Forests and Favelas

In a few weeks, I’ll be attending the meeting of the Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology in Oaxaca, Mexico. The paper I’ll be presenting is titled “Forests and Favelas: Situating Urban Amazonia in the Anthropology of Brazil.” Here’s a brief synopsis:

For much of its recent history, anthropology has been concerned with two Brazils. The first has revolved around indigenous peoples of Amazonia and increasingly, the tensions between conservation and development of Amazonian forests. The second has centered on urban poor, especially those living in the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio de Janeiro and other large metropolitan areas. In many ways, these two centers of focus – forests and favelas – have come to represent “gatekeeping concepts” in the anthropology of Brazil, largely to the exclusion of other socio-cultural concerns and contexts. This paper explores an under-examined Brazil that lies in the overlapping spaces of forests and favelas: the urban Amazon. Drawing for a decade of research in the region, this paper highlights how broader processes and problems associated with urbanization in Brazil emerge in distinctive ways within Manaus, the largest city of the Amazon basin.


Ball State Graduate School Promotes the HUB Community Garden

Faith Kellermeyer at the Ball State Graduate School recently interviewed me to discuss my involvement with the HUB Community Garden. In this piece, she highlights the origin of the project, its significance to the community, and how it might help to spur future projects, including those for in-coming graduate students. Right now, a group of students from the departments of Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning, and Anthropology are all working together to design a new garden-park in collaboration with the Old West End Neighborhood Association. We are hoping to get the project off the ground this spring and implement the site design by this summer. If you’re interested in getting involved, please feel free to contact me.


2014 Hottest Year on Record

099cff123553ab6feae2ba1507a1d2baThe evidence on global climate change continues to mount. Both NASA and NOAA have declared 2014 the hottest year in the 134 years of record keeping in the United States. These agencies point out that while individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are showing that greenhouse gas release from anthropogenic activities are driving global climate change.

Race, Religion, and Magico-Medicinal Plant Use in Rural Amazonia

This Friday I’ll be giving a talk at the American Anthropological Association meeting in a session titled Humans, Plants, and Race: Investigations into Cultivation, Discrimination, and Identity. My paper will focus on the relationships between race, religion, and magico-medicinal plants in rural Amazonia. Here’s the abstract:

In home gardens across rural Amazonia, it is common to find plants that are cultivated for their magical and healing properties. Some plants have long histories linked to indigenous traditions while others are derived from Afro-Brazilian religions, especially Candomblé. Despite widespread occurrence of such plants, many rural Amazonians are reluctant to acknowledge them and some, especially in Evangelical communities, openly criticize their use as incongruent with Christian belief and practice. In examining the use of such plants, this paper highlights the growing tensions in rural Amazonian communities between the competing belief systems of Evangelical Christianity and Amazonian Folk Catholicism, which borrows from Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. In doing so, it explores how the movement away from Folk Catholicism and Candomblé by some Amazonians can be seen as part of a broader attempt to establish distance from “blackness” and “Indianness” and their histories of marginalization in Brazil.