Ismael Vaccaro is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the McGill School of Environment at McGill University. In his scholarship and teaching Ismael Vaccaro explores the sociocultural and ecological dynamics of rural-urban interactions – the economic transformations that they foster, their scientific contours, their cultural dimensions, and their political implications at multiple scales. Through in-depth work based on long term studies in the Pyrenees, his research engages in comparative discussions of the politics of nature, providing data on a traditionally unstudied setting: the rural regions of southern Europe. He examines the importance of ethnographic attention to everyday experiences of rural and urban placemaking, situating his research and teaching in the lively and important transdisciplinary debates about global environments across the Global South and North.
This initial analysis of the Pyrenees landscape as an historical palimpsest of deep socioeconomic tensions led his research to address, more generically, the underlying political economy of urban-rural tensions. This analytical orientation guides all subsequent work, which shows repeatedly how studies of urbanization, metropolization, and development cannot work exclusively within the limits of large cities of the Global South. The rural world structures itself, and is structured through, urban processes. His research program has facets, therefore, not only in Southern Europe, but also in Latin America and Africa. Dr. Vaccaro analyzes historical and contemporary public policies, property regime changes, corporate practices, knowledge regimes, local uses of the territory, demographic fluxes, inhabitation patterns, and ecological transformations to demonstrate connections between rural change and urban growth, between social and ecological processes. This work positions him to participate in an interdisciplinary conversation with scholars from political science, geography, ecology, forestry, urban studies, or economics.
His current work spans three in-progress research projects. Each places special emphasis on the analysis of public policies and their effects on local communities and their environments. The projects are as follows:
In the project Patrimonialization processes of nature and culture: local positioning and global articulations a political ecology framework is used to study the role of a postindustrial economy on the politization and commodification of culture and nature (heritage and leisure) The implementation and promotion of conservation policies, ski resorts, traditional foods, and cultural museums, resulted on the redefinition of the local communities and ecology in the Pyrenean range in Spain;
The project Questioning the self-sufficient agrarian peasant indigenous community: money, migration and food dependence in Oaxaca, Mexico attempts to understand the social and ecological consequences of the connection of small mountain Zapotec villages in Oaxaca, Mexico to large transnational flows of people (massive migration to the US), money (remittances sent back to the villages), commodities (cheap produces can be now bought at the community), and ideas (new consumptive trends). Fields abandonment, new market oriented agricultural strategies, diabetes, and forest transition are some of these new trends; and
In the project Creating Hybrid Property Regimes as a Means to Regulate Fisheries in Eastern Africa’s Lakes collective action and property theory, political economy, and ecological methodologies are combined to help redesign the institutions that manage fisheries in the lakes of Uganda and promote sustainable fishing practices. The goal is to identify social, ecological and institutional territorialities to assess the complexity and interdependence of fisheries as a network where people (economy), institutions (policy), and resources (ecology) interact.
These projects are designed to better understand the sociocultural and historical background of contemporary environmental issues and contribute to the comprehension of how policy works and affects social life.