degradation, the sustainable use of natural resources, the importance of TEK for developing sound systems of environmental governance, and indigenous people’s rights. On an applied side, this research aims to develop Citizen Science applications for the BaYaka, affected by logging activities, by initiating a long-term project of wildlife monitoring in collaboration with both CIB and hunting-gathering communities: it is hoped that this may enable these marginalized groups to take a more active role in the management of the forest and its resources as well as providing an economic revenue for the BaYaka.

Research interests

  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Development Anthropology
  • Indigenous people’s rights
  • Anthropocene and sustainability
  • Community-based/participatory monitoring and mapping

Education History

2018- current: PhD in Anthropology, University College London, London (UK). Thesis’ preliminary title: Contested Views of the Forest in the Congo. Basin: Logging, Conservation and the BaYaka. Primary Supervisor: Dr. Jerome Lewis, Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Lewis Daly.

2016-2017: Master Degree in Environmental Anthropology. University of Kent, Canterbury (UK). Distinction

2013-2016: BSc in Social Anthropology. University of East London, London (UK). First Class Honours Degree

Honours, Awards & Funding

2019 TAAF Award