Pyrosociality: The Power of Fire in Transforming the Blue Ridge Mountain Ecoregion
Pyrosociality is a framework for theorizing the simultaneous production of forests and fires while discerning who is powerful and who is vulnerable in multispecies encounters mediated by fire. This article reviews literature about fire science and situates academic dialogue about the ecological consequences of social processes within real-world goings-on in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Pyrosocial theory draws from posthumanism, science and technology studies, and feminist anthropology to assess fire management. Qualitative data from properties managed by the Nantahala- Pisgah National Forests, North Carolina Forest Service, and South Carolina Forestry Commission ground pyrosocial theory in shifting ideas and practices related to excluding, suppressing, fostering, and igniting fires. When centering fire, what facts, truths, complexities, and subtleties come to light? The pyrosocial approach reveals pyropower, or individual variabilities and structural hierarchies related to controlling or influencing more-than-human communities. Focusing on power and vulnerability within habitats co-constructed by multispecies agents and biophysical forces accentuates meaningful relationships.
Fowler, Cynthia Twyford. 2023. Pyrosociality: The Power of Fire in Transforming the Blue Ridge Mountain Ecoregion. Special Issue on Flood and Fire. Environment and Society 14(1): 84-103. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3167/ares.2023.140106