This course addresses human-environment relations in Latin America from the standpoint of environmental history and ethnographic case studies in the region. Issues such as biodiversity, land use and agriculture, transnational flows of natural and food resources, ethnoecology, and social mobilization around environmental issues are grounded in theoretical perspectives from cultural and political ecology. Particular attention is given to the relationship between indigenous peoples and the environment and to alternative models of 'development' in Mesoamerica, the Andes, and Brazil. After a survey of the primary tenets of environmental anthropology and a study of the trajectory of human-environmental relations in Latin America, the focus shifts to the nature of environmentalism as reflected in cases of resource use, resistance to specific types of resource extraction such as mining, and the impact of so-called mega-projects on local populations. Human use of the land and perceptions of the landscape as well as a consideration of the competing stakeholders involved in addressing environmental concerns will be situated in an ecosystems framework that requires an analysis of interconnections when practical decisions are made about resource conservation and management. The case study approach in the course privileges a critical ethnographic perspective in examining how decisions about the environment impact people and communities in particular areas. Issues of human environmental justice are addressed in some detail, particularly in relation to climate change and water resources in the Andes and conservation issues on the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Teacher: Matt Samson