Yesterday I spoke with Matthew DeMello about my recent article The Irony of the Anthropocene. We discussed some of the challenges posed by this new geological epoch and the current ecological crisis facing humanity. We also talked about how the global situation compares with that of the Amazon region specifically. You can take a listen here.
My article “How Religion, Race, and the Weedy Agency of Plants Shapes Rural Amazonia Home Gardens” will be published in the 2016 fall issue of Culture, Agriculture, Food, and the Environment. Here is the species list of magico-medicinal plants that I identified in the study, which wasn’t included in the article due to space constraints.
I just published a short essay with The Conversation that outlines some of the inherent contradictions and ironies in the Anthropocene. Despite the common portrayal of humanity as the dominant force on the planet, I argue that the Anthropocene is rooted in a growing realization that we are in a state of ecological crisis that defies our control.
“Growing awareness of humankind’s role in shaping Amazonian environments raises new questions about anthropology’s hoariest dichotomy: the distinction between nature and culture. Anthropologists working elsewhere in Amazonia – notably Philippe Descola, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and Eduardo Kohn – have embraced strands of post-humanist thought that reject an exclusive focus on human intentionality in favour of indigenous ideologies that portray the natural world as an eminently social domain…Amazonia in the Anthropocene offers an admirably concise and accessible contribution to this analytical ferment…[Kawa] wishes to challenge current scientific thinking about the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch defined by humanity’s pre-eminent role in reshaping the planet’s physical features – land, water, and atmospheric conditions. We may think of ourselves as having achieved planetary mastery, but ultimately, Kawa insists, “humans are not the only actors of consequence in the world, nor are humans the only ones who can ‘see’ or ‘think’ or ‘know’.”
I just completed revisions on an article titled “What Happens When We Flush?” that will appear in the September edition of Anthropology Now. You can read a pre-print version of it on my Academia.edu site. The article discusses how the modern flush toilet has perpetuated the illusion that human waste can be made to “disappear.” Examining the industrial origins of the flush toilet, I point out some of its problematic consequences as a model of sanitation in the contemporary world. Using examples from Pre-Columbian Amazonia and 19th century East Asia, I highlight alternative models of managing human excreta that have proven benefits for agricultural production, which might serve to reorient human relations to excrement in industrialized societies today.