Montology manifesto: echoes towards a transdisciplinary science of mountains

Abstract

Mountains as archetype frame some meta-geographies of the vertical dimension. Mountain metaphors, thus, have remained as key guidance in developing not only animistic belief systems and religious cults, but also military strategies, economic potential, and scientific innovation. This paper seeks to explain the need to integrate western knowledge, where mountains became known via natural history’s mechanistic explanations, with other epistemologies. Mountain scientists therein developed linear approaches that required exploration, experimentation, and pragmatic interpretation of generalizable mountain phenomena. Little is known, however, about other civilizations’ more encompassing cognition due to heuristic explanations of mountain myths. Local knowledge holders therein developed approaches that required familiarization, observation, and romantic meditation about situated mountain phenomena. Using a multimethod approach of human geography that includes onomastics, geocritical discourse analysis, political ecology, and critical biogeography, the author posits that there is a paradigmatic shift of geographic fad, when even “nature” is thought of as a “social construct” in the socioecological mountainscapes. Between these tendencies of either Cartesian or Spinozan dogmas about scientific objectives, methods and implications, mountains continue to elicit geographical research. The author thus concludes that integrating narratives of mountain studies with geocritical analyses of political ecology that allow for transgressivity and referentialilty of mountain cognition can be done with transdisciplinary science. Montology, henceforth, couples dialectic thinking with the trifecta of spatiality, complexity and historicity in highlighting mountain microrefugia for biocultural conservation. Use of montological approaches will bring mountain scientists to a new level, where the application of local ecological knowledge and cutting-edge technological instrumentation could render sustainable mountain communities, in dynamic biocultural heritage scenarios of convergent mountain science.

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Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Jack D. Ives for his mentoring on montology. I also acknowledge the inspiration provided by lates Bruno Messerli, Daniel Gade, Larry Hamilton and Robert Rhoades. Much of the recent push towards montology comes from Axel Borsdorf and the Austrian Academy of Science’s Interdisciplinary Center for Mountain Research, Seth Sicroff at Mountain Legacy and many colleagues through the Neotropical Montology Collaboratory at the University of Georgia. I want to thank David Ferguson for copyediting and two anonymous reviewers for improvements to the manuscript. This research was partially funded by the Belmont Forum’s VULPES project (NSF grant ANR-15-MASC-0003) and was presented at the International Conference on Past Plant Diversity, Climate Change and Mountain Conservation, held in Cuenca, Ecuador; as keynote guest lectures at the Alexander von Humboldt Botanical Garden, University of Tolima, Ibagué, Colombia; the Institute for Cloud Forest Sustainability Research at the National University Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza, in Chachapoyas, Peru; and at the Master’s Program for Geographic Analyses at the University of Conception, Chile.

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Sarmiento, F.O. Montology manifesto: echoes towards a transdisciplinary science of mountains. J. Mt. Sci. 17, 2512–2527 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11629-019-5536-2

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Keywords

  • Montology
  • Geocriticism
  • Biocultural Heritage
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Mountain cognition
  • Mountainscape