Dr. James Stinson
Formally trained as a cultural anthropologist, James’ research explores the political ecology of biodiversity conservation and development, Indigenous stewardship and planetary health, and emerging digital technologies. For over 10 years James has worked as an ally of Maya Indigenous Peoples in Belize to support and document their efforts to assert control over the territory they have customarily used and occupied, and to secure a healthy and vibrant Maya future.
James’ doctoral dissertation entitled The Will to Conserve? Environmentality, Translation and the Politics of Conservation in Southern Belize (2017), was funded by SSHRC and IDRC, and explored the cultural politics of community-based conservation and protected area co-management. Based on long-term ethnography, it specifically examined the case of the Indigenous led co-management of the Sarstoon Temash National Park in southern Belize, and included analysis of conflict between Maya communities and the government of Belize over oil exploration in the national park. His current work is focussed on Maya efforts to envision and secure a healthy and vital Indigenous future, and to establish a unique Maya economy and development plan for southern Belize, after having won legal title to their lands in 2015.
Through his current position as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Planetary Health and Education at York University, James has also initiated a program of research aiming to produce and mobilize knowledge relating to socio-ecological well-being with/for/by Indigenous youth in Ontario. Building on work in the area of critical Indigenous Studies, this line of research aims to advance a decolonized approach to Planetary Health research that combines ethnographic methods, participatory, youth-led film making and Indigenous story-telling to promote Indigenous well-being and generate knowledge about Indigenous conceptions and practices of Planetary Health. This work is being pursued through a SSHRC-funded partnership with the Bagida’waad Alliance, an Indigenous environmental NGO founded by fishing families of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. This partnership involves the promotion of dialogue between Indigenous youth and Elders to document and compile stories about environment, health, and climate change on the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula. The end result will be a series of youth-produced documentary films which will provide insights into Indigenous experiences of, and responses to, climate change.
A third area of James’ research explores changes in the global conservation and development landscape, particularly in regards to the growing influence of private sector actors and the increasing promotion and use of digital technologies (including mobile communications devices, social media, and ‘smart’ technologies). James research in this area has been carried out through his participation in a SSHRC-funded project “Canadian Conservation in Global Context” (CCGC) at York. As a member of the CCGC team, James conducted research and published academic and popular articles on ‘wilderness 2.0,’ which explored Parks Canada’s promotion and use of social media and mobile communication devices to“Connect Canadians to Nature.” His current work in this area explores the increasing deployment and use of ‘smart earth’ technologies (including ubiquitous internet connectivity, machine learning, artificial intelligence, open-source software and applications, and networked and cloud computing) in the context of crisis conservation, which he describes as an emerging regime of ‘nature 3.0.’