"How the Green Hell became a Rainforest: The Amazon as a topic of international environmental organizations from 1970-1992"
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Stefan Rinke (FU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Ricardo Pérez Montfort (CIESAS)
Forests have always served as a projection screen for a variety of ideas about ‘nature’ and humankind, thus shaping political, cultural and social practices and their relation to ‘nature’ or the ‘environment’ as well. From a historical perspective, those ideas can exhibit some similarities and continuities or stand in competition to each other. The debates on global environment and climate change of the last decades have shown that the region is understood by many actors of the environmental movement as the antithesis of modernity, on the one hand, and as its testing ground because of its ecological, hydrological and cultural characteristics, on the other. Closely linked to this view is the requirement to protect or save the rain forest. This goes hand in hand with the idea of a lost harmonious relationship between humans and ‘nature’. Often, the ‘intact rain forest’ and the ‘traditional way of life’ of its indigenous population are considered contemporary witnesses of a past that has been lost. The aim of this project is to analyze how the region changed from a predominantly scientific issue to become a broader concern in the context of the debates about environment and climate change. The question here arises of how some organizations and networks promoted this transition and of related knowledge and strategies. As a follow up, the cognitive and symbolic representations of this diverse region will be studied, trying to draw conclusions on the scientific and civil society’s responses in the era of accelerating globalization. The related ideas about nature and environment will be investigated by combining approaches of environmental history, cultural studies and spatial theories. This raises the question of what types of knowledge and spatial representations have been constitutive for the activism, thinking and strategies of those organizations and scientific networks.