Title

Environmental Management and Open-Air Experiments in Brazilian Amazonia

Publication Date

2015

Description

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.

Journal

Geoforum

Volume

66

First Page

136

Last Page

145

Department

Latin American Studies

DOI

10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.12.012

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