Director of Terralingua

Luisa Maffi

Luisa Maffi, PhD (UC Berkeley, 1994), is co-founder and Director of Terralingua and spearheads Terralingua’s program of work. Trained in linguistics, anthropology, and ethnobiology, Luisa is one of the pioneers of the concept of biocultural diversity. Her interest in the relationships between language, culture, and the environment and between linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity led her to co-found Terralingua in 1996 and to launch the organization’s activities with the interdisciplinary conference “Endangered Languages, Endangered Knowledge, Endangered Environments” (Berkeley, California, USA, 1996).

She was President of Terralingua from 1996 to 2006 and has been its Director since 2007. Since 2010 she has also been an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences at Royal Roads University, as well as an International Fellow of the Explorers Club.

Luisa has conducted extended fieldwork in Somalia (1979–1985) and Mexico (Chiapas, 1988-1993; Chihuahua, 2000–2008) and has carried out research in China and Japan. She has written on a variety of topics ranging from Somali and Mayan linguistics to color categorization, ethnomedicine, traditional ecological knowledge, language maintenance and revitalization, Indigenous peoples’ linguistic and cultural rights, culture and conservation, and the relationships between linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity.

Among her key publications on biocultural diversity are the edited book On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001), the co-edited volume Ethnobotany and Conservation of Biocultural Diversity (New York Botanical Garden Press, 2004), and the co-authored book Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook (Earthscan, 2010).

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