RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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376 Amazonian geographies of the past and the future (1)
Affiliation Developing Areas Research Group
Convenor(s) Nina Laurie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Katherine Roucoux (University of St Andrews, UK)
Anna Macphie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Chair(s) Nina Laurie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Timetable Friday 30 August 2019, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Sherfield/SALC Building, Room 8
Session abstract Amazonia is once again emerging as an important focus for geographical research - science debates over climate change and new economic geographies of resource extraction are increasingly engaging with the rights of nature, indigenous ontologies and notions of ‘living well’. Often labelled, (and arguably mislabeled?) ‘post-neoliberal’, these agendas are shaping understandings of potential shared futures for our planet. Along with this forward-looking perspective, there has also been a renewed interest in historical geographies of frontiers, tropicality and past and present forms of exploration, as well as attention to archaeologies of pre-conquest populations – their mobilities and livelihoods. Together all these research themes amount to a growing, general interest in ways of living and being in Amazonia. This work is forging interdisciplinary trajectories, seeking to engage diverse audiences both within human and physical geography as well as with Geography’s allied disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and arts. These initiatives are spawning new types of funding, research collaborations and ‘communities of practice’. New methodological conversations are taking place at the interface of these agendas and an interest in the possibilities generated by advances in drone technology and remote sensing sit along-side a renewed appreciation for ethnographic endeavour and archive work. Participatory methods are now part of the suite of skills seen as core in approaches that range from ethnobotany and ecosystems mapping to oral histories, paleoecology and new forms of engaging communities in digital media and visual anthropology. This session seeks to attract papers from across the full spectrum of geographical research currently being conducted in and on Amazonia in order to explore what a renewed critical area studies has to offer understanding of Geographies of Trouble / Geographies of Hope in this multiply-produced and complexly layered region.

Co-sponsored by Latin American Geographies in the UK (LAG-UK)
Linked Sessions Amazonian geographies of the past and the future (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
The implementation gap between environmental conservation and poverty alleviation policies in protected areas of the Brazilian Amazon
Grace Iara Souza (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
In the context of the global call for poverty alleviation and people-centred development policies in the twenty-first century, this paper draws on interviews conducted in 2014 with federal and state agency employees and environmental conservation practitioners, supplemented by insights from residents of protected areas, in order to analyse how the Brazilian government is attempting to both promote environmental conservation and reduce poverty of the rainforest dwellers of the Lower River Negro (a major tributary of the Amazonas River). In an attempt to provide a political ecology of policy implementation, this piece sheds light on the challenges involved in, as well as advances in the practice of, socio-environmental conservation in protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon by examining the gap between policymaking and what is actually happening on the ground, and how the challenges this entails are shaping human-environmental relations, particularly within a context normally defined by the lack of human and economic resources available for environmental conservation.
Valuing intact tropical peatlands: an interdisciplinary challenge
Katherine Roucoux (University of St Andrews, UK)
Nina Laurie (University of St Andrews, UK)
Althea Davies (University of St Andrews, UK)
Ed Mitchard (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Lydia Cole (University of St Andrews, UK)
Luis Andueza (University of St Andrews, UK)
Charlotte Wheeler (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Anna Macphie (University of St Andrews, UK)
The large (35,000 km2) and intact peatlands recently described in Peruvian Amazonia are of global importance as they form significant long-term carbon stores and contribute to total Amazonian biodiversity; characteristics which provide strong justification for their protection. To succeed, conservation schemes must consider not only international and scientific, but also local priorities by engaging with the needs and values of communities living with peatlands. This interdisciplinary project aims to develop an understanding of the value and meaning of intact tropical peatlands to different groups (e.g. peatland communities, NGOs, government), how the peatlands are changing, and how they are vulnerable.
Revolt, fugitives and forest conservation in the history of the Caribbean Amazon
Simon Lobach (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland)
The history of the Caribbean Amazon (the only region where the Amazon rainforest meets the coastline – an area comprising Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, as well as portions of Brazil and Venezuela) is marked by a coastal slavery-based plantation economy with frequent revolts, and the establishment of significant mixed communities of indigenous people and runaway-slaves (maroons), who have maintained effective control over their lands until today. The Caribbean Amazon is also an area of relatively low deforestation rates. This paper aims to approach this low deforestation rate from a historical perspective, identifying factors that set this area apart from the rest of the Amazon and that may have contributed to the current reality. Based on a literature review, this paper is especially relevant given the current discussions surrounding indigenous, black and peasant groups, and their role in the protection of tropical rainforest to counter carbon emissions.
‘More-than-sustainable’ cultural forests of Amazonian pasts: the other side of the anthropocene and the future human habitat
Nina Moeller (University of Manchester / University of Oxford, UK)
The anthropocene, despite contested meanings and definitions, tends to imply a ‘negative impact human social metabolism’. On the basis of a nascent action research project on ancestral chakras (traditional forest garden systems) in the Ecuadorian Amazon with Napo Runa (lowland Kichwa) communities, I explore ‘the other side of the anthropocene’ in the praxis of ‘cultural forests’ (Balée 2013). Archaeologists have shown that multiethnic, multilingual complex societies thrived in Amazonia in abundance for 4500 years prior to conquest with a positive impact social metabolism - enriching soil on a large scale, increasing biodiversity and edibility, thus generating a ‘more-than-sustainable’ human habitat. Can we reconnect this past with the lived present and hoped for futures? Arguing that if the human habitat has a future then it can be found in that past, I also ask whether the ‘Buen Vivir state’ offers relevant lines of flight towards such a new paradigm of development.
Becoming one with the other: how Amazonian indigenous ontologies can guide post-human politics and change human-nature relationships
Maria Fernanda Gebara (Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia)
Post-humanism represents a turn away from the human/nature dualisms that are prevalent in Anglo-European political philosophy. Post-humanist debates, however, have been critiqued for brushing over important political practice issues (such as the revision of social norms and values). I look at affect theory and indigenous ontologies to illustrate their practical significance in understanding and framing nature-society relations. I argue that affective political ecology can help to ensure that post-humanism is equipped to engage critically with challenges posed by the Anthropocene. I engage with empirical evidence drawn from research on different indigenous ontologies in Amazonian countries, like Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador, to provide practical examples of how to re-articulate the relations between humans and other-than-human beings. The discussion and conclusion sections make a case for using an ethics of care that is attentive to relations between the particular and the universal and can inform how we view nature in post-human politics.