Our latest article is out, which examines the history and cross-cultural management of human waste (or “night soil”) as an agricultural resource. The paper grew out of a collaborative class project that I proposed to Master’s degree students enrolled in my Environmental Anthropology course in the spring of 2017. Together, we delved into the archaeology and history of night soil use and management, as well as some recent ethnographic research on the subject. This paper synthesizes that work and puts it in conversation with contemporary theorizing of the “metabolic rift” — or the notion that the rise of industrial capitalism led to a fundamental rupture in human relations to the earth’s ecological systems. The article, titled “Night Soil: Origins, Discontinuities, and Opportunities for Bridging the Metabolic Rift,” can be found in the latest issue of the open access journal Ethnobiology Letters.
A tractor spreads biosolids (i.e. treated sanitation sludge) over a field in central Washington state.
In July 2017, I visited Manaus to work on a new collaboration with researchers in the Sociology Department at the Federal University of Amazonas State (UFAM) and I also had the opportunity to give a talk based on my book Amazonia and the Anthropocene. Following that visit, I developed a lengthy email exchange over the better part of a year with Bruno Caporrino (a PhD student in the Dept. of Anthropology at UFAM) and Túlio Zille (a PhD student in Political Science at Johns Hopkins). Now, we are happy to share our dialogue (in Portuguese) in the new online magazine, Amazônia Latitude. The essay, titled “A virada ontológica e a Amazônia: um dialógo”, offers a summary of some of the key points of debate that have attracted our attention in the ontological turn in anthropology, particularly in relation to the ethnographic study of the Amazon region. A slightly edited version of our original email exchange (also in Portuguese) can be found here.
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 Tuesday afternoon at the American Anthropological Association Meeting, I had the opportunity to participate as discussant on a panel that focused on sedimentation as a social analytic. The papers examined accretions of volatile toxic forms in human bodies, the sedimented legacies of settler colonial experience, and emergent legal and political-economic frameworks that shape the livelihoods of farmers in Mozambique, Brazil, and the Galapagos. You can find my brief essay here.
A few weeks ago, Nivedita Kar interviewed me for the New Books in Anthropology Podcast. The episode just went online yesterday. In our conversation, we discussed some of the overarching themes in my book Amazonia in the Anthropocene and also talked about some of my more recent work on urban Amazonian ecologies, including research based in the Peruvian city of Iquitos. The conversation is under a half hour and you can take a listen here.
Ontem eu tive o grande prazer de dar uma palestra na Universidade Federal do Amazonas. Quero agradecer a Tiago Jacaúna e o Departamento de Sociologia por organizar o evento. Na palestra, titulada “Amazônia no antropoceno: Observações, questões e desafios”, eu resumi alguns argumentos principais do meu novo livro e também incluí umas observações sobre as “ecologias perturbantes” da Amazônia urbana baseado na pesquisa que eu fiz na cidade de Iquitos o ano passado. Eu fiz uma gravação da palestra e pode baixar o documento aqui também (por favor, descuplam quaisquer erros gramaticais). Obrigado novamente a todos que estiveram presentes.