This recent piece from the New York Times describes the curious story of an American family that finds its photo on a 15 foot billboard ad for a credit business in the state of Rondonia in the Brazilian Amazon.
For the 2013 American Anthropological Association Meeting, I’ll be presenting on the panel Visions of the Amazon: Combining Materialist and Discourse-Centered Approaches, which begins at 10:15 AM on Saturday, November 23rd (in Conference Room 4G in the Chicago Hilton). Here’s the abstract for my talk:
Dam projects, road expansion, cattle ranching, and large-scale soy agriculture all contribute to continued deforestation and environmental degradation in the Amazon region today. But as humans are increasingly viewed as independent drivers of regional environmental change, the ways in which the Amazonian environment resists human control are ignored and overlooked. Drawing from ethnographic research among smallholder farmers, I discuss how rural Amazonians hold a de-centered perspective of human-environmental relations that recognizes not only the agency of humans but that of non-human others as well. Examining Amazonian folklore and the stories of Cobra Grande (the “Big Snake”) in particular, I argue that rural Amazonians view their environment as one of robust, defiant vitality rather than a fragile ecosystem in need of protection or a passive landscape open to human manipulation. To conclude, I consider the implications of this perspective for Amazonian conservation and development as well as its potential value for an alternative political ecology of the region.
Podcasts of presentations from the 2013 Conference for the Society of Ethnobiology are now available online. You can find my presentation titled “Crop Diversity and Climate Change: Manioc Varietal Management in the Rural Amazon” and others from the conference’s plenary panel here.
My latest research article (co-authored with Chris McCarty and Charles Clement) is to be published in the December 2013 issue of Current Anthropology. It’s already available ahead of print through JSTOR. This is the abstract:
Social exchange networks play a critical role in the maintenance and distribution of crop diversity in smallholder farming communities throughout the world. The structure of such networks, however, can both support and constrain crop diversity and its distribution. This report examines varietal distribution of the staple crop manioc among rural households in three neighboring caboclo communities in Brazilian Amazonia. The results show that the centrality of households in exchange networks had no significant correlation with the number of manioc varieties maintained by households. However, household centrality did show a significant correlation with households’ perceived knowledge of manioc cultivation as well as the total area of manioc they cultivated. Although households with the most knowledgeable and active producers played a central role in the distribution of planting materials and manioc varieties, they did not maintain higher varietal diversity than more peripheral households in this study. This case study represents an important example of how social networks can constrain varietal distribution and contribute to low crop diversity in agricultural communities.
Regardless of your preference for the plural of “syllabus” (“syllabi” or “syllabuses”), I’ve put some of mine up here under the Courses tab. The American Anthropological Association also has the Teaching Materials Exchange, where you can search for others’ syllabi or just scan through the wide variety of syllabi available. These resources are really valuable for graduate students and junior faculty (like me) who are teaching a course for the first time or those who are just looking to compare their courses with others.
Gary Nabhan just published a valuable op-ed in the New York Times discussing the coming food crisis and how we can begin to address it. Among other things, he argues for the development of better programs for managing organic waste and composting in cities. He also discusses the importance of minimizing bureaucratic hurdles for farmers to use biologically-filtered gray water in their production. And then, of course, he outlines the role heirloom and heritage seeds can play in adaptation to climate change. You can read the piece here.
“If the world were a bank, we’d save it.”