Greg Bankoff on Pyro-Sociocultural Regimes in the Philippines after 1565

PANTROPICA Virtual Seminar Series #1: The past, present & future ‘Pantropocene’: Pacific perspectives

Prof. Greg Bankoff (University of Hull & Ateneo de Manila University) on Fire in the Forest: Pyro-Sociocultural Regimes and the Nature of Woodlands in the Philippines After 1565

Abstract: Fire is too often thought of in terms of its purely physical and chemical properties. Yet fire is equally the product of social and cultural properties that distinguish one fire regime from another. This talk examines the role that anthropogenic fire regimes have played in shaping the nature and extent of forests in the Philippines since 1565. It examines the relationship between fire, cultures, colonialisms, and economic activities and how fire was used for distinctive purposes to achieve discrete ends at different times. While fire has always been present in the forest, the changes wrought over the centuries by an expanding population clearing more land to feed a growing number of mouths and felling more trees in more efficient ways to supply demands that it was actively creating, have led to in the present ecological conditions whereby autogenic fire is now more commonplace.

Greg Bankoff is a historical geographer who works on community resilience and the way societies adapt to hazard as a frequent life experience. For the last 30 years, he has focused his research primarily on the Philippines seeking to understand how societies, both past and present, have learnt to normalize risk and the way communities deal with crisis through a historical sociological approach. His publications include co-authoring The Red Cross’s World Disaster Report 2014: Focusing on Culture and Risk and a companion, coedited volume entitled Cultures and Disasters: Understanding Cultural Framings in Disaster Risk Reduction (2015). You can read about his work at

Watch the talk below!

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