Each language is a unique key to a community’s worldview and culture and plays a central role in transmitting historically developed knowledge about specific, biologically diverse environments. There is an increasing awareness and recognition of linguistic, cultural, and biodiversity as inter-related and mutually supportive aspects of the diversity of life. As such, the crises affecting these aspects—from biological extinction to disappearing languages—appear to converge and even drive each other on. Understanding the integrated nature of these crises is essential to working towards solutions.
As part of the UN-declared International Year of Biodiversity, on Friday and Saturday, September 24 and 25, 2010, Trace Foundation will convene the fifth lecture in its Minority Languages in Today’s Global Society lecture series. In this event, we will examine the relationship between linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity from the perspectives of traditional land use, livelihoods, and medical knowledge.
Luisa Maffi, PhD, is a linguist, anthropologist, and ethnobiologist. She is one of the developers of the concept and field of biocultural diversity and has conducted fieldwork in Africa (Somalia), Mesoamerica (Mexico), and Asia (China, Japan). Luisa cofounded and directs Terralingua, an international NGO devoted to sustaining the biocultural diversity of life—the world's heritage of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity—through research, education, policy-relevant work, and on-the-ground action. Among her key publications are the edited book On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001), the coedited volume Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity (New York Botanical Gardens Press, 2004), and the coauthored book Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook (Earthscan, 2010).
Eugene S. Hunn, PhD, anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 1973, is professor emeritus in the department of anthropology at University of Washington, Seattle, where he has taught since 1972. He has pursued ethnoecological research with Native communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, and with Yakama and Umatilla Indian communities in Washington and Oregon, as well as subsistence research with several Alaska native communities. Key publications include Tzeltal Folk Zoology: The Classification of Discontinuities in Nature (Academic Press, 1977), Nchi’i-Wana ‘The Big River’: Mid-Columbia Indians and their Land (University of Washington Press, 1990), and A Zapotec Natural History: Trees, Herbs and Flowers, Birds, Beasts, and Bugs in the Life of San Juan Gbee (University of Arizona Press, 2008).
Dr. Dorje is the director of the Qinghai Tibetan Medical Research Academy and vice director of the Qinghai Tibetan Medical Hospital. He has made important contributions in the field of Tibetan medicine as a scholar, researcher, and educator engaged with organizations including the State Natural Science Foundation and Chinese Nationalities Medical Institute. He has also served as the editor of publications such as the Classical Tibetan Medical Literature Series, Clarification of Western Medical Dictionary Tangka Daxiang, and Tibetan Medical Studies textbooks. He was awarded the title “Outstanding Scholar on Classical Tibetan Medical Literature” by the Qinghai Department of Public Health and the Qinghai Chinese and Tibetan Drug Administration.
Janet Gyatso is a specialist in Buddhist studies with a concentration on Tibetan and South Asian cultural history. She is the cochair of the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion and former president of the International Association of Tibetan Studies. Her books include Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary; In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism; and Women of Tibet. She teaches Buddhist history, ideology, ritual, Tibetan literary practices, and religious history. She is committed to widening the spectrum of intellectual resources to enhance the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist history. Her current book project is an intellectual history of traditional medical science in Tibet and raises questions about early modernity and disjunctures between religious and scientific epistemologies.
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