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Christopher Klapperich

Christopher Klapperich, M.A.

Doctoral Candidate
Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

Areas of research and interest

Regional focus area: Philippines
Research topics: Environmental Anthropology, Existential Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies


Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Institut für Ethnologie
Oettingenstr. 67
80538 München

Work group

International Doctorate Program „Rethinking Environment“ at the Rachel Carson Center

: Prof. Dr. Eveline Dürr, Prof. Dr. Matthias Schmidt (University of Augsburg), Prof. Dr. Michael John Gorman

Dissertation Title:

Rethinking Reforestation. Native Trees, New Narratives, and the Potential of Bottom-Up Landscape Transformations in the Philippines


The need for reforestation projects is almost ubiquitous in debates about climate change and biodiversity. In contrast, little attention is paid to the tree species that will ultimately make up future forests. Questions such as why certain tree species are used and what knowledge shapes the choice of tree species for reforestation projects are rarely touched upon. My project focuses on the perspectives on and use of native tree species in the Philippines, and their potential for transforming Philippine forest practices.
Native species are not common in reforestation programs in the Philippines. The majority of the past and present programs have used exotic tree species on account of them being fast-growing, easy to grow and available. Interestingly, native tree species have been described with the exact opposite attributes by environmental agencies and citizens. These perspectives - or environmental narratives - have prevailed since the colonial period, and have been continuously reproduced by governmental authorities. While deforestation rates are high and a majority of reforestation projects have failed, a growing number of actors have started questioning the success of exotic tree species, establishing networks advocating for native trees. By circulating seeds and knowledge, these networks make native trees accessible and, therefore, alternative future forests possible.
Adopting a multi-sited approach, and following scientists and civil society groups that advocate for the use of native tree species, this project aims to a) analyze the different perspectives, narratives, and bodies of knowledge that hinder and support the use of native trees, and b) understand the baselines, motives and future visions that underlay and shape reforestation practices in the Philippine archipelago.


  • March – July 2023, Visayas, Philippines
  • September – November 2022, Visayas, Philippines
  • April 2022, Leyte and Negros, Philippines
  • March – May 2019, Palawan, Philippines


  • Klapperich, Christopher (2023): Rethinking Fieldwork Through Disaster. (blogpost)
  • Klapperich, Christopher (2021): Der Wert einer Kettensäge: Umweltaktivismus auf der philippinischen Insel Palawan. Arbeitspapiere des Instituts für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (Working Papers of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) 195.

Further Information

My research interest in environmental issues started during my master’s in anthropology at JGU Mainz, during which I conducted fieldwork in the Philippines. Collaborating with an environmental NGO, I walked through the dense tropical forests trying to understand why confiscating chainsaws is a kind of environmental activism that balances social and ecological challenges. I specifically focused on the personal motivation of environmentalists who dealt with illegal loggers, death threats, and family obligations. Motivated by ongoing forest loss and its socio-ecological impact, I hope to face this environmental crisis in a forward-looking, constructive way through my project