Ignition Stories

Indigenous Fire Ecology in the Indo-Australian Monsoon Zone

by Cynthia Fowler

Tags: Anthropology, Ritual Studies Monograph Series, Tropical Agriculture

Table of Contents (PDF)

302 pp  $38.00

ISBN 978-1-61163-115-9
eISBN 978-1-5310-1077-5

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How do tropical farmers think about, handle, and respond to fire? What is the role of fire in the coevolution of self, society, and environment? In the compelling narratives that make up this ethnography, the lives of Kodi women, men, and children unfold within an island landscape that has been shaped by 14,000 years of anthropogenic fires and 300,000 years of natural fires.

Ignition Stories connects the Kodi people who design fires with their living kin and their ancient ancestors, then links them to nearby communities in neighboring hamlets, to other ethno-linguistic groups across Sumba, and to far-flung multiethnic, virtual coalitions. In this book, Fowler searches through Kodi people's mundane fire management practices as well as the shared beliefs, myths, rituals, and arts of this Papuan-Austronesian culture and the intimate emotions of individual members of the community to explain the unique character of people and landscape in the Indo-Australian monsoon zone.

Ignition Stories conveys the fantastic ability of fire to communicate human ideas, perceptions, meanings, symbols, emotions, and desires. Using an innovative blend of anthropology and fire ecology, Fowler explores the globally-relevant topic of the risks and benefits of burning for both people and ecosystems, and captures the complexity of human-environment relations in fire-adapted landscapes. Fowler shows us how the senses of self that produce collective identities intersect with cycles of disturbance and succession to create diverse microecologies and emergent societies.

This book is part of the Ritual Studies Monograph Series, edited by Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh.

"[A] valuable contribution that deserves to be read by fire managers and fire scientists because it leaves little doubt about the fundamental coupling of people with fire."
— Austral Ecology
Her phenomenological approach is deeply felt and sensitive to the lives and meanings of her informants and friends, with special attention to women, children, and elders.…She tells great stories, with deep empathy for her informants' point of view of both the ordinary and extraordinary events in their lives. Her narrative style is chatty, discursive, and colorful.…as a compilation of fire stories, from myths to daily chores to meaningful moments, the book is on fire."
— Journal of Political Ecology

Comp Copy If you are a professor teaching in this field you may request a complimentary copy.