Introducing: The Global Brazil Lab @Duke

This is a great time to be studying Brazil and Duke and the Franklin Humanities Institute are a great place to do it. The Global Brazil Lab rests on three tentpoles—culture, politics, and nature—because Brazil forces us to ask comparative questions, questions that cross borders of all kinds: historical, linguistic, oceanic. I've just joined the Lab as a co-director, along with historian John French and romance studies/visual art scholar Esther Gabara, where I'll be able to focus on bringing in the environmental humanities as we have wide-ranging conversations with students, community members, faculty, and guests from Brazil.

For more:

Posted in , | Leave a comment

Office Hours & Fall Course on Energy Futures/Environmental Justice

My office hours are now available for sign ups and if you're interested in taking the Environmental Humanities/Cultural Anthropology course I'm teaching this fall, there are a few spots left.

Leave a comment

Honored to participate: my poem on Lament For The Dead

Every day this summer, a community of poets, artists, and ordinary folk have chosen to lament the death of anyone killed by police or a police officer killed in the line of duty with a poem. Brooklyn-based writer Carey Wallace is curating Lament for the Dead.

Today, I added my piece to it, grieving the death of Victo Larosa III, 23, in Jacksonville, FL who died for $60 of crack and innumerable lies about what matters in life. Poetry makes us vulnerable--and I'm no poet, so I feel a bit abashed--but the issues of violence in our country are more important and worth the risk. Here it is in full.

And the first three lines:

When did we decide sixty dollars of crack
  was our thirty pieces of silver?
That we should take a life for so little.

More on Lament for the Dead's vision and purpose:

Lament for the Dead is an online community poetry project which will mark the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem. 

The first lie that hate tells us is that any other person is not as human as we are.
This project resists that lie by recognizing each other’s humanity, even in the most difficult places.

Posted in | Leave a comment

Strong Words at Wounded Knee: "F*ck historical trauma, we survived all and every act of genocide."

Looking south towards Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge really is beautiful.

A litany: "Fuck historical trauma, we survived all and every act of genocide."

The physical alteration of signs shows the struggle over how to tell the story of Wounded Knee (December 1890). Although originally entitled “The Battle of Wounded Knee,” someone nailed over the correction “Massacre.” And on the arch entrance to the mass grave: “Fuck Historical Trauma, we survived all and every act of genocide,” followed by a hand-written litany of dates from the 1803 “Illegal Louisiana purchase from French fur-traders” to the 1973 “Wounded Knee standoff.”

Everytime I visit Wounded Knee, I struggle over how to tell the story, but I wish everyone would visit the small hill in the southern part of Pine Ridge. And I especially wish everyone who calls the U.S. home would take the pilgrimage through South Dakota’s breathtaking prairie to the site.

A carefully, and obviously, corrected sign.

Although cameras capture the vistas of impossibly wide skies and gently rolling hills, they don’t do justice to the scent of sweet grass that perfumes the winds--the only sound except for the small chimes they awaken.

Wounded Knee is where Custer’s regiment, the 7th Cavalry, killed more than 200 Lakota children, women, and men a decade and a half after Custer fell to the Lakota at Little Big Horn. The 1876 engagement was a battle, the 1890 meeting was a massacre. In the dead of winter, their bodies lay in the snow while the wounded took shelter at a little church still decorated for the Christmas holidays. Medals of Honor were given to the soldiers who posed with their weapons and the poem:

"Famous Battery 'E' of the 1st Artillery.
These brave men and the Hotchkiss guns that Big Foot's Indians thought were toys,
Together with the fighting 7th what's left of Gen. Custer's boys,
Sent 200 Indians to that Heaven which the ghost dancer enjoys. This checked the Indian noise, and Gen. Miles with staff Returned to Illinois."
Close-up of the second half: "The meek will own the earth."

A close-up of the first half.

Leave a comment

Immigration, Deportation, & the GOP: Implications of the Cuba-U.S. Thawing


In a seemingly sudden about-face, the White House announced what everyone thought must come eventually: U.S. relations with Cuba have been normalized, ending one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. The U.S. embargo against Cuba has been dismantled and the first phone call between the presidents of both countries since 1959 took place at noon on December 17, 2014. Pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle responded on cue: Marco Rubio (R, the son of Cuban immigrants) criticized the move as "part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established";  John Kerry announced that the previous 6-decade policy had “remained virtually frozen, and done little to promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba.

As much of the focus is on how this will change the island, the decision has implications for the mainland, too:

1) “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” and Immigration:
Cubans have enjoyed a privileged status regarding immigration, compared to the rest of Latin America. The basics: if you’re Cuban and have one “dry” foot on U.S. land, you are automatically eligible for permanent residency.

Up to now, Cubans have never been “illegal aliens” because of the wet foot/dry foot policy. Those intercepted by the Coast Guard before touching land (two “wet” feet) are repatriated to a third country.

But with the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, the policy (which was a punitive response to the Cuban regime) is surely going to end. When will Cuban immigrants cease enjoying this privilege?

2) Stalwart GOP voters no more?
Since the 1960s, Cuban-Americans have been reliable Republican voters. They’ve wielded disproportionate influence, relative to their numbers, because they’re concentrate in one state (Florida)—a state whose electoral college votes tip the U.S. presidency. But Pew has noted that younger Cuban-Americans are less GOP-inclined than their parents.

This is a trend already underway. In 2002, 64% of registered Cuban-American voters leaned Republican and only 22% leaned Democrat. But just one decade saw a shift of nearly 20% for both: in 2013, 47% of registered Cuban-American voters leaned Republican and 44% leaned Democrat.

For the sake of comparison, 60% of Latinos lean Democrat.

So, what happens when Cuban immigrants face the same anti-immigrant rhetoric and politics particularly favored in some parts of the right? Will more of them defect from the GOP?

Or will the Republican party realize that, in order to grow, it needs to soften on immigration more broadly and that there is terrain to be won in this area? 

3) Deportation of Cuban criminals living in the U.S.:
As one Cuban-American law-enforcement expert (okay, my cousin) remarked, there are "hundreds, if not thousands of Cubans that have received orders of deportation for their criminal activities in the U.S. Many will have to be hunted down and repatriated." 

This will involve an unprecedented "rush" of law enforcement cooperation between two countries where such ties have not existed. Who coordinates that? What are the terms of these agreements? Will this lead to an increased militarization of the Cuban police? 

Posted in , | Leave a comment

Wheaton Alumni Magazine: Sustainability: Lessons from Latin America

My latest in Wheaton's Alumni Magazine, the Faculty Voice column:

When I tell people that I’m an anthropologist, an image of Indiana Jones, fedora-clad and bullwhip in hand, is often the first picture that comes to mind. Though I’ve never raided a lost ark or escaped a snake pit, I have seen the stunning Iguazú waterfalls depicted in the fourth film of the series. And I’ve heard stories that rival Hollywood drama from locals adept at debating energy politics.

As a cultural anthropologist, I research how people live in the world today. The core lesson I’ve learned is the importance of seeing through someone else’s eyes, not merely because we value diversity, but because it’s there we find wisdom.

I study renewable energy in Latin America, a topic I find more engrossing now than when I began my research in 2007. Yet, had I not heeded the input of an ordinary Paraguayan, I would have missed that path.

Confession: the first time I visited Itaipú Dam (the Brazilian-Paraguayan hydroelectric plant that I research), I was underwhelmed. Even though it’s the largest dam in the entire world (capable of powering 33 percent of California’s annual energy usage), Iguazú, the Argentine-Brazilian cataracts where water pounds rock so powerfully that the mist rises like smoke, eclipsed my present view of Itaipú’s concrete wall and placid reservoir.  

Then, one Paraguayan to my right murmured, “Paraguay used to have waterfalls like Iguazú.” He took my look of surprise as an invitation to continue. “But they were destroyed for that,” he added with a meaningful nod at Itaipú Dam....

For the rest of the piece, see the interactive version of the Wheaton Alumni Magazine.

Posted in , , , , | Leave a comment

From 1492 to Wounded Knee: A journey of learning & bearing witness

Day 8: Lakota medicine wheel in Art Alley, Rapid City
Day 4: "Off road" in Pine Ridge

Along with a colleague and six undergraduates, I took a journey of listening and learning over the past two weeks in a Native American studies course hosted at the Wheaton Science Station in the Black Hills, SD. Rather than approaching this as a class with two professors and six students, we were eight learners.
Day 1: Learning to raise a teepee from OLC Lakota Culture scholar

Day 1: The teepee
And, even more importantly, the "classroom" was as large as South Dakota and the "textbooks" were the dozens of people we heard from as they described their lives and the experience of the Plains' native communities' past and present.

In the midst of lamenting the horrors of Wounded Knee and White Clay--an 1890 vengeance massacre by the 7th Cavalry (Custer's former unit) and a pernicious Nebraska outpost whose sole purpose is to sell alcohol to Pine Ridge reservation, respectively--we also witnessed gleaming stories of hope.
Day 3: Bison herd in the Black Hills, back from 1900 worldwide population of 1,000
Wounded Knee was originally called a "battle" until a recent acknowledgement that the killing of 300 unarmed men, women, and children constitutes something quite different--the large red sign at the site tells the history and physically embodies the change. Note how the word "Massacre" has been nailed more recently on top, to cover the misnomer "Battle" underneath.

Day 6: The Tragedy of Wounded Knee
Day 5: Rainbows _before_ the storm on Pine Ridge
Day 10: Bear Butte vistas and prayer flags
The adversities make the triumphs all the more poignant: Oglala Lakota College, which is rebuilding the Lakota nation through education, and the creative economic development engine Lakota Funds. Over the past four decades, more than half of the teachers in Pine Ridge schools and of the nurses at the Indian Health Service have passed through OLC's hallways. At the time of the college's founding, the majority of educators and health professionals on the reservation were non-Natives. OLC indelibly changed that.

There were also moments of just pure delight: to wit, digging up timpsula (prairie turnips) and eating them raw right then and there.

Day 4: Digging for timpsula (prarie turnip) 

Day 10: Summitting Bear Butte, a sacred place of reflection and beauty.

Day 8: Visiting the ever-changing, fragile yet powerful Art Alley in Rapid City

Day 10: Bear Butte

Day 8: Art Alley

Day 10: At Bear Butte, yes: all of the bison was used

Leave a comment


Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by