13 August 2021

Karen Sanctuaries Memory, Biodiversity and Political Sovereignty

With Terese Gagnon

Seeds, plants and food can act as repositories of memory and identity, thus countering the alienation caused by displacement. How does this manifest in the case of Karen refugee communities across the world holding on to a connection to their homeland in Myanmar? And how is the Karen people’s struggle for political sovereignty connected to global biodiversity and climate change issues? Terese Gagnon discusses these questions, as well as the role of the Karen territory as a biodiversity and political refuge, and how this has changed since the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021.

Terese Gagnon is an incoming Postdoctoral Fellow on "Climate and Sustainability in Asia" at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. She holds a PhD in anthropology from Syracuse University. Her dissertation is about Karen food, seed, and political sovereignty across landscapes of home and exile. She is co-editor of the book Movable Gardens: Itineraries and Sanctuaries of Memory.

Terese is in conversation with Quynh Le Vo, a master's student in environmental change and global sustainability at the University of Helsinki, who has recently spent a month in virtual residency at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies. Previously, she has worked at the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre and at the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN covering environmental and development questions.