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Quantifying Cultural Values Associated with Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon (2018).  Journal of Land Use Science.

This study analyzes the distribution of cultural values associated with forest and non-forest landscapes among stakeholder groups shaping land use and land cover change (LULCC) in an agricultural/forest frontier in the western Brazilian Amazon.  The study addresses theoretical and methodological obstacles to the integration of cultural data and social science research into the study of LULCC, providing simple, systematic, and more accurate ways of understanding this missing feature of land change.

From Contested to "Green" Frontiers in the Amazon?  A Long-Term Analysis of São Félix do Xingu, Brazil.  Marianne Schmink, Jeffrey Hoelle, Carlos Valério A. Gomes & Gregory M. Thaler (2017).  Journal of Peasant Studies.


This contribution deploys a historical political ecology framework to analyze how decades of agrarian frontier change and land conflicts among actors on the ground in São Félix do Xingu, Brazil interacted with shifting national policy debates.  Nearly a half-decade of field research in São Félix is combined with data from a 2014 field "revisit" to situate the current "greening" of policy and discourse within the longer term history of frontier development, revealing positive social and environmental developments and persistent contradictions and uncertainties.

Jungle Beef: Consumption, Production and Destruction, and the Development Process in the Brazilian Amazon (2017).  Journal of Political Ecology 24: 743-762.

In the western Amazon state of Acre, Brazil, increasing beef consumption is directly lined with local cattle production and environmental destruction, providing an opportunity to examine the relationships between these processes in a developing context.  Interviews, participant-observation, and a standardized survey provide data on perceptions of beef and meat preferences, and how these relate to practices and patterns of consumption among a range of groups, from urban environmentalists to beef-loving cowboys.  The results reveal how the hierarchical ordering of foods, with beef at the top, maps onto similar hierarchies of status and class, as well as notions of strength and nutrition.  

Tenure Diversity and Dependent Causation in the Effects of Regional Integration on Land Use: Evaluating the Evolutionary Theory of Land Rights in Acre, Brazil.  Stephen G. Perz, Jeffrey Hoelle, Karla Rocha, Veronica Passos, Flavia Leite, Julia Cortes, Lucas Araujo Carvalho & Grenville Barnes (2017).  Journal of Land Use Science 12(4).

In the present analysis, we focus on whether land tenure type modifies the effects of highway infrastructure on key outcomes highlighted in the ETLR framework. We take up the case of rural settlements along the Inter-Oceanic Highway in the eastern part of the Brazilian state of Acre, where there is considerable land tenure diversity. Findings from multivariate models for land titling, the castanha nut harvest and cattle pasture all indicate that the effects of infrastructure depend on land tenure type. These results confirm the importance of dependent causation behind land use and bear implications for theory on land change, infrastructure impacts, and land system science.

Gold Glimmers in the Amazon.  Jeffrey Hoelle, Michael Klingler and Peter Richards (2016).  Sapiens.

For centuries, explorers have searched the Amazon for treasures.  Today, gold lures thousands who dream of finding their own fortunes, or at least a better life.  This photo essay examines how the daily life in the remote gold-mining camps of the Amazonian rainforest is difficult, dirty, and sometimes treacherous.  But that's only part of the story.

Brazil's Thriving Soy Industry Threatens Its Forests and Global Climate Targets.  Jeffrey Hoelle and Peter Richards (2016).  The Conversation.

Brazil's economy is teetering on the edge of collapse.  The country's political regime has been rocked by recent corruption scandals, and impeachment proceedings are encircling the nation's leaders.  And yet things couldn't be much better for Brazil's soybean farmers.

Rainforest Cowboys: The Rise of Ranching and Cattle Culture in Western Amazonia (2015).  Austin: University of Texas Press.

This ambitious interdisciplinary study is the first to examine the interlinked economic uses and cultural practices and beliefs surrounding cattle in Western Amazonia, where cattle raising is at the center of debates about economic development and environmental conservation.  Click the link below to read the full text, reviews, and more.

Trans-boundary Infrastructure and Changes in Rural Livelihood Diversity in the Southwestern Amazon: Resilience and Inequality.  Perz, Stephen G., Flavia L. Leite, Lauren N. Griffin, Jeffrey Hoelle, Martha Rosero, Lucas Araujo Carvalho, Jorge Castillo, and Daniel Rojas (2015).  Sustainability 7(9).

Infrastructure has long been a priority in development policy, but there is debate over infrastructure impacts. Whereas economic studies show reductions in poverty, social research has documented growing income inequality. We suggest that a focus on livelihoods permits a bridge between the two literatures by highlighting decisions by households that may capture economic benefits but also yield social inequalities. We therefore take up two questions. First is whether new infrastructure allows households to diversify their livelihoods, where diversity begets resilience and thus affords livelihood sustainability. Second is whether households with more diverse livelihoods exhibit greater increases in livelihood diversity, which would widen livelihood inequalities. 

Cattle Culture in the Brazilian Amazon (2014).  Human Organization 73(4).

This paper examines “cattle culture”—the positive cultural constructions associated with cattle raising and analyzes the paths that brought it to one of the “greenest” corners of Amazonia. In the western Amazon state of Acre, Brazil, the rubber tapper movement protested the arrival of cattle ranching in the 1980s, capturing worldwide attention with a message of sustainable forest-based development. Across Amazonia, groups who once opposed or were displaced by cattle are now adopting it—including Acrean rubber tappers and colonists. Drawing on primary data collected among rural and urban groups in Acre, I explain how cattle culture emerged in a state with a short and contested history with cattle raising. I focus specifically on the relationship between the cattle economy and cattle culture through analysis of three processes: local subsistence practices resulting in symbolic associations; the diffusion of market-oriented ranching and the dominant cauboi (cowboy) culture, and the ways that the two overlap and are negotiated among Acrean groups.

Forest Citizenship in Acre, Brazil.  Marianne Schmink, Amy Duchelle, Jeffrey Hoelle, Flavia Marcus Vinicio d'Oliveira, Jacqueline Vadjunec, Judson Valentim, Richard Wallace (2014).  Forest Under Pressure: Local Responses to Global Issues.

The sections in this chapter trace the innovations in laws, institutions, public administration, and policy to promote forest-based development, alongside the opening of policy-making to citizen input. Data presented from government reports outlining policies, supplemented by available empirical research, show impressive gains in stabilizing deforestation, expanding forest production, and favourable but uneven socio-economic impacts of the state’s forest development programs. The chapter documents the successes in transformative institutional and policy development at the state level, remaining challenges, and lessons learned in Acre for potential application of sustainable development policies over the long term.

Trans-boundary Infrastructure, Access Connectivity, and Household Land Use in a Tri-national Frontier in the Southwestern Amazon.  Perz, Stephen, Andrea Birgit Chavez, Rosa Cossio, Jeffrey Hoelle, Flavia L. Leite, Karla Rocha, Rafael O. Rojas, Alexander Shenkin, Lucas Araujo Carvalho, Jorge Castillo & Daniel Rojas Cespedes (2014).  Journal of Land Use Science.

We take up the case of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, a trans-boundary road being paved in the trinational ‘MAP’ frontier of the southwestern Amazon. We draw on a tri-national survey of households in rural communities across the MAP frontier to evaluate the effects of access connectivity on land use. At the time of fieldwork, paving was complete in Acre/Brazil, underway in Madre de Dios/Peru, and planned in Pando/Bolivia. This permits a tri-national comparative analysis. The results confirm different effects of access connectivity on land use by paving status; further, they also document crossborder processes stemming from trans-boundary infrastructure that affect land use. The findings call for more attention to the impacts of regional integration initiatives on landscapes.

Black Hats and Smooth Hands: Social Class, Environmentalism, and Work Among the Ranchers of Acre, Brazil (2012).  Anthropology of Work Review 33(2).

The objective of this paper is to increase our understanding of this enigmatic, powerful group through an ethnographic description of ranchers in relation to features of their villain label: elite status and environmental destruction. Drawing on 18 months of fieldwork with Acrean ranchers and other rural groups, I analyze the ways in which the ranchers conform to and challenge classification as an elite group in relation to economic and political power, describe how rancher status is constructed and expressed in social situations, and compare the extent to which other rural social groups agree with perceptions of the ranchers. Understanding the ranchers’ perspective, especially with regard to environmental debates, requires an examination of how they perceive their work in relation to history and ideology, and how they have adapted the term to defend their interests and engage current political debates centered on environmental preservation.

Winner of Eric Wolf Student Paper Prize, Society of Anthropology of Work, AAA; Reprinted in Open Anthropology 3(1), "Hello Anthropecene Climate Change and Anthropology" (2015).

Regional Integration and Local Change: Road Paving, Community Connectivity, and Social-Ecological Resilience in a Tri-national Frontier, Southwestern Amazonia.  Perz, Stephen, Liliana Cabrera, Lucas Araujo Carvalho, Jorge Castillo, Rosmery Chacacanta, Rosa E. Cossio, Yeni Franco Solano, Jeffrey Hoelle, Leonor Mercedes Perales, Israel Puerta, Daniel Rojas Cespedes, Rojas Camacho, Adao Costa Silva (2012).  Regional Environmental Change.

We suggest a more integrative approach to regional integration by appropriating the concepts of connectivity from transport geography and social–ecological resilience from systems ecology. Connectivity offers a means of observing the degree of integration between locations, and social–ecological resilience provides a framework to simultaneously consider multiple consequences of regional integration. Together, they offer a spatial analysis of resilience that considers multiple dimensions of infrastructure impacts. Our study case is the southwestern Amazon, a highly biodiverse region which is experiencing integration via paving of the Inter-Oceanic Highway.

Convergence of Cattle: Political Ecology, Social Group Perceptions, and Socioeconomic Relationships in Acre, Brazil (2011).  Culture, Agriculture, and, Food and Environment 33(2).

Cattle raising is currently the leading cause of deforestation in Amazonia, and an increasingly appealing and profitable way for a growing number of smallholders to make a living in the western Amazon state of Acre, Brazil. The Acrean rubber tapper social movement contested the arrival of cattle ranchers in the 1970s and 1980s, but cattle raising has expanded among smallholder groups, including the rubber tappers, over the past 20 years. Building on the legacy of political–economic analyses of Amazonian cattle raising, this study argues for an expanded view of cattle raising by incorporating perspectives on the cultural constructions surrounding cattle and intergroup socioeconomic relationships. Data obtained from surveys and participant observation are used to examine the factors that have contributed to the expansion of cattle raising across three Acrean groups, each historically distinguished by their unique forms of livelihood and associated identities: forest extractivist rubber tappers, agricultural colonists, and large-scale ranchers. It is argued that three factors have contributed to the growth of cattle ranching among these groups: political and economic shifts, which have made agricultural and extractive livelihoods less competitive with cattle raising; the spread of positive cultural views surrounding cattle raising; and the transition of intergroup relationships from conflict to cooperation in the cattle industry.

Winner of Robert Netting Student Paper Prize, Culture and Agriculture Section, AAA.

Postcards from the Amazon (February - September 2010).  San Angelo Standard-Times.

During my final year of dissertation research in Acre, Brazil I decided that I wanted to share my experiences with the people of my hometown in San Angelo, Texas.  I asked the editors of the San Angelo Standard-Times if I could write a column about life in the Amazon and they agreed.  Every two weeks I emailed a short story from Acre and these were published in print and online on Sundays in the column entitled "Postcards from the Amazon."  The articles reflected my research interests in environment and cattle, but I also used this as a chance to write about Brazilian life and culture more broadly, touching on topics such as soccer, churrasco, saudade, and the days-long experience of riding a bus from Sao Paulo to Acre.  Check out the e-book below to read through my postcards from the amazon.

postcards from the amazon.PNG

Cattle move along the highway in Acre, Brazil.

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