Book: Governing the Rainforest

Countless stories. Over a century of history recounted. A decade of research. Two years of field research, and three follow-up trips. One book.

My book manuscript is Governing the Rainforest: Sustainable Development Politics in the Brazilian Amazon, published by Oxford University Press. My primary field research took place in the Transamazon highway region of Pará state, where the Belo Monte dam was being built, where the Transamazon highway became paved, and where some of the world’s largest conservation areas were created. 

The book is about the politics of sustainable development, as plans for conservation and infrastructure become enacted in policies, lives, and on landscapes.  When planning is based on lofty ideals, what are the compromises that are made along the way? When plans for paving highways in the Amazon and building massive dams for energy are underway, in tandem with creating new conservation areas, how do people respond? How do social movement groups aim to shift those policies as they are being planned, and even, enacted?  While the Brazilian state aims to balance environmental protection along with goals of making Amazon lands economically productive, who wins, who loses, and why? I use ethnographic research and policy analysis as my main methodological tools. I explore how sustainable development is unevenly playing out, and what its effects are on lives and landscapes. My research conveys how people at local levels resist and respond to state plans, and how sustainable development ultimately functions as an accessory to state power and capital expansion.