Students Staff

14 April 2009

Reconnecting and revitalising communities

Colchester Campus

Attempts by indigenous peoples to reconnect with their traditional cultures and local environments

Researchers at the University of Essex have been looking at attempts by indigenous peoples from across the world to reconnect with their traditional cultures and local environments.

Dr Sarah Pilgrim, from the Centre for Environment and Society, explains: ‘Disconnection from nature and the local environment is causing harm to indigenous peoples already marginalised by limited wealth, power and status. The consequences of such disconnection include mental and physical health problems, social pathologies and cultural collapse.

‘As they have come to appreciate the repercussions of disconnection, many groups are now taking action to protect and support their communities and cultures through what we term as “Revitalisation Projects”.’

The research team of Dr Pilgrim and Professor Jules Pretty from the Department of Biological Sciences and Dr Colin Samson from the Department of Sociology reviewed 41 projects from nine countries across the world. They identified six categories of revitalisation project: i) Traditional Foods; ii) Ecotourism; iii) Education; iv) Language; v) Cultural; vi) Rights. Some projects targeted the community as a whole, while others focused on a specific group within a community (eg the young). A paper produced by the team aims to develop an understanding of these projects, and their function and impact within communities.

Dr Pilgrim added: ‘We suggest that policy-makers dealing with disconnected communities should look towards revitalisation projects as part of long-term solutions to social, health and environmental problems that have occurred in parallel with indigenous disconnection from land. By being community-driven, these projects are more likely to encourage long-term support and participation.

‘As well as reviving activities and belief systems, revitalisation projects have the capacity to empower indigenous and non-industrial communities and to enable them to regain a sense of identity and pride, thus reinvigorating communities, cultures and connections with the land.’

The paper is available at:


Notes to editors:
The attached picture, from a paper by Essex researchers, shows attempts by indigenous peoples to reconnect with their traditional cultures and local environments. This paper is available at:

For more information and to speak to researchers involved in the paper, please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on telephone: 01206 872807 or e-mail:

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