Beekeeping in the End Times is a site for storytelling honeybees in our disastrous times. Anthropogenic—human-caused—pressures upon the bees worldwide are aplenty but the most profound and sweeping alterations due to climate change are the least researched. The site gives a glimpse of the field-based research project that an anthropologist, Larisa Jasarevic, has conducted across Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 2014 to 2019.
Years of field research and writing were generously supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs, and the Independent Social Research Foundation.
The research method anthropologists like Larisa use are known as “ethnography.” This method stands for a close observation and a hands-on immersion in the subject of inquiry.
Put simply, Larisa followed beekeepers cross-country as they hunted for honey along the country’s edgelands. She worked alongside the apiarists who passionately planted their beeyards and guerrilla-gardened the fields nearby to improve the odds of honey flow. And she established a small apiary in a mountaintop village.
Ethnographic method is anecdotal in the sense that it collects a record of real-life events and practices. Anthropology also listens carefully and respectfully to what people themselves are doing, saying, and thinking about how things are. This research method, then, is different than the replicable trials conducted in laboratories, greenhouses, or in the field under the strictly controlled conditions. Because the impact of climate change upon local weather is most unpredictable and the responses of bees, their partner plants, and companion species are extremely varied across different habitats, altitudes, and micro-climates, climate sciences will need to be complemented by observations and experience-honed skills of field experts, like beekeepers. With an intimate knowledge of local grounds, and at the whispering distance from the bees, the beekeepers and their anthropologist not only point to strange new developments and trends, but articulate new questions and concerns about climate change futures.
Anthropology also presumes that there are many ways of being a human and of imagining the world. Cultural diversity implies a world in which cultures have consequences. The planetary devastation is a case in point: the modern culture is an ecologically ruinous way of conceiving the human relationships to nature and to life, whether or not human.
Finding our way through the looming catastrophe may require not only novel technologies of adaptation and strategies of risk managment. A shift more basic and profound may be due, in our thinking of who we are, facing each hive, and what we ought to do to hang onto the bees or to keep the skies from falling. Should we fail—and a failure too must be seriously contemplated— what should we do, on the eve of Apocalypse?
Beekeeping in the End Times pairs up notes on the near-end honey ecologies with the stories and insights of Islamic eschatology—the lore of the end times. Forwarding an eco-eschatology, the site features the possibilities that spring up from thinking with unlikely sources of inspiration. After all, honeybees themselves prefer to forage across diverse flowering fields.