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Between a deep past and an imminent future: human activity and environmental impact in early modern Amazonia

Grant number: 22/02896-0
Support Opportunities:Research Grants - Initial Project Research Grant
Duration: August 01, 2023 - July 31, 2028
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of Brazil
Principal Investigator:Camila Loureiro Dias
Grantee:Camila Loureiro Dias
Host Institution: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers: Eliardo Guimarães da Costa ; Fernanda Aires Bombardi ; Joana Cabral de Oliveira ; Laura Pereira Furquim ; Mariana de Campos Françozo ; Mark Harris ; Neil Franklin Safier ; Rafael Ivan Chambouleyron ; Tiago Luis Gil


What socio-environmental impacts did early modern colonialism exert on the Amazon River region? And how can understanding this impact using historical methods contribute to the analysis of current environmental challenges and the development of policies to mitigate the destructive effects of climate change? While archaeological studies have shown that the Amazonian natural landscape is largely the result of anthropic action, anthropology has shown that traditional and indigenous communities are also producers of biodiversity and have an important role to play in future projects. From the deep past to our contemporary present, Amazonian studies have in recent years convincingly demonstrated the ongoing contribution of traditional and indigenous peoples to this process: not only for conservation but also for the production of agrobiodiversity. At the same time, Amazonian peoples and the environment in which they live have undergone significant changes resulting from economic exploitation and violence that began during the colonial period. Putting these historical elements into the contemporary conversation through an analysis of the socio-environmental impact of modern colonialism on the Amazon region is the objective of this project.These problems will be addressed through two principal research strategies. The first is a collaborative and inter-institutional effort that focuses on human activities (social, political, military, etc.) that began to transform the ecology of Amazonian landscapes during the colonial period. Bringing together pre-existing research projects and those that will be conducted over the course of this project, such an effort will allow for the systemization of data and the elaboration of a historical synthesis that has not been carried out to date. The second strategy, closely aligned with the first, involves the mapping of these data into spatial categories, which includes the elaboration of a cartographic platform that can arrange, organize, overlap, compare, and share knowledge of a historical, ethnohistorical and archaeological nature.Our research focuses on the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, and can be articulated around two axes of analysis. In the first, entitled "Populations and Territories", the focus will be on demography, including population flows and the territorialization of colonial actions. Is there a correlation, for instance, between the locations of pre-Columbian archaeological sites and colonial missionary villages? Is there a juxtaposition between ancient indigenous commercial networks and enslavement networks in the early modern period? The second axis, "Knowledge, Work and Circulation", explores aspects of the organization and practices of indigenous labor during the colonial period that are linked to native knowledge of the territory, plant species and management techniques, and the circulation of forest products within local as well as Atlantic commercial networks.It is expected that the disposition of new forms of data in cartographic form will result in new possibilities for future research and in the expansion of the range of questions that can be asked about the environmental and social impacts of early modern colonialism in an Amazonian context. By expanding the frontier of historical knowledge through these analytic strategies, this project can contribute effectively to the important debates on the relationship between human action and contemporary environmental challenges. In addition to the aforementioned cartographic platform, data and research results will be shared through academic publications, dissemination through scientific journals, and the elaboration of digital didactic tools that are aimed specifically toward elementary and secondary education. (AU)

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