Research

My long-term fieldsite, where I have been doing research since 2004, is Ecuador.  My dissertation research focused on indigenous ecotourism in the communities of Kichwa Indians in the Amazonian provinces of Napo and Pastaza.  I go back to Ecuador regularly, and over the years have become interested in a broader spectrum of environment-related issues and conflicts, specifically under the “postneoliberal” presidency of Rafael Correa.  I have written on the differences between anti-oil organizing in the Amazonian lowlands and anti-mining organizing in the Andrean highlands; the implications of Aguinda v. Texaco, the famous lawsuit against ChevronTexaco, for the cultural and identity politics of indigenous actors in the Amazon; the historical and and cultural dimensions of the conflict over copper mining in the Intag Valley; and the global imaginary of the Amazon as a “pharmacopia”–a repository of magical cures unavailable in the West. My next book about Ecuador will focus on how specific Ecuadorian natural resources have been constituted in space in time, and what kinds of transnational social lives they have acquired.

While Ecuador remains my fieldsite, I am also currently working on a project centered on the privatization of logging and mining industries in Northern Russia.  I study the impact of deregulation and privatization of this industry sector on human-nature relationships in communities of the Veps, an indigenous minority in the Republic of Karelia.  The field research for this project was funded by a Fulbright Scholar Program, and carried out with the help of The Department of Culturology at Petrozavodsk State University and The Sheltozero Vepsian Ethnographic Museum.

My next project is entitled “Oil and Water” and will focus on a nexus of oil and shrimp industries in Ecuador and in coastal Louisiana.

I am also involved in a number of other individual and collaborative projects. Recently I finished an article that engages in a comparative analysis of oil lawsuits by indigenous plaintiffs in Ecuador and Canada, as a part of a larger collaborative project on the anthropology of oil with Stephen P. Reyna, Andrea Behrends and Saulesh Yessenova.  Together with my co-editor Bram Büscher of the International Institute of Social Sciences, over the last year we put together an edited volume that deals with the phenomenon of ecotourism and resource extraction co-occurring in the same places from an ethnographic perspective.  The volume includes case studies from Madagascar, Kenya, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Belize, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other places.  I am also involved in an ongoing intellectual collaboration with Kelly Swing, the founder and director of the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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