Ethnobiology Phase VI: Decolonizing Institutions, Projects, and Scholarship

Alex C. McAlvay, Chelsey G. Armstrong, Janelle Baker, Linda Black Elk, Samantha Bosco, Natalia Hanazaki, Leigh Joseph, Tania Eulalia Martínez-Cruz, Mark Nesbitt, Meredith Alberta Palmer, Walderes Cocta Priprá De Almeida, Jane Anderson, Zemede Asfaw, Israel T. Borokini, Eréndira Juanita Cano-Contreras, Simon Hoyte, Maui Hudson, Ana H. Ladio, Guillaume Odonne, Sonia PeterJohn Rashford, Jeffrey Wall, Steve Wolverton, Ina Vandebroek

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract. Ethnobiology, like many fields, was shaped by early Western imperial efforts to colonize people and lands around the world and extract natural resources. Those legacies and practices persist today and continue to influence the institutions ethnobiologists are a part of, how they carry out research, and their personal beliefs and actions. Various authors have previously outlined five overlapping "phases" of ethnobiology. Here, we argue that ethnobiology should move toward a sixth phase in which scholars and practitioners must actively challenge colonialism, racism, and oppressive structures embedded within their institutions, projects, and themselves. As an international group of ethnobiologists and scholars from allied fields, we identified key topics and priorities at three levels: At the institutional scale, we argue for repatriation/rematriation of biocultural heritage, accessibility of published work, and realignment of priorities to support community-driven research. At the level of projects, we emphasize the need for mutual dialogue, reciprocity, community research self-sufficiency, and research questions that support sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities over lands and waters. Finally, for individual scholars, we support self-reflection on language use, co-Authorship, and implicit bias. We advocate for concrete actions at each of these levels to move the field further toward social justice, antiracism, and decolonization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-191
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul. 2021


  • antiracism
  • colonialism
  • ethics
  • parachute science
  • social justice


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