The expansion and intensification of agriculture is a major driver of deforestation in tropical forests and for global climate change. However, over the past decade Brazil has significantly reduced its deforestation rates while simultaneously increasing its agricultural production, particularly cattle and soy. While, the scholarly literature primarily attributes this success to environmental policy and global economic trends, recent ethnographic depictions of cattle ranchers and soy farmers offer deeper insight into how these political and economic processes are experienced on the ground. Examples demonstrate that policy and markets provide a framework for soy farming and ranching, but emerging forms of identity and new cultural values shape their practices. This article argues that to understand the full picture of why Brazil’s deforestation rates have dropped while the agricultural industry has flourished, the culture of producers must be present in the analysis.
Ill-Fated Beneficiaries of Texaco's "Glorious Gamble"
Marilyn J. Matelski
Almost fifty years have passed since Texaco proclaimed its “glorious gamble” to extract oil from the Amazon. And while more than two decades have elapsed since the drilling finally ceased, at least four generations (referred to here as “Generations 10W40,” by the author) have suffered many deleterious effects, resulting from countless acts of irresponsible, pollution-generating corporate/governmental behavior. Lawsuits have abounded in both the United States and Ecuador over this calamity, and attorneys continue to fight over which accused party is most culpable—Texaco (now Chevron Texaco), Petro Ecuador and/or the Ecuadorian government. Regardless of who is most responsible, however, the fact remains that innocent people continue to be victimized. Another undeniable fact is the long history of Chevron Texaco’s expensive, forceful and unrelenting publicity campaign to win popular support outside the courtroom through propagandistic mass media appeals. This essay analyzes this long-term “crusade” within a framework of seven specific devices—name-calling, bandwagon, glittering generalities, transfer, testimonial, plain folks and card stacking—applied to the company’s corporate communication strategy, and occurring throughout its preliminary oil exploration, the oil drilling years and the toxic aftermath of the venture.
How Public Anthropology Provides Guidelines for Advocacy Networks
Current transnational networks of non-governmental organizations and social movements have challenged nation-states' policy designs. Their increasing political legitimacy, however, is matched by cultural friction and misunderstandings among their members and stakeholders. This paper argues that anthropological insights may provide maps that can help shape advocacy networks' guidelines for action. Just as social analysts of past centuries provided the language and imagined forms of social organization from systematic examinations of events, anthropologists can help explain current relations and processes within fluid structures in order to improve their practices and results. This idea is illustrated by the examination of a single socio-environmental advocacy network in the Brazilian Amazon: 'Y Ikatu Xingu. This network was chosen because it brings together stakeholders from contrasting backgrounds, thus highlighting its intercultural challenges. Some members of the convening NGOs were anthropologists, whose work is focused on helping bridge understandings of environment and coexistence. The network was therefore strongly influenced by anthropological insights.
Manuel Antonio Mesones Muro—the Madman of the Marañon River, Cárlos Oyague y Calderón—the State Engineer, and Roger Casement—Not of the Real World Humanitarian
Rupert J. M. Medd and Hélène Guyot
Between 1870 and 1915 Peru experienced a rubber-boom, extending into the Putumayo River region in 1893. This huge region of Amazonian forests was controlled by the Peruvian Amazon Company (P. A. Co.). Although Peruvian, they had British company directors and a British-Barbadian workforce. Their methods of extraction generated unimaginable degrees of human and ecological violence. Roger Casement, a British diplomat, was sent on a harrowing mission to investigate these allegations made by travelers. His Amazon Journal takes precedence; however, Peruvians also responded to the situation, reporting to the Geographical Society of Lima. Included are two forgotten yet influential Peruvian explorers: the geographer Manuel Antonio Mesones Muro and the engineer Cárlos Oyague y Calderón. By highlighting some of the early debates that circulated between Europe and Latin America on the natural resources and people of the Amazon forests, the focus is to draw out textual examples of perceptions on race, environment, and early consumer responsibility. Supported by coloniality/modernity theories, it also asks whether this form of travel writing was functioning as a resistance literature to imperialism for the time. Thus, this study investigates alternative readings that might also inform twenty-first-century scholars and activists as they articulate environmentalist and even social and ecological positions.
Mobile Cultures between the Andes and the Amazon around 1900
Jaime Moreno Tejada
This article examines two distinct yet overlapping cultures of mobility in turn-of-the-century Ecuador. On the one hand, there was a modernizing culture that sought to implement utopian modes of transportation between the Andes and the Amazon. On the other hand, there were indigenous porters and pilots, who had nonhegemonic ideas about mobility and labor. This article argues that (1) indigenous labor was based on the performance of colonial habits, which I refer to as coloniality; (2) within this framework of spatial practice, native bodily rhythms could be interpreted as successful tactics of everyday resistance; and (3) the conflict between Indians and non-Indians reveals a universal, modern tension between machine and humanlike mobilities.
The Travels of José Uriel García and Aurelio Miró Quesada Sosa
Rupert J.M. Medd
From the 1930s onward, Peru began to acknowledge its own intellectual travel writers who were committed to writing about national geographical and social realities. This can be evidenced by the output during the period of independent travelers and those connected to state-funded institutions such as the Sociedad Geográfica de Lima. The underlying position is that the act of travel and its literature can work against imperialism and, therefore, become expressions of patriotism. Here, the travel narratives of two prominent Peruvian figures are analyzed: José Uriel García from Cusco and Aurelio Miró Quesada Sosa from Lima. Together, they provide valuable evidence about two different responses to the modernization of Peru while also representing the nation’s significant sociogeographical divides. The focus is on questions of history, coloniality/modernity, national identity, and natural resources such as water and wood. It is hoped that this will contribute to literary studies on travel and the environment.
The Promise of “El uno por mil” in Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Oil Operations
In 2013, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the end of the Yasuní-ITT initiative. The initiative had proposed to combat climate change by not exploiting oil reserves in one section of the Yasuní National Park. Anticipating outcry, Correa promised that operations would affect less than one thousandth of the park, or “menos del uno por mil.” This article examines the role of numerical calculations in the governance of subterranean resources. Numbers do a particular kind of labor to rationalize the shift contained in the Yasuní-ITT initiative that rhetoric alone does not. Metrics such as el uno por mil constitute and translate between diverse realms of value. Yet, contrary to the assumption that numbers are derived from strictly technical, expert processes, I show how such metrics are fundamental to translations between incalculable matters of nature, the future, and the “good” when deployed in contests over the effects of oil on life.
Early Ethnographic Accounts of the Balkan Man-Woman
Aleksandra Djajić Horváth
This article looks into the representations of the figure of the Balkan man-woman in missionary and travel accounts from the turn of the twentieth century. I read these early proto-ethnographic texts, both written and visual, dialogically – as points of intersection between observers and the observed, with the aim of addressing the question of how professional transgressors – travellers and missionaries – perceived and culturally ‘translated’ female gender-transgressors who were enjoying the role and status of social men in northern Albanian and Montenegrin societies, and whose gender identity was heavily based on their daily performance of male chores and on the possession of male privileges, such as smoking, socialising with men and wearing arms.
Agustín Fuentes and Eduardo Kohn
Proposal 1: Anthropology Beyond the Human Eduardo Kohn
Ethnographic attention to human-animal relations in Amazonia reveals the constitutively semiotic nature of all life.This helps us appreciate more broadly the ways in which semiotic logics that are not necessarily human or language-like underlie the modes by which thoughts and lives form associations. This changes our understanding of relationality, arguably anthropology’s central concern.
Proposal 2: Humans as Niche Constructors, as Primates and with Primates: Synergies for Anthropology in the Anthropocene Agustín Fuentes
Humans are primates and consummate niche constructors. If we hope to be both relevant and successful investigators in the multispecies word of the Anthropocene, we need an anthropological practice that places humans and other organisms in integrated and shared ecological and social spaces. Ethnoprimatology and a constructivist evolutionary theory help us move towards a place where the biological and social are folded into an integrative anthropology, in which a myriad of entangled agents and theoretical perspectives are central in investigating the processes of becoming human.
Michael Heckenberger, The ecology of power: Culture, place and personhood in the Southern Amazon, AD 1000-2000. London and New York: Routledge, 2004, 432 pp., ISBN: 0-415-94599-2 (paperback).
John Hemming, Tree of rivers: The story of the Amazon. London and New York: Thames and Hud- son, 2008, 366 pp., ISBN: 978-0-500-51401-6 (hardback).
Candice Slater, Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, 332 pp., ISBN: 0-520-22641-0 (paperback).