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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Professor Stephen Lansing: Perfect Order: Recognizing Complexity in Bali

17th October 2007, 17:30 to 19:00, Pennington Room, Grey College

Along a typical river in Bali, for a thousand years, small groups of farmers have met regularly in water temples to manage their irrigation systems. Over the centuries, these networks have expanded to manage the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. Although each group focuses on its own problems, a global solution nonetheless emerges that optimizes irrigation flows for everyone. Did someone have to design Bali’s water temple networks, or could they have emerged from a self-organizing process?

This talk describes a series of fieldwork projects triggered by this question, ranging from the archaeology of the water temples to their ecological functions and their place in Balinese cosmology.

Three models shed light on different aspects of this process at different time scales. The first model emerges from the tradition of game-theoretical studies of the emergence of cooperation, but changes the payoff matrix to include ecological feedback relationships. The second derives from a systems-ecology approach to the ecology of watersheds, but adds adaptive social parameters to assess the feedback effects of local systems of management. The third begins with genetic markers tracing patterns of settlement and migration, but focuses on emergent community structure and relatedness networks.

J. Stephen Lansing is a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, with a joint appointment in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is also a resident professor at the Santa Fe Institute, birthplace of complexity science, and director of Yayasan Somia Pretiwi, an Indonesian foundation promoting collaborative research on environmental problems in the tropics.

THIS LECTURE IS FREE AND OPEN TO ALL

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.