"A leaf is like a landscape": genomic political ecologies and new scalar imaginaries of the Brazilian Amazon

Authors: Katie Meehan*, University of Oregon
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Political ecology, genomic, scale, science studies, Brazilian Amazon
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Chenier, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For most of its colonized history, the Amazon basin has occupied a vast space in the geographic imaginaries of foreign and domestic explorers, politicians, and scientists. Alternatively seen as 'unoccupied' territory ripe for resource extraction and national development, or as populated by indigenous groups and organisms requiring 'care' and protection, the Amazon has been synonymous with large-scale territorial imperatives and development interventions, supported by advances in science and technology. What happens, then, when environmental science redefines the Amazonian ecosystem (including the roles of humans and land use change) through the smallest of units--the microbe or genetic sequence? This paper explores the implications of genomic ontologies and technologies--the science of tiny things--in collaborative efforts to integrate scientific knowledge about tropical landscapes and environmental change in the Brazilian Amazon. Specifically, I present a conceptual and methodological framework for investigating the scalar imaginaries of scientific practice. Drawing on a study of an interdisciplinary team of Amazon scientists, who seek to integrate knowledge "from molecules to landscapes," I analyze the logics of integration and implications of new practices and competing scalar discourses in knowledge production. The paper concludes with a call for a critical political ecology of genomic environmentalisms.

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