I was born and raised in the former Soviet Union in an ethnically and culturally mixed Tatar-Jewish family. When I was a teenager, my family immigrated to the United States, right at the moment that the Soviet Union ceased to exist. I imagine that learning to navigate and integrate these different cultural aspects of my identity as a child and a teenager had something to do with me eventually becoming an anthropologist. In fact, earlier this year, I wrote an autoethnographic essay where I think through some of these facets of my upbringing for the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Studies of Russia, which was collecting and curating immigrant stories in the wake of the 2016 election.
I received my MA in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2000, and my PhD in Anthropology from New York University in 2008. Currently I am an assistant professor and Graduate Program Director in the anthropology program at Monmouth University. I enjoy working both with undergraduates, and with students embarking on graduate studies in Anthropology, and helping them with pursuing professional placements with a terminal MA, or with applying to PhD programs.
Prior to this, I held appointments at Leiden University and Maastricht University. I am an environmental and visual anthropologist interested in human-nature relations and the cultural, political, and economic processes involved in their negotiation and formation. I am particularly interested in how natural resources are constructed and contested in global and local arenas, and the moral ecologies and economies that emerge when nature becomes a commodity. My long-term fieldsite is Ecuador, where I have been conducting research since 2004. My dissertation research focused on ecotourism as a space of cultural production in the villages of lowland Kichwa Indians in Ecuador; since then I have expanded my research in Ecuador to look at cultural meanings and social mobilizations around oil extraction, mining, and conservation initiatives in regions beyond the Amazonian provinces.
My research in Ecuador has inspired me to engage in several comparative projects involving other regions of the world. My next major project focused on the privatization of nature in post-Soviet Northern Russia and its effects on the eco-cosmologies and environmental subjectivities of the Veps, an indigenous minority in the region. The book, Long Night at the Vepsian Museum: The Forest Folk of Northern Russia and the Struggle for Cultural Survival has been published (University of Toronto Press, 2017) and is available paired with the documentary I produced in collaboration with the Sheltozero Ethnographic Museum, also available through the University of Toronto Press.
Over the last several years, my research has increasingly focused on the materiality of natural resources–this focus on materials also brings my research in dialogue with “green” industries, in particular, environmental design. Rural locations where many raw materials are sourced and urban locations that serve as hubs of sustainable design and fair trade industries are often linked through the trajectories of copper, wood, gold, and other elements. Most recently, this strand of my research has focused on biomimicry and the uses of nature as an intellectual resource.
I am formally trained in visual anthropology thanks to the wonderful graduate certificate program in Culture & Media program at New York University, and I frequently employ visual methods in my work in one way or another. I am particularly interested in how global inequalities are reproduced and contested through circulation of images, and in how various forms of media are mobilized by indigenous communities worldwide to help access political, economic, and epistemic networks of support.
I co-edit Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research–a peer-reviewed, bilingual journal that publishes empirical-based research across qualitative social sciences.
Here is an interview with me for the Anthropology and Environment Society blog where I describe some of my research, and here is me on Academic Minute / The Best of Our Knowledge talking about my ecotourism-extraction nexus project.
You can contact me at veronica [dot] davidov [at] gmail [dot] com.