My name is Nick Kawa and I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Ohio State University. My research centers on human-environment interactions, with specific focus on human relationships to plants, soils, and bodily waste. I have studied the contemporary management of Amazonian Dark Earth (a fertile, anthropogenic soil associated with Pre-Columbian Amerindian settlements) as well as the contemporary botanical diversity found in association with it. I have also investigated the role that social networks play in the distribution of crop varieties found in rural Amazonian communities as well as hiring practices in American academic anthropology.
Currently, I am developing a new project funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation that investigates the use and management of human excreta in American agriculture. Human “waste” has been used for millennia as an agricultural amendment, but its application is rather limited in many industrial and postindustrial societies today. This project examines how sensorial experiences and concerns over ‘nuisance odors’ shape the acceptability of these resources for users and their communities. It also looks into the ways that perceived safety threats associated with human excreta further complicate their use as an agricultural fertilizer.