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2024

From monocultures to new ecosystems

Joaquim Sande Silva | February 16

The common eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) was introduced in Portugal in the mid-nineteenth century, along with many other species of eucalyptus. However, it quickly stood out from other species because of its rapid growth and excellent adaptation to Portuguese environmental conditions. Fires have helped the expansion of the species, due to its adaptation to fire. This adaptation, and the abandonment of many eucalyptus groves, means that several eucalyptus areas do not currently correspond to the monoculture paradigm for wood production. Many of these areas are new ecosystems that evolve naturally without human intervention, and without yielding economic profit. The challenges that these new ecosystems represent are enormous, as they mean a loss of value to the territory and it is difficult to reverse this loss.

Insurgent species: rethinking recovery based on animals’ experiences in forest fires

Verónica Policarpo | February 16

How can we better understand the contemporary notion of monoculture based on the subjective experience of animals living in territories injured and/or threatened by environmental catastrophes? Starting from the reflection and experience resulting from the ongoing ERC project “ABIDE: Animal ABidings: recovering from DisastErs in more-than-human communities,” the talk attempts to conceptualize animal experiences based on their capabilities and practices imbued with their own meanings, as constitutive parts of an ecological diversity that fosters an insurgent transformation, independent from human ways of regulating other species, the landscape and the territory.

“Pineapple men,” Colonial Novelties, and Trans-plants: Plantation Fruit Fictions

Susan McHugh | February 16

Detailing a plantation history founded in land theft and human trafficking, the final section of James Michener’s bestselling novel Hawaii (1959) lofts a vision of the descendants of different ethnic groups of foreign workers blending into “a race of pineapple men.” Far from science fiction, Michener’s retelling of the rise and fall of the real-life Hawaiian Pineapple Company concerns the social liberation of migrant workers that he thus identifies with the literal – and likewise non-native – fruits of their labor. In light of the ongoing human and environmental health problems of pineapple monocropping, the talk discusses the suffering of plants, animals, and peoples in the novel. 

The Magic of Monoculture: Writing the Story of a Global Gamble

Frank Uekoetter | February 15

Monocultures rule the world of food, and nobody knows why: there is no convincing theory of monoculture, and plenty of conceptual and empirical evidence for the benefits of biological diversity. So perhaps a historian can make sense of an endeavour that baffles agronomists? This presentation explores a history that is eminently open-ended.

(Re)Thinking Eucalyptus Monoculture in Portugal

Susana de Matos Viegas | February 15

The invasion of Portuguese territory by eucalyptus trees has been seen in different ways without, however, considering monoculture as the main problem. This talk starts by questioning what a forest is based on Indigenous experiences about biodiversity in the Amazon forest and the Atlantic forest in Brazil and the tropical monsoon forest in Timor-Leste – three exemplary landscapes in the maintenance of biodiversity. The argument is grounded on ethnographic analyzes based on long-term fieldwork carried out in these contexts and on the analysis of official documents on forests in Portugal, namely the report on the 2017 megafires.

Brazil in the History of the Plantationocene: Permanences and Metamorphoses of the Colonial Model

José Augusto Padua | February 15

The establishment of the plantation model in colonial spaces – combining deforestation, monocultures and slavery – played a fundamental historical role in the creation of a world economy under European rule. In the current context, the presence of large-scale monocultures and the “monocultural mind” constitutes an essential feature of the socioeconomic order that reproduces and expands the Anthropocene as a historical condition. Since the establishment of the sugar production system, Brazil has been a laboratory for social, territorial and ecological experiments based on monoculture with exotic species. The presentation aims to discuss the possible common characteristics that can be observed in these plantations – such as the denial of native ecosystems and ecological and cultural diversity – examining their continuity or not with the colonial heritage.

Planetarity and Diversity: On Some Conditions for Advancing Action on Climate

Dipesh Chakrabarty | February 15

Earth-system scientists usually portray the earth system as a unitary system. It is such thinking that sets up targets like decarbonization of the global economy by 2050 and underlies the carbon budgets that the IPCC draws up for humanity as a whole. But these measures produce a problem for thinking climate politics, for politics is based on human differences. There is no global undifferentiated “we” of humans that seems capable of responding to these parametric challenges. The place of this absent human “we” is instead taken up today by techno-fixers and economists with plans for market reforms, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestering, and so on. The lecture argues that the earth-system, while singular, is not a homogenous whole. It is, in that sense, a non-totalizing unity. Politics does not have to give up its grounding in diversity and difference in order to be informed by planetary perspectives in advancing forms of climate politics that do not sideline issues of diversity and difference.

Process of deconstitution of indigenous rights in Brazil

Carolina Santana and Manuela Carneiro da Cunha | December 6

The National Constituent Assembly that took place in Brazil in 1987 and 1988 witnessed heated disputes over Indigenous rights. These debates have been incessantly rehashed since the National Constituent Assembly, as if they had not already been the subject of discussion and voting.

The Amazon between Photography, Essay and Study

Jorge Nájar and Elena Galvéz | November 14

Peruvian writer Jorge Nájar and historian Elena Galvéz discuss the representation of the rubber boom in the Amazon from a literary, historical and artistic perspectives.

Rubber Literature: Peruvian Amazon and Portugal

Percy Vílchez and Gerard Rodríguez | November 14

Peruvian writers Percy Vílchez and Gerard Rodríguez reflect on the time of the rubber boom in the Amazon and on the way they portray this period in their literary work.

Amazonian Animals in Contemporary Brazilian Literature

Maria Esther Maciel | October 04

This talk discusses poetic-fictional Brazilian texts from the 21st century focusing on Amazonian animals. The goal is to analyze the different forms of interaction between humans and non-humans presented in these works. Some of the authors examined are Astrid Cabral, Olga Savary, Micheliny Verunschk, André Gardel and Pedro Cesarino.

Possible Futures: Imagination and Speculation to Resist in the Anthropocene

Renato Sztutman | May 30

This talk discusses the role of the imagination in the Anthropocene, a geological epoch in which humanity has become the predominant force in the planet.

 

Indigenous Visual Arts and the Paradoxes of Building Indigenous Identities through Contemporary Art

María Eugenia Yllia | April 24

This talk presents a critical panorama of the visual arts of the Indigenous Peruvian Amazon since their irruption in Lima at the end of the last century.

 

Another History of the Lost Cities of the Amazon: Development and Utopia in Contemporary Brazil

Danielle Heberle Viegas | February 13

In this session, the speaker proposes an analysis of the emergence and disappearance of cities in the Brazilian Amazon throughout the twentieth century to the present, in the context of developmentalist policies, and the technical-authoritarian model of urbanization.

Indigenous Modernities: The Challenges of Cybernetics and the Teachings of Ancestral Medicine

Pedro Favarón | July 21

This lecture establishes a bridge between different forms of modernity, from cybernetics to Amazonian Indigenous thought.

Indigenous Futurisms? Narratives of Anticipation and Cinema

Renato Sztutman | July 20

This talk discusses the notion of the future against the backdrop of the cosmologies of various Indigenous peoples, from Brazil to Australia.

2022

“Play Farming” of the Lowlands of South America?

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha | October 13

In his final book, co-authored with an archaeologist, the prominent anthropologist David Graeber refers to the agriculture practised by the Indigenous peoples of the South American lowlands as “play agriculture.” Cunha studies specific examples of this agriculture to understand its essence and the connections that Indigenous peoples establish with plants.

A Methodology for Territorial Reading through the Vestiges of Human Inscription in Nature

Esperanza Martínez | October 13

Martinez proposes a reading of the territory that is based on the “vestiges” that humans inscribe into nature. These vestiges are pre-Hispanic or Indigenous figures and symbols that offer an opportunity to investigate the conceptions of nature and humanity in different societies. This approach can be seen as a form of “epistemic therapy” that challenges traditional ways of understanding the production of symbols related to nature and culture. Overall, this therapy helps to question our established beliefs and ways of thinking about the relationship between humans and nature.

Songs: A Way of Relating to the Forest and the Amazonian Historical Memory from the Shiwiar Culture

Rosa Elvira Gualinga Chuji | October 13

Rosa Gualinga is the vice-president of the Shiwiar nationality in the Ecuadorian Amazon. She is a singer and an expert in traditional therapies. She emphasizes that Indigenous peoples play a crucial role in protecting Amazonian nature and shares the knowledge of plants from her community. Singing is a central part of Shiwiar culture and is believed to have healing properties.

The View of Amazonian Vegetation during Colonial Tmes: Alienation, Selectivity, and Utilitarianism

José Augusto Pádua | October 13

In his presentation, Pádua analyses the textual and visual rhetoric about the Amazon used in Western culture. He discusses how the process of naming, classifying, and comparing the Amazon with Western nature has resulted in the construction of a discourse about the Amazonian environment. The goal of this discourse is to make the Amazon more accessible and understandable to the West.

Narratives and Relationships with the Amazon Forest from the Kichwa Perspective

Zoila Castillo Tuti | October 13

This talk aims to illustrate the diverse uses of plants in the Amazon, such as for rituals, healing, food, magic, and more. It shows how the Amazon rainforest serves as the source of vital elements for Indigenous communities, both materially and subjectively.

"I miss the Long Trees": Returning to the Land and to Life with the Tikmū'ūn-Maxakali

Roberto Romero | October 14

The talk discusses the transformation of the Maxakali people’s territory—former inhabitants of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest—into a guinea grass (Panicum maximum) desert due to colonization in the nineteenth century. Despite this, the Maxacali maintain a close connection with nature through rituals and the speaker highlights initiatives to reclaim their land and culture, such as the Forest-School-Village project.

Agrocide and the Popcorn Planet: Thinking with Maldita Harvest, by Denilson Baniwa

Jamille Pinheiro | October 14

The legitimization of predatory agribusiness, illegal mining, and anti-Indigenous racism in Brazil has its roots in a history of slavery and the military dictatorship, as well as in the developmentalist discourses and the myth of racial democracy that persist in the country. In this context, the speaker discusses the short film Colheita Maldita, created by the Indigenous Amazonian artist Denilson Baniwa as part of the Cultures of Antiracism in Latin America project at the University of Manchester. The work parodically references Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 film The Children of the Earth. Baniwa’s work issues a warning against the agrocide committed by the unchecked growth of monoculture production models.

Plants in Amazonian Cosmogonic Narratives

Lúcia Sá | October 14

This presentation examines the role of various plants in cosmogonic narratives of the Amazon region, encompassing historical narratives collected by non-Indigenous intermediaries, as well as more recent narratives published by Indigenous authors.

How the Amazon was Formed by Forest People

Eduardo Góes Neves | October 14

This talk discusses the archaeology of the Amazon, focusing on the Indigenous influence on the territory and its vegetation. The main argument is that Amazonian biodiversity is rooted in the cultural diversity of the region.

Hydroelectrics Reimagined: Art and Ecofeminism in Belo Monte

Victoria Saramago | May 3

This talk discusses how the impact of the construction of large-scale hydroelectric dams has been addressed in contemporary works of literature and visual arts. Drawing on the case of the Belo Monte dam, Saramago examines issues such as the struggle for visibility and processes of narrativization through an ecofeminist trend in current production.

 

Of Currents and Whirlpools: Hydraulic Forces and Human Labour in Amazonia

Javier Uriarte | May 3

Focusing on the writings of Colombian engineer Miguel Triana from the early twentieth century, and considering the drastic transformations in the Amazonian landscape today as a consequence of the construction of hydroelectric power plants, this talk comparatively studies the ways in which rivers have been described, imagined and thought of in the Amazonian region.

El Río: Discourses on Multispecies Relations

Juan-Carlos Galeano | May 3

El Río is a thought-provoking documentary about Amazonian rivers that reflects on the sophisticated systems of knowledge and scientific literacy that Amazonian communities have developed to interpret globalization, climate change and the controversial human relationships with rivers, ecosystems and the many species that inhabit them.