El Tunchi

While living in the Peruvian Amazon, I heard several stories about “el tunchi” — a spirit of the dead that has to pay penance in this world. The Tunchi is said to retrace the steps of its past life, disturbing the living by moving furniture, displacing objects, or producing eerie whistling sounds. For the forthcoming issue of Anthropology and Humanism, I wrote a short piece about a tunchi that harrassed an acquaintance named Sandra. You can read it here.

Taft Research Center Talk

I just returned from visiting the University of Cincinnati where I gave a talk at the Taft Research Center. Many thanks to the UC Dept. of Anthropology for inviting me to share my work. Here is a copy of the paper I presented, which summarizes some of the ideas put forward in my book Amazonia in the Anthropocene.

Plant Semiotics Workshop

On Feb. 24th, I’ll be participating in a workshop at Rutgers University that centers on “the semotics of plant-human sociality.” Becky Schulthies from the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers organized the event and other participants will include Natasha Myers, Paul Kockelman, Ruth Goldstein, and Charles Briggs. The paper I’ll be presenting is tentatively titled “Plants that Keep the Bad Vibes Away (& Other Stories of Ecosemiotic Interplay in the Urban Amazon)” and it should be up be here soon. If you happen to be in the area and want to check it out, the event is free and open to the public. You can register here.

Religion, Race, and Weedy Plants

Yesterday I published a new research article titled “How Religion, Race, and the Weedy Agency of Plants Shape Rural Amazonian Home Gardens” in the latest edition of Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment. You can read a pre-press version of it on my academia.edu page. Here is the abstract:

“Across Brazilian Amazonia, it is common to find rural households that keep plants with magico-medicinal properties in their home gardens. Despite widespread occurrence of such plants, some Amazonians—especially in Evangelical communities—openly criticize their use as incongruent with Christian belief and practice. In this article, I offer ethnographic observations that indicate divergent attitudes toward magico-medicinal plants between Evangelical Christians and Amazonian folk Catholics, the latter of whom borrow heavily from Afro-Brazilian and indigenous religions. I contend that Evangelicals’ attempts to establish distance from such plants is due in part to histories of ethnic and racial marginalization that are indexed in their use. Still, many magico-medicinal plants are weedy species that actively colonize areas occupied by humans, thus openly defying Evangelical attempts to evade them. In this manner, magico-medicinal plants are not just subject to human agencies, but are arguably agents in their own right.”

The Challenges of the Anthropocene: A Conversation

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.

Magico-Medicinal Plants of Rural Amazonia: Supplementary Table

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.