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Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
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Seminari "The Amazon as an Anthropocene Hotspot..."

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 "The Amazon as an Anthropocene Hotspot: the German-Braziliancooperation on tropical ecology studies" (1952-2002)
André Felipe Cândido da Silva, Brazilian Research Council

Seminari presentat per Carolina Granado (PhD(c) iHC-UAB) 


10/04/24, 12:00h
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This work aims to analyze the cooperation between Brazil and Germany in studies on the Amazon rainforest between 1952 and 1992. Such studies focused on the entanglements between waterscapes, soils, and forests in order to understand the complex ecology of the Amazon, privileging its water bodies. The German limnologist Harald Sioli played a pivotal role in establishing this network, studying since the early 1940s the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the Amazon’s rivers and composing a team of researchers devoted to that topic. In the late 1960s, he formalized the close dialogue between German and Brazilian researchers through cooperation agreements between the National Research Institute of the Amazon (INPA – Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia), established in 1952 and the Max Planck Institute for Limnology, located in Plön, North Germany.

The German-Brazilian cooperation on tropical ecology was part of a broader effort of transnational epistemic networks to make the Amazon an object of global interest and concern. Since the post-World War II period, but mainly after the 1970s, these networks contributed decisively to developing ecosystem research and conservation biology. Researchers involved in this German-Brazilian network, like Sioli, not only studied the Amazon but also engaged in the denouncement of the alarming deforestation rates and unprecedented ecological changes caused by large-scale infrastructure and colonization projects during the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985). Especially after the 1970s, the Amazon became a symbol in the global environmental debate, epitomizing the various dimensions of ecological crises and their potential solutions. The analysis of the discourses and intellectual tools applied by Sioli and his group to understand the Amazon’s ecology helps to address a significant epistemic change in how the tropical rainforest was framed - from a regional landscape that should be subjected to development imperatives to a pivotal place for the conservation of global biodiversity, water storage, and climate regulation. The scientific and activist engagement of actors like Sioli within transnational intellectual networks highlights the Amazon as a crossroad of multiple connections and an Anthropocene microcosm by emphasizing the making of the epistemic and material dimensions that grounded the idea of the human imprint on the planet.

André Felipe Cândido da Silva is a Historian of Science, Medicine, and Environment affiliated with Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He specializes in the history of life sciences and medicine in Brazil during the 20th century, focusing on the circulation of knowledge between Brazil, Europe, and the US, as well as the interconnectedness of health, knowledge, and the environment. Currently, he coordinated the research group "History, Health, and Ecology in the Great Acceleration" at the Brazilian Research Council and directs the project titled "The Amazon as a Microcosm of the Anthropocene: The History of Transnational Research on Amazonian Ecology and the Environmental Impacts of the Great Acceleration (1952-2002)."