April, 30 – The Falling Sky: Amazonia and Environmental Violence

We have a challenging scenario around the rain forest reality such as the recent multiplication of conflicts throughout Latin America/ between indigenous and lands owner/, rights activists, state development agencies and multinational companies over the extension of rail and highway networks,/ large scale hydro-electrical projects and the extension of oil and gas drilling or mining concessions. This has charged discussions on how to balance national development agendas with the preservation of non-renewable resources, biodiversity and the cultural integrity of communities. In this context, purely conservationist positions such as those advanced by strands of thought informed by notions of ‘deep ecology’, which go so far as to question communal forms of use and national sovereignties over fragile ecosystems such as the Amazonia rainforest, run the risk of reintroducing colonial agendas and notions of Latin America as ‘pure nature’ in the name of planetary salvation, thus ignoring the changing forms of conviviality between humans and their environment carved out by local communities and imagined by artists and intellectuals. By contrast, the more nuanced and historically complex notion of landscape advanced by this project as a contested site of thinking the (crisis of) relations between social productions of space and the places shaped and transformed by these, offers alternative approaches to current conflicts. In short, we would like to make a case for the creative and reflexive potentials of literature and the arts as harbingers of epistemological innovation.

This lecture is divided in two parts: on the first one takes place an historical approach about Amazonia and on the second one it is a close reading of the book The Falling Sky (2010) that has been written by a French Anthropologist Bruce Albert and the Yanomami Shaman leader Davi Kopenawa. The conclusion of the reading is a cross-section of historical data with the reading of the The Falling Sky.

Prof. Dr. Eduardo Jorge de Oliveira, Institute of Romance Studies, University of Zurich

[Image: Bruno Kelly/Reuters]