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Karim-Aly S. Kassam

Karim-aly Kassam

Associate Professor

122 Fernow Hall
(607) 255-9757

Karim-Aly S. Kassam is International Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies. Along with his students, Dr. Kassam’s objective is to seamlessly merge teaching with applied research in the service of communities. Dr. Kassam and his students conduct human ecological research in partnership with indigenous peoples and local communities globally. They seek to innovate policy and practice in civil society by re-envisioning paradigms that are failing. Dr. Kassam’s current research efforts coalesce around areas of high altitude and latitude where ecological and socio-cultural change are critically affecting food, health, energy, and water sovereignty. Through participatory research, he and his students incorporate qualitative and quantitative techniques from the social and biophysical sciences as well as the humanities. Dr. Kassam’s research group takes a pluralistic approach, recognizing that effective solutions are based on multiple epistemological paradigms. His research group asserts that indigenous knowledge helps conserve biocultural diversity in ways that are beyond the reach of single-disciplinary approaches. By supporting communities as they anticipate and respond to change, Dr. Kassam’s research group engages complex ethical and policy challenges of the 21st century.

Research Focus

Dr. Kassam’s objective is to seamlessly merge teaching with applied research in the service of communities. His research focuses on the complex connectivity of human and environmental relations, addressing indigenous ways of knowing, food sovereignty, sustainable livelihoods, stewardship, and climate change. This research is conducted in partnership with indigenous communities such as the Standing Rock Sioux Nation (USA), the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (USA) as well as in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Kongur Shan Mountains of China, and Alai Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, he was awarded 1.2 Million Euros to lead a project to develop anticipatory capacity for climate change. By investigating the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, Dr. Kassam seeks to expand the foundations of the notion of pluralism.

Teaching Focus

Dr. Kassam firmly believes that students are not only consumers of information but also producers of insight. His teaching is focused on the relationship between sociocultural and ecological systems. In teaching activities, he explores intellectual pluralism through multiple ways of knowing, human ecology, climate change, food sovereignty and security, as well as the relationship between biological and cultural diversity. He uses evidence-based learning in his teaching and draws directly from his own applied research internationally. Dr. Kassam teaches ‘Ways of Knowing: Indigenous and Place-Based Ecological Knowledge’ (NTRES/AIS/AMST3330 and NTRES 6330). He also teaches ‘Introduction to American Indian Studies II: Indigenous Issues in Global Perspectives’ (AIS 1110/AMST 1601). Finally, Dr. Kassam teaches ‘Building Sustainable Environments and Secure Food Systems for the Twenty-first Century’ (FDSC /IARD/ NTRES 4800). He has also co-taught ‘Socio-cultural and Ecological Role of Diversity’ (NTRES 7330). In addition to learning achieved through class lectures, academic publications, web–based films and case studies, service learning based applied research projects; Dr. Kassam collaborates with the Johnson Museum at Cornell University in using art to create a space for exploration. Most courses that he teaches involve curated exhibits that examine and situate the sociocultural within the ecological. Therefore, his students have an opportunity to engage ideas and concepts that link the humanities with the social as well as biophysical sciences.

Awards and Honors

  • Associate Editor (2017) Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
  • International Senior Research Fellowship (10,000 Euros) (2020) University of Bayreuth, Germany
  • Faculty Memeber, Cornell University Library Board (2020) Cornell University
  • Senior Research Fellow (2020) University of Central Asia
  • Board Member (North America Representative) (2016) International Society of Ethnobiology

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Book Chapters

  • Nabhan, G. P., Wilson, K., Aknazarov, O., Kassam, K. S., Monti, L., Cavagnaro, D., Kelly, S., Johnson, T., & Sekacucu, F. (2012). Agrobiodiversity Shifts on Three Continents Since Vavilov and Harlan: Assessing Causes, Processes, and Implications for Food Security. p. 407-425 Biodiversity in Agriculture: Domestication, Evolution, and Sustainability Paul Gepts et al (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
  • Kassam, K. S., Baumflek, M., Ruelle, M., & Wilson, N. (2011). Human Ecology of Vulnerability and Adaptation: Case Studies of Climate Change from High Latitudes and Altitudes. p. 217-236 Climate Change Ð Socioeconomic Effects J. Blanco & H. Kheradmand (ed.), In Tech Open Access Publishers.

Presentations and Activities

  • Creative Multi-media Approaches to Conservation Education for the Next Generation. Life on Earth - Preserving, Utilizing, and Sustaining our Ecosystems. August 2012. Ecological Society of America. Portland, Orregon.
  • Critical Gender Role of Women under Conditions of Chronic Sociocultural and Ecological Stress. Women Sustainable Development and Food sovereignty in a Changing world. March 2012. Cornell University Law School. Ithaca, NY.
  • To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected. March 2012. Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, Cornell University. Ithaca, NY.
  • The Spirit of Conservation and the Idolatry of Management – Developing Ecologically-based Conservation Targets Under Global Change. The Second Emerging Issues Conference of the Ecological Society of America. February 2012. Ecological Society of America. Shepherdstown, WV.
  • Challenging Metanarratives of Conflict: Pluralism and the Ecology of Survival in the Pamir Mountains o Afghanistan. South Asia Center Seminar. February 2012. Syracuse University. Syracuse, NY.
  • Engendering Public Intellectuals through Applied Research and Teaching Pedagogy. The Transformation of Public Intellectuals and Canadian Democracy Workshop. October 2011. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, University of Calgary. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.