Title

Environmental Management and Open-Air Experiments in Brazilian Amazonia

Publication Date

2015

Journal

Geoforum

Volume

66

First Page

136

Last Page

145

Abstract

In this article, I ethnographically examine "the biggest experiment in tropical conservation history," an environmental management approach designed in Brazilian Amazonia. I focus on research conducted by scientists who support this approach using the results of their work at an open-air experiment. Drawing on this ethnographic study I critically revisit Bruno Latour's deservedly influential ethnography of an open-air laboratory in Brazilian Amazonia. I also engage with his claim that open-air experiments constitute spaces in which scientists can avoid seeing the world as "Nature"-a gigantic collection of inert objects that experts sense they have to bring into order on their own. Latour shows that while working in their Amazonian open-air laboratory scientists perceived the forest as a network comprising human and non-human entities bearing creative capacities. He suggests that such experimentation enables humans to envision environmental management strategies based on human/non-human collaborations. In the open air, experts could thereby transcend the pervasive fatalism that plagues environmental policy circles and rekindle a more optimistic and enthusiastic stance toward environmental management. I argue that Latour's is a visionary ethnography that anticipates contemporary trends in environmental management approaches. However, I also argue that his celebratory conclusions regarding open-air experimentation are misguided. I show that, while working in the open air, the scientists situated their work within capitalist experiments wherein humans and non-humans creatively collaborate in the construction of new, less inhabitable worlds. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

DOI

10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.12.012

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