Imagining Amazonia Cartographically
What is the relationship among mapping, extractivism, and literature in the Amazon region? Why do so many novels about Amazonia written after the Rubber Boom period fixate on maps and geographic descriptions? Why do "literary maps" matter?
In this talk, Amanda M. Smith (University of California, Santa Cruz) draws on research from her book, Mapping the Amazon: Literary Geography after the Rubber Boom (Liverpool University Press, 2021), to address how 20th-century Latin American intellectuals from Amazonian countries reacted to the destructive effects instigated by literal and metaphorical maps of the region. Authors José Eustasio Rivera, Rómulo Gallegos, Mario Vargas Llosa, César Calvo, and Márcio Souza turned to narrative fiction to confront and contest the misconceptions perpetuated by institutional representations of Amazonian spaces. However, the literary cartographies of their now canonical works contain blind spots of their own that have had lasting political consequences. The 21st century has seen a rise in Indigenous responses to this long history of misrepresenting Amazonia, and in the second part of the talk, Smith turns her attention to this emerging trend. She focuses on cultural mapping projects by the Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa, the Surui leader Almir Narayamoga Suruí, and the Waorani leader Nemonte Nenquimo to analyze Indigenous Amazonian efforts to counter-map the conversion of the river basin into natural resources for the rest of the world. Because these Indigenous maps circulate in a cultural market that persistently marginalizes perspectives coming from the Amazon, Smith addresses the role of academic scholarship in centering, promoting, and amplifying those Indigenous cartographies.
Jennifer French (Williams College) will be a respondent for the talk.
Register for the event via Zoom here: https://cutt.ly/Imagining