A special issue on “Phyto-Communicability” will be coming out in the journal Ethnos at the end of this year. My contribution to the issue examines the communicative capacities of plants that are used to “keep bad vibes away” or ward off unwanted presences in the city of Iquitos (Peruvian Amazonia). You can read a pre-print version of the article here.
For the past several years, the graduate students of the Ohio State Department of Anthropology have produced A Story of Us, a podcast that is sponsored by the American Anthropological Association. Last semester, Emma Lagan interviewed me about my work as a cultural anthropologist and the episode is now available online. We talked about the early experiences that led me to anthropology and my research in Amazonia as well as my current work that examines how the city of Columbus converts human “waste” into an agricultural resource, known as biosolids. If you have a chance, take a listen. You can also explore earlier seasons from A Story of Us that draw on diverse perspectives and subfields in anthropology to see what they can teach such themes as childhood, migration, and mortality.
At this year’s AAA meeting, I’ll be presenting a paper on a panel titled “The Cultural Work of Aesthetics: Brazilian Notions of the Beautiful and the Crafting of Self/Other Dichotomies.” My paper will focus on the everyday aesthetics of the urban Amazon, with a series of sketches from the city of Manaus where I lived and conducted research for several years. I’ll present these sketches with accompanying photographs in a “show & tell” format to discuss how aesthetic forms in contemporary urban Amazonia challenge long-held tropes of the region in the ethnographic literature. In doing so, I also raise questions about underlying conventions and aesthetics in ethnographic representation itself. The panel will be Thursday, November 15th from 8:00-9:45 AM in the Executive Ballroom 210C in the San Jose Convention Center.
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.
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: Continue reading →