School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Dr Rajindra Puri

Senior Lecturer in Environmental Anthropology



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School roles and responsibilities

Director of the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD); Programme Convenor for MSc in Ethnobotany and MA/MSc in Environmental Anthropology; Year abroad co-ordinator

Academic background

Trained as an ecological anthropologist, over the past 20 years I have been studying the historical ecology of a rainforest valley in Indonesian Borneo, documenting the ethnobiological knowledge of Penan Benalui hunter-gatherers and Kenyah swidden agriculturalists, elucidating the causes and consequences of trade in wildlife and plants, and developing theory and methods for an applied conservation social science.

I have served as an ethnobiology consultant to a CIFOR project examining Multipurpose Landscape Assessment, worked in northern Vietnam (2001) for Flora and Fauna International, and collaborated on Global Diversity Foundation research and training projects in Morocco (Wildlife trade in Southern Morocco), Namibia (Kalahari Garden Project), and Sabah, Malaysia (Ethnobiology of proposed traditional use zones in Crocker Range Park, Participatory approaches to nominating Crocker Range Biosphere Reserve).

Most recently, my Phd students and I are working on local adaptation to climatic variability (El Nino) and climate change in Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan. I am also a co-investigator on the ESPA funded project Human Adaptation to Biodiversity Change, 2010-2012, which took me to the Western Ghats of India for field research in 2011.

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Recent Publications:

Puri, R.K. 2013. The transmission of basketry-making knowledge in East Kalimantan. In  Understanding cultural transmission: a critical anthropological synthesis, eds. Ellen, R.F., S. Johns and S. Lycett.Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Barnes, J., Dove, M., Lahsen, M., Mathews, A., McElwee, P., McIntosh, R., Moore, F., O'Reilly, J., Orlove, B., Puri, R., Weiss, H. and K. Yager. 2013. What anthropologists contribute to climate change debates. Nature Climate Change. Vol 3, 541-544.

Sheil, D., Basuki, I. German, L., Kuyper, T.W., Limberg, G., Puri, R.K., Sellato, B., M. van Noordwij, and E. Wollenberg. 2012. Do Anthropogenic Dark Earths occur in the interior of Borneo? Some initial observations from East Kalimantan. Forests 3: 207-229.

Gamborg, C., Parsons, R., Puri, R.K. and P. Sandøe. 2012. Ethics and research methodologies for the study of traditional forest-related knowledge. In Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Sustaining Communities, Ecosystems and Biocultural Diversity, edited by J.A. Parrotta and R.L. Trosper. World Forests, Volume 12: 535-562. New York: Springer.

Garay-Barayazarra, G. and R.K. Puri. 2011. Smelling the monsoon: Senses and traditional weather forecasting knowledge among the Kenyah Badeng farmers of Sarawak, Malaysia. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. Special edition: Traditional knowledge and Climate Change. Vol.10 (1): 21-30.

Further publications

Ibarra, J.T., del Campo, C., Barreau, A., Medinaceli, A., Camacho, C.I., Puri, R.K. and G. J. Martin. 2011. Chinantec Ethnoecology: Knowledge, practice, beliefs of fauna and hunting in a community conservation area of the Chinantla, Oaxaca, Mexico. Etnobiologiá 9: 37-59. (In Spanish)

Puri, R.K. 2010. Documenting Local Environmental Knowledge and Change. InConducting Research in Conservation: A Social Science Perspective, ed. Helen Newing. London: Routledge.

Puri, R.K. 2010. Participant Observation. In Conducting Research in Conservation: A Social Science Perspective, ed. Helen Newing. London: Routledge.

Puri, R.K. 2010. Participatory Mapping. In Conducting Research in Conservation: A Social Science Perspective, ed. Helen Newing. London: Routledge.

Pardo de Santayana, Manuel, Pieroni, Andrea and Puri, Rajindra K., eds. 2010. Ethnobotany in the New Europe: people, health and minor plant resource pools. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

M. Pardo de Santayana, A. Pieroni and R.K Puri 2010. The biocultural dynamism of Europe, past and present. In The dynamics of biocultural diversity in the New Europe: people, health and minor plant resource pools, eds., Manuel Pardo de Santayana, Andrea Pieroni and Rajindra K. Puri. Pp 1-15. Oxford: Berghahn Books.


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Programme Convenor for MA/MSc in Environmental Anthropology and MSc in Ethnobotany

Teach on the following modules:

SE802: Research Methods in Social Anthropology

SE807: Contemporary Ethnography in Environmental Anthropology

SE831: Environmental Anthropology

SE832: Ethnobiological Knowledge Systems

SE845: Practical Methods in Conservation Social Science


Teach on the following modules

SE306: Animals, People and Plants: An introduction to Ethnobiology

SE308: Skills for Anthropology and Conservation

SE542: Human Ecology

SE594: Anthropology and Development

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Current PhD Students:

  • Nejm BenessaiahSustainable livelihoods and contested futures: How do Algerian date palm farmers adapt to disruptive socio-ecological change (Algeria)?
  • Viola Bizard - The ‘social life’ of rattan in Katingan, Indonesia: Investigating rattan knowledge in the context of socio-economic and environmental dynamics.
  • Zerihun Doda Doffana - "Dagucho [P. falcatus] is Abbo!" Sacred Groves of Wonsho-Sidama, Ethiopia: Their Maintenance Motives, Consequences and Conservation Threats.
  • Kay Evelina Lewis-Jones - Banking on Biodiversity and what it means to conserve a wild seed in the Anthropocene: perceptions of threat and value in a conservation network.
  • Craig Ritchie - Natural Resource Management Practices and Cultural Change within Indigenous Communities of the Curanja and Purús Rivers in Alto Purús, Peru: Implications for Biodiversity (Peru).

Past PhD Students:

  • Ugo D’AmbrosioNgabe explanations of Agroculinary transitions in southern Conte-Burica (Costa Rica).
  • Saskia Dijk - The cultural aspects of human-nonhuman primate relationships, in the Goalpara District in Assam (India).
  • Gotzone Garay - Come rain, water us this year: Kenyah Badeng forecasting knowledge, perceptions and responses to climatic variability in the interior of Sarawak (Malaysia).
  • Oana Ivan - Cultural change in a traditional fishing village in the Danube Delta: the consequences of environmental protection and tourism (Romania).
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I coordinated the Erasmus Intensive Programme, Biocultural Diversity of local people and migrants in Europe: Concepts and Interdisciplinary Methods, for a consortium of 10 universities in Europe (2009-2011). The consortium is now 13 universities, and plans are in the works for more training courses in the future.  In the meantime, I teach on the Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) at the Rachel Carson Centre in Munich.

In September 2010, I convened a seminar 'New Directions in Urgent Anthropology' that brought together past and present fellows of the RAI's Urgent Anthropology Fellowship to discuss their work, its impacts, and future needs and directions. Videos of some of the presentations are available on the RAI website.  An edited volume of the papers presented at the seminar is in preparation.


RAI Council member

American Friends of the RAI, Trustee

Borneo Research Council, Board of Trustees

Advances in Research: Environment and Society (Berghahn Books), Editorial Collective

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Last Updated: 08/01/2015