Review of “Amazonia in the Anthropocene” in TLS

Michael F. Brown reviewed my book in the Times Literary Supplement this July. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“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’.”

What Happens When We Flush?

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.

Trip to Nauta

Patricio, a large man with long curly hair and a nose bent severely to his right, grabs my hand and introduces himself. After a few seconds, I fear that I might not get my hand back. He tells me he’s drunk. “Bacán,” I say and laugh nervously. He lets my hand go.

Syd and I have lunch at a little menú place. She has doncella, I have pollo asado. “What would you like for a starter?” the waitress asks. The menu only lists: sopa de pata de res. Is there another option, Syd asks. No, the waitress says. Two soups, it is.

Syd and I talk about 2666. And a trip to the Costa Brava that we have to make some day. But today, we have another pilgrimage.
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Q&A with UT Press

University of Texas Press just posted a short interview with me about my new book Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests, which was published this month. The interview touches on recent debates over the origins of the Anthropocene as well as my critiques of its current conceptualization. It also discusses some of the problems with the dominant portrayals of Amazonia and its people that circulate outside of the region. UT Press will be promoting the book at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in New York City this week.