Rosalyn Bold is currently a Research Associate at the Center for the Anthropology of Sustainability (CAOS), University College London.
She completed her PhD at the University of Manchester in 2016, with a thesis entitled Landscapes of Alterity: Climate Change in Contemporary Bolivia. She spent two years in Bolivia conducting fieldwork in indigenous communities and La Paz. She has worked with Latin American landless movements, including the Zapatistas in Mexico and Movimento Sem Terra in Brazil. She completed an MA in Latin American Studies at Liverpool (2006) and a BA in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge (2004).
Rosalyn is currently editing a collection for Palgrave-Macmillan entitled Climate Change: the ‘End of the World’?. The volume, based on the proceedings of a conference panel she held at the British Museum in July 2015, collects anthropological accounts of how various indigenous peoples in Latin America perceive climate change, bringing these into conversation with modernist scientific perceptions of the same on an equal footing. Climate change is in many ways the crisis of modernism, and at this crucial moment we can fruitfully reach towards ‘other’ ontologies and perceptions. Climate change is uniquely challenging in its scale, yet this also presents an unparalleled opportunity for communication and action across worlds.
Rosalyn is writing her thesis as a travel-nature account entitled The Return of the Serpent, recording her time spent in the Callawaya communities of North Eastern Bolivia, where diviners cultivate subsistence crops on the skirts of mountains still considered deities. The narrative leads the reader into an animate landscape where climate change is borne by winds that are simultaneously collections of gases and conscious deities; where change is expected and small scale farmers swiftly adapt a centuries old system of cultivation to the changing humours of the mountain they inhabit.
Catastrophic change is occurring in the region as young people are drawn away from the fields and flocks that sustained their forefathers by desire for commodities and especially western clothes, which transform them into western consumers. As they make this transition, eating processed foods rather than the nutritious fruits of exchange relationships with the mountain, both they and the mountain become weaker. The landscape is contaminated by the litter they throw away. It suffers from the lack of sustaining agricultural work fed into it, as well as the absence of rituals where once their ancestors played music to mountain and weather deities. Some people suspect that soon the mountains will become volcanoes and bury them all beneath a stream of lava. Climate change refers here to this entire phenomenon of change.
This is a local view of climate change, within a landscape simultaneously mythological and scientific, connecting the everyday action of the consumer to changes in the world we inhabit through connections hidden within the western scientific cosmos.