ECO – Animals and Plants in Cultural Productions about the Amazon River Basin
ECO is a research project funded by the European Research Council of the European Commission (ERC Consolidator Grant nº 101002359) and hosted by the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra.
The project seeks to understand how different cultural productions depicting Amazonia lend a voice to animals and plants and reveal the interdependence of humans and non-humans. It develops the concept of zoophytography to describe the inscription of non-human beings in different cultures, thus decentering humanity as the sole source of meaning-making.
At a time when the Amazon and its peoples are increasingly threatened by large-scale logging and forest fires associated to extractivist industries such as mining, oil drilling, agribusiness, and so on, that regard the biosphere as a mere resource at the service of humanity, ECO aims to uncover other, non-imperialistic views on animals and plants in the region.
ECO draws on cutting-edge research on the environmental humanities and on Amazonian thought to analyze texts, films and artworks portraying fauna and flora from the region. The project aims to reformulate environmental humanities theoretical concepts and methodological tools to adapt them to an Amazonian reality, at the same time as it seeks to determine what the study of Indigenous, riverine and peasant Amazonian cosmologies can contribute to a novel understanding of the relationship between non-human and human beings.
For several Amazonian communities, animals and plants are intelligent beings with their own agency and points of view, the result of which is the creation of different worlds that cannot be reduced to a stable and homogenous reality. Animals and plants, as well as myriad other non-human beings, have a social life, act upon and shape their environment, and this activity is expressed in cultural productions. Texts, films and artworks about the Amazon are the outcome of a complex, shared sociality that brings together humans and non-humans in processes of mutual learning.
ECO addresses the multiple forms of expression of those who have traditionally been silenced, extending this issue to non-human life. The realization that non-humans are not a passive background that humanity is free to mold in order to fit its needs and an awareness of non-human inscription in human cultural productions will prompt a reevaluation of ethical and political stances towards animals and plants.
ECO aims to contribute to the environmental humanities, offering different Amazonian perspectives on the field. The project broadens the scope of existing studies on the forms of expression of Amazonian animals and plants, usually restricted to specific genres, languages or time periods, and creates a deeper understanding of how conceptions of Amazonian non-humans have evolved from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards.
The project seeks to train young researchers through the completion of PhD degrees in the environmental humanities and the organization of advanced training courses. Conferences, colloquia and other events organized by the project impact wider audiences, in order to promote other perspectives on Amazonian cultures, knowledge practices and modes of being, in which non-humans play a key role.
ECO contributes to public debate about pressing environmental issues such as climate change, the degradation of the biosphere and widespread species extinction in the Anthropocene and draws attention to the importance of finding ways for humans to coexist with non-humans in an equitably shared planet.