Dr Ivan Tacey
Lecturer in Anthropology and Criminology
School of Society and Culture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)
I am interested in the relationship between humans and the environments they live in. For the last 15 years, I have worked with the Batek, hunter-gatherers who live in the some of the last remaining tropical forests of Malaysia. I am particularly interested in how the Batek have maintained extremely high levels of bio-diversity in the areas they live in and have managed to maintain culturally distinct lifeways despite being in close contact with other groups for thousands of years. My research challenges many common-sense assumptions about human nature. For example, in modern day capitalist societies, the idea that humans are somehow ‘naturally’ selfish, aggressive, destructive and competitive is often taken for granted. My research demonstrates it is possible for humans to live in non-violent societies without leaders, where sharing is highly valued and no-one has the right to boss anyone else around. Living with the gender egalitarian Batek of Malaysia has profoundly changed how I understand social life and our relationships with the natural world. Egalitarianism, non-violence and low impact environmental relations are not just ideas to be 'studied,' they are practices which need to be continually achieved in the minutia of everyday life.
I am currently completing two books. The first book 'Walking with Tigers', is an illustrated ethnography about the Bateks relationships with their forest environment. I am fortunate to be working on this book in collaboration with celebrated Devon-based artist John Hurford. The book is slated to be published in 2022 by the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns in Malaysia and is the culmination of a long-term project between myself and John. The project closely connected with my multi-media approach to teaching anthropology through ethnographic films, graphic novels, exhibitions, computer games, and interactive 3D simulations.
The second book is entitled 'Cosmic Entanglements – Shamanism and Cosmopolitics among the Batek of Malaysia' and examines how Batek environmental relations and religious forms are being reshaped in the 21st century. It is scheduled for publication with the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in 2022.
If you are interested in pursuing a PhD with me, please feel free to get in touch.
'Karei' by John Hurford
Image destined for the book 'Walking with Tigers'. Slated for publication with COAC in 2022.
'Preparing Fruits after a good harvest' Batu Jalang 2013
Bidan Hoight transnational shaman (June 2013)
Child with blowpipe
Iron Ore mining
Weaving palm thatch
Relaxing before a fruit ceremony
Ey Kaniq - 'This is our land'
I have extensive experience lecturing in anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and anthrozoology at universities in France and the UK. Prior to joining the University of Plymouth, I was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Exeter at the Exeter Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics Working Group - an interdisciplinary group of academics whose research aimed to improve the lives of animals. At Exeter, I taught on the undergraduate Anthropology programme and the Masters programme in Anthrozoology. In France, I taught at the Université Lumière Lyon 2, the Université Jean Monnet, St Etienne and the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3.At the School of Humanities and Performing Arts of the University of Plymouth, I currently lecture a number of practical and theoretical modules on the Anthropology and Criminology programmes:
- ANTH405 Anthropology of the Body
- ANTH409 Ethnicity, Identity and Conflict
- ANTH503 Applying Anthropology
- ANTH609 Anthropology on the Ground
- CCJ401 Being a Criminologist
- CCJ404 Crime in Context
As a social anthropologist, my research has documented the changing lifeways of indigenous people living on the edge of some of the last remaining tropical forests in Southeast Asia. My research has focused on environmental transformations, animism and shamanism, violence (systemic, direct and symbolic), sociality and egalitarianism. As a multi-species ethnographer and green criminologist, I have worked on issues relating to: human-animal relations and communication; environmental crimes committed by the State and corporations; the criminalisation of indigenous life-ways; wildlife trafficking; and, land rights
I am very happy to supervise any postgraduate students wishing to do research on any of these topics.
Alongside my work as a socio-cultural anthropologist, I frequently collaborate with artists, biological anthropologists and cultural ecologists. I also have a history of partnerships with international researchers, film-makers and ethnographic museums.For example. I have made a short documentary film about Batek tree-climbing practices for National Geographic and acted as a consultant for Malaysian environmental NGOs, and the Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France.
Tacey, Ivan (2018). Animism and Interconnectivity: Batek and Manya’ Life on the Periphery of the Malaysian Rainforest (monograph), Helsinki, Research Series in Anthropology, University of Helsinki Press. https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/265101
Tacey, I. Cosmic Entanglements – Shamanism and Cosmopolitics among the Batek of Malaysia (monograph), Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press (under contract).
Tacey, Ivan. Walking with Tigers (illustrated ethnography), Subang Jaya, Malaysia, COAC (under contract, in preparation).
Tacey, Ivan (2021). Rearranging Cosmic Relations: Cosmopolitics in the Anthropocene. In Stewart, Pamela J., Andrew Strathern, Diana Riboli, and Davide Torri (eds.) “Dealing with Disasters -- Perspectives from Eco-Cosmologies”. London, Palgrave Macmillan.
Tacey, Ivan (2022). Some Complexities of Ethical Multispecies Research: working with indigenous peoples and animals. In Samantha Hurn (ed.) “Handbook of Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics”. London, Routledge (under contract, in preparation).
Tacey, Ivan (2016). Transnational Shamanism: Batek religious change as a result of marginalization and globalization. In Kirk Endicott (ed.) “Malaysia’s ‘Original People’: Past, Present and Future of the Orang Asli”. Singapore, National University of Singapore Press, pp377-402.Tacey, Ivan (2013). Entangled interests and unsustainable developments in Southeast Asian forests. In Cassel, Muriel & Stephanie Bory (eds.) “Green Growth: From Theory to Action, From Practice to Power”. Cambridge, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp.113–136.
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Venkataraman, Vivek V., Yegian, Andrew, Wallace, Ian, Holowka, Nicholas, Ivan Tacey, Gurven, Michael and Thomas, Kraft (2018). Locomotor constraints favor the evolution of the human pygmy phenotype in tropical rainforests. Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.1492
Kraft, Thomas S., Vivek V. Venkataraman, Ivan Tacey, Nathaniel J. Dominy, and Kirk M. Endicott (2018). Foraging performance, prosociality, and kin support do not predict lifetime reproductive success in Batek hunter-gatherers. Human Nature. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-018-9334-2
Tacey, Ivan & Riboli, Diana (2014). Violence, Fear and Anti-Violence: the Batek of Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 6:4, 203-215. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-03-2014-0114
Riboli, Diana. & Tacey, Ivan (2014). Emplaced, Embodied, Multi-Sited, Collaborative Ethnography in Peninsular Malaysia. Manusia & Masyarakat (Man and Society), 24, 1–20.
Tacey, Ivan (2013). Tropes of Fear: the impacts of globalization on Batek religious landscapes. Religions Online Journal, Special Issue: Religion and Globalization, 4:2: 240-266. http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/4/2/240
Hurn, Samantha., Rice, Tom., Badman-King, Alex., North, Steve., Eason, Fenella., Groling, Jessica., Tacey, Ivan. & Calvert, Chris. (2018). Exeter Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics (EASE) working group's written evidence to the UK government's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) commons select committee - pre-legislative scrutiny on the UK's Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill (draft dated 12 December 2017). University of Exeter. http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1169591
Tacey, Ivan (2012). ‘Identity, children and knowledge among the Orang Asli: an ethnographic study of the Kelantan Batek’. Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department. Malaysia / University of Malaya, Malaysia.
Reports & invited lectures
7-8 Nov 2019, Tacey, Ivan. “Animism as politics: Batek responses to the extractivist industry in Peninsula Malaysia.” Conference: Current Directions in Hunter Gatherer Research. University College London, UK.
01-13 September 2019, Tacey, Ivan. “Unbounded Flows, Life, Death and Destruction in a Malaysian Rainforest.” European Association for Southeast Asian Studies Annual Conference (EUROSEAS 2019). Panel: ‘Boundaries within the Flow: The Shape of Life in Southeast Asian Cosmologies’. Convened by Guido Sprenger and Monica Janowski. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
02-05 July 2018, Tacey, Ivan. “Tigers are people too! The effects of forest loss and international poaching on relations between Bateks and keystone species in Malaysia.” 27th International conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ 2018): 'Animals in Our Lives: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human–Animal Interactions'. Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Australia.
02-05 July 2018, Tacey, Ivan. “Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics: Reflections from Anthropology and Indigenous Rights. 27th International conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ 2018): 'Animals in Our Lives: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human–Animal Interactions'. Symposium 10: 'Anthrozoology as symbiotic ethics, and the ethics of anthrozoological research'. Convened by Professor Samantha Hurn and Dr Alexander Badman-King. Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Australia.
27-28 April 2017, Tacey, Ivan “Rearranging Cosmic Relations: Cosmopolitics in the Anthropocence”. International Conference on Shamanism and Eco-Cosmology, Panteio University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, Greece.
28 October 2016, Tacey, Ivan “Interconnectivity and Animism.” Panel: Community experiences of environmental and social transformations, The 3rd Annual Conference for the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change and the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland.
16 April 2016, Thomas Kraft, Vivek Venkataraman, Ivan Tacey, Aya Kawai & Kirk Endicott “Delayed reciprocity in sharing networks of Batek hunter-gatherers in Peninsular Malaysia.” Session 42: Human Biology: Growth, Reproduction and Adaptation, The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Atlanta, USA.
21-22 October 2015, Tacey, Ivan & Thomas Overly “Structural and Environmental Violence and the Batek Tanum of Peninsular Malaysia.” Panel: “Sacred Landscapes”, Biennial Conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society 2015: Landscapes, sociality and materiality, Helsinki, Finland.
09-13 October 2015, Tacey, Ivan “Landscapes of Terror: Conflicts, Shamans and Sacred Sites.” Panel: “Reshaping Sacred Spaces and Emotional Trajectories”, Biannual Conference for the International Society for Academic Research on Shamanism, Delphi, Greece.
07-11 September 2015, Tacey, Ivan “Shamans, Bulldozers and Tsunamis: Batek Religion in a Global World.” Panel: “Conflict and Resilience in Hunter-Gatherer Religions”, 11th Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies, Vienna, Austria.
07-11 September 2015, Thomas Kraft, Vivek Venkataraman, Ivan Tacey, Aya Kawai & Kirk Endicott “Determinants of reproductive success in Batek hunter-gatherers in Peninsular Malaysia”. Panel: “Hunter-gatherers Behavioural Ecology & Evolutionary Modelling”, 11th Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies, Vienna, Austria.
05-07 June 2015, Diana Riboli & Ivan Tacey “Vanishing Forests: Sacred Topography and Change among the Batek and Jahai of Malaysia”. Panel: “Sacred Landscapes”, International Interdisciplinary Conference: Movements, Narratives and Landscapes, University of Zadar, Croatia.
27 March 2015, Thomas Kraft, Vivek Venkataraman, Ivan Tacey, Aya Kawai & Kirk Endicott “Determinants of reproductive success in Batek hunter-gatherers in Peninsular Malaysia.” The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists: St Louis, USA.
26-28 Feb 2015, Lim Teck Wyn, Ivan Tacey, Ashleigh Seow, Kamal Solhaimi “Traditional Exploitation of Flora and Fauna and Contemporary Control of Encroachment in Taman Negara National Park, Peninsular Malaysia”. Beyond enforcement: Communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime, symposium organised by IUCN, Muldersdrift, South Africa.
03-07 December 2014: Tacey, Ivan “Bloody stenches, sweet smells, and soul journeys: ritual and shamanism among the Batek of Malaysia.” Panel: “Assemblages, Ontologies, and Nonhuman Others: Re-theorizing Southeast Asian Rituals”, 113th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association: Producing Anthropology, Washington, USA.
10-11 June 2014: Tacey, Ivan & Thomas Overly “The effects of development on Batek sacred sites”, Orang Asli Symposium 2014, Keene State College, New Hampshire, USA.
10-11 June 2014: Thomas Kraft, Vivek Venkataraman, Kirk M. Endicott, Ivan Tacey & Diana Riboli “Subsistence and sexual division of labor among the Batek: past and present compared", Orang Asli Symposium 2014, Keene State College, New Hampshire, USA.
25-28 June 2013: Tacey, Ivan “State Violence and Batek Topophobia in Peninsular Malaysia.” 10th Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies, Liverpool, UK.
21-24 March 2013: Tacey, Ivan “Holding it together: Batek reactions to environmental, religious and social changes in 21st century Peninsular Malaysia.” Panel: “Malaysia’s ‘Original People’: Recent Research on the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia: Papers in Honor of Geoffrey Benjamin and Robert K. Dentan”, 2013 Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, San Diego, California, (USA).