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Accepted Paper:

The "courage of knowing" through Amazonian chains of collaboration  
David Rojas (Bucknell University)

Paper short abstract:

I examine the claim of an Amazonian farmer that, if I wanted to know the basin, I would need “courage” to collaborate with landholders. For him, “knowing” required learning to help deploy machines and agro-chemicals that were destroying ecologies inhabited by a wide range of humans and non-humans.

Paper long abstract:

"You have to be courageous" the farmer insisted during a conversation in which he invited me to study unfolding Amazonian transformations from the perspective of people like him. In what became a familiar part of most conversations I had with mid-size landholders in Southern Amazonia, the farmer suggested a collaborative partnership: He would help me grasp the difficulties of transforming native ecologies into ranches and farms. Meanwhile, my sympathetic depictions of these transformations would help Amazonian landholders like him counter environmental critiques that made it hard for them to expand their economic operations in the basin. In this paper, I examine the relationship between "courage" and "knowledge" that the aforementioned landholder established while proposing a partnership that would generate new knowledge and novel Amazonian ecologies. I explain that, from my interlocutor's perspective, I needed "courage" insofar as "knowing" Amazonia was not synonymous with crafting truthful representations of the basin. Rather, in order to know, the researcher had to be open to join chains of collaboration: associations wherein partnerships with one party linked the newcomer to a wide range of persons and entities with whom that party was already connected. His proposal to collaborate entailed talking to and learning from other landholders, interacting with the landscapes they shaped, and contributing to world-changing deployments of machines, agro-chemicals, and genetically modified seeds. He suggested I needed courage also to reconcile myself to extending chains of collaboration that we both knew could destroy ecologies inhabited by a wide range of humans and non-humans.

Panel P053
The limits of collaboration
  Session 1