Gordon Ulmer, Sydney Silverstein, and I just published a short article (with lots of photos!) in the latest edition of Anthropology Today. It examines how projected environmental changes in the Amazonian city of Iquitos have been used by the Peruvian government to propose the resettlement of a low-income community and promote state-led redevelopment plans. The article is available free of charge over the next month. You can download it here.
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.
This morning I presented a paper at the AAA meeting in Minneapolis as part of a panel I co-organized with Joe Feldman, titled “Challenging Anthropology in the 21st Century.” My paper focused specifically on the social network of US academic anthropology and how hiring networks can contribute to – or at the very least reflect – embedded hierarchies within the discipline. You can download a copy of the paper here. The abstract is below:
“Anthropologists often strive to point out social inequality while using their research to promote meaningful social change. However, academic anthropology can sometimes reproduce the very problems of social inequality that its scholars tend to rail against. Past research on U.S. academic hiring networks has shown evidence of systematic inequality and hierarchy, attributed at least in part to the influence of academic prestige, which is not necessarily a reflection of merit or academic productivity. Using anthropology departments’ websites, we gathered information on all tenured and tenure-track faculty in PhD-granting anthropology programs in the U.S., totaling 1,918 individuals in all. For each faculty member, we noted their current institution and PhD-granting institution, which we treated as a “tie” between those academic programs. With these data, we applied methods from social network analysis (SNA) to examine U.S. academic anthropology’s social network, and we identified multiple factors that help to explain its structure. In this paper, we report on our preliminary findings and we discuss how they can be used to help rethink social reproduction in academic anthropology.”
This year I am starting a new position in the Department of Anthropology at (THE!) Ohio State University. My hire is part of OSU’s Initiative for Food and Agricultural Transformation (InFACT), one of the many new Discovery Themes on campus. This initiative is recruiting dozens of new faculty who approach the study of food and agriculture from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, including anthropology, architecture, nutrition, political science, and public health, among others. I will continue to be working in the Amazon region (both in Peru and Brazil) and the American Midwest, focusing on farmer’s conservation management practices and adaptation to climate variability. I am also developing a new project that investigates the use of human waste (“biosolids” or “night soil”) in contemporary agriculture.
For the past year, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a short book about the urban Amazon. Most of what is written about Amazonia is focused on its forests and rivers, its flora and fauna. When people are discussed, most often it’s indigenous groups living in isolated reaches of the region, or those who are fighting against bulldozers and dams that threaten their livelihoods and even their very lives. I don’t want to detract from any of those struggles. They might matter now more than ever. But today, it’s usually overlooked that the bulk of Amazonians live in cities, and little of the media coverage that circulates outside of the region is focused on their lives.
Here I offer a brief introduction to the urban Amazon, and more specifically, the Amazonian city of Manaus:
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 undergraduate students are currently developing a podcast series that explores core concepts in anthropology. If you are interested in contributing to this initiative, feel free to contact me or post a comment on their website. The inaugural series of podcasts should be appearing in the coming weeks.