Amit John kurien

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Amit John kurien
Ph.D. student
amit.kurien@atree.org
Real name: 

Ph.D. thesis

Shifting Cultivation, Agricultural Intensification, and Livelihood Sustainability: Causes and Consequences of Forest-Agricultural Transformations in Meghalaya, Northeast India 

Research interests
I am interested in human-environment relations and their interrelationship with forest-agricultural changes in tropical landscapes, with a keen interest in processes of deforestation, agricultural intensification, and forest degradation. My dissertation focuses on the dynamics of shifting cultivation (jhum/ swidden), the causes of intensification of shifting cultivation and its consequences for people's livelihood strategies, sustainability, and equity in Garo hills, Meghalaya in Northeast India. I study the linkages between social and ecological factors operating at household- and village-level and landscape-level, and its relevance for shifting cultivation, forest cover, livelihood sustainability, with a keen interest in contributing to land management and policy. The study is undertaken in the context of a changing a rural landscape with modifications in shifting cultivation, indigenous village societies in sociocultural transition, and historical and contemporary changes in the political economy of Northeast India. Such a study perforce requires an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, and to that end, I am also a methodological pluralist and use remote sensing and GIS, archival data, and qual-quant social science methods in my work.

Dr. Sharachchandra Lele, Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance, is my Ph.D. guide. Along with him, my Doctoral Advisory Committee consists of Dr. A.R. Vasavi, an independent social anthropologist who prematurely retired from School of Social Sciences, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, Dr. Harini Nagendra, Professor of Sustainability at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, and Dr. Nitin D. Rai, Fellow, Suri Sehgal Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation at ATREE.

Peer-reviewed publications

  • Kurien, A.J., Lele, S., Nagendra, H. (20--) Farms or Forests? Understanding and mapping shifting cultivation using the case study of West Garo Hills, India. (in review)
  • Lele, S and Kurien, A. (2011) Interdisciplinary analysis of the environment: insights from tropical forest research. Environmental Conservation, 38(2): 1-23. [PDF]

Reviews and popular articles

  • Kurien, A. 2011. Old Trajectories & New Strategies. Current Conservation, 4(4):03.
  • Kurien, A. 2007. 14° North, 104° East - Unveiling the Cambodian Plains. Sanctuary Asia, June: 50-57.

Presentations and papers delivered

  • 2019. 'Shifting cultivation intensification and fragmentation in the Garo Hills: complex drivers and differentiated outcomes',  Shortlisted full-length paper presented at the Journal of Peasant Studies (JPS)-College of Humanities and Development Studies (COHD-CAU)-Future Agricultures Consortium Writeshop-Workshop in Critical Agrarian and Development Studies in Beijing, China, 1-7th July 2019.
  • 2019. 'Empirical insights on Intensification of shifting cultivation: preliminary findings from a Garo village', presentation at Student Annual Seminar (SAS) 2019, January 2019.
  • 2017. 'Mapping the extent and pattern of shifting cultivation in West Garo hills, Northeast India', Poster presented at ATREE 20th year anniversary conference, 2017, Bangalore
  • 2015. Forests of the mind: Contesting official forest representations in a shifting cultivation (jhum) landscape in Garo hills, India. Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS). 10 September 2015, Bangalore.
  • 2014. Re-examining the shifting cultivation-deforestation debate to understand forest-agricultural transformations in Garo hills. Jan 2014, Graduate workshop on Environment and Development: New Frontiers of Research on North-East India, by Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Assam, INDIA.
  • Cambodia: Examining the status quo – an outsider's perspective. April 2008. Presentation on the links between ecological and socio-political history and conservation in Cambodia, made to Ph.D. students and researchers at Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
  • Beyond village relocation – Response of tiger (Panthera tigris), prey species and their habitat in Rajaji National Park, India. March 2007. Presentation made at the inaugural conference of the Asian chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, Mahabalipuram, India.
  • Do tigers shy away from people? What happens when people stop living in a tiger habitat? – A case study from the Shivaliks of Uttaranchal. September 2005. Presentation made at the XIXth Annual Research Seminar of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

Grants awarded

  • Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Fellowship (2013-2015): 'Shifting Cultivation and Landscape change in Meghalaya, Northeast India: Causes and Consequences'
  • Save the Tiger Fund (2005-2007)
    Grant name: Tiger Response to Prey and Human Disturbance (Grant no. 2005-0013-027)

Work and research experience

  • Trainer-Advisor (April-June 2006), Wildlife Conservation Society, Cambodia for a line transect Distance sampling based wildlife survey and monitoring project in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest, Northern Cambodia. Work included survey designing, training of forest staff, implementation and statistical analysis of the data collected.
  • Project Assistant (Dec 2007–June 2009), Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. Coordinating an Indo-Norwegian project on Wildlife-Human Conflict in India.
  • Editorial Assistant (April-Dec 2007), with Conservation and Society - a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, and open access journal based in Bangalore, India www.conservationandsociety.org.
  • Undertook an independent ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants and recorded the honey hunting practices of the Kurumba and Irula tribes in the tropical evergreen forests of Nilgiris, South India (April 2001).
Thesis Title: 
Shifting Cultivation, Deforestation, and Livelihood sustainability: Causes and Consequences of Forest-Agricultural Transformations in Garo hills, Meghalaya in Northeast India