Carlos Fausto and Anne McClintock on Ecologies of Knowledges in Amazonia

Sunday, Nov 14, 2021
by Daniel Persia

On Thursday, October 28, 2021, the Brazil LAB hosted “The Makings of the Forest: Ecologies of Knowledges in Amazonia,” a conversation with professor of anthropology Carlos Fausto (Brazilian Museu Nacional, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and A. Barton Hepburn Professor in Gender and Sexuality Studies Anne McClintock (Princeton University). The event, which marks nearly two years since Fausto’s first talk at the Brazil LAB—“The Poetics of an Amazonian World”, with Rob Nixon—is the first public activity of the Brazil LAB’s new research hub on Indigenous Ecologies of Knowledge Across the Americas.

Fausto framed his talk with a series of foundational questions: what does it mean for the forest to be thinkable? What does it mean to think with the forest? Are forests made? How? By whom? How do we reconcile notions of ownership and property when thinking about the forest? As Fausto asserted, “most indigenous people do not see the forest as a human-made environment.” What are the repercussions of viewing the forest as “anthropogenic” when indigenous communities conceive of it otherwise?

Together, Fausto and McClintock worked through the multilayered and sometimes messy categories and definitions relevant to the making of the forest. Their discussion touched on colonial violence and the monetization of land, as well as ownership in the context of property, power and hierarchy. As McClintock so precisely summarized, “How can we rethink the legacy of some of the most profound and problematic assumptions about our relations with our environments, with other species, indeed with ourselves?” How do we understand the “complicated simplicity” of Amazonian societies alongside the “multispecies complicity” inherent in a more plural thinking of our environment? McClintock raised the question of time as it relates to the forest, suggesting a displacement of Enlightenment-progressive or clock time with an alternative fugue time, perhaps more adequately suited to the multivocality of the forest.

Questions from the audience provoked further conversation on resistance to the plantation model, females in the cosmosphere, borders of the forest, and the range of ethical questions accompanying human and non-human interaction in the forest.  

The event, organized in partnership with the Museu Nacional, was co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, the High Meadows Environmental Institute, the Program in Latin American Studies, and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.