My research is driven by two central questions: What does it mean to be green? What are the dynamics of environmentalism in the context of globalization? Drawing from comparative research in Costa Rica and Cuba, I examine greenness as a quality that embodies both productivity and protection, has both un-environmental and environmental qualities, and refers to ideologies and actions as well as physical being.
One dimension of my research examines how and why Costa Rica and Cuba became internationally recognized as green nations. What are the characteristics of environmentalism in each nation? I consider cases including changing indigenous agricultural practices, organic agriculture, the development of a botanical garden, and national environmental ideologies. My dissertation on this topic won the 2015 John Addison Porter Prize from Yale University (news item here). I have presented facets of this work in several venues including American Anthropological Association conferences in Montreal, San Francisco, and Chicago; the Ethnography and Social Theory Colloquium at Yale; and the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. A 2014 interview on my work is posted on the Anthropology & Environment Society website, here.
How do sovereignty and the environment intersect? While the expression of some forms of sovereignty leads to environmental extraction, other forms of sovereignty are aligned with environmental protection. In this line of research, I examine different interactions between sovereignty and the environment, including national sovereignty, indigenous sovereignty, and food sovereignty. In 2013, I published an article in Development and Change that defines the concept of environmental sovereignty in the context of Costa Rican opposition to a transnational mine (link to abstract here). This article won the 2014 F. Herbert Bormann Award from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (news item here). I also chaired a panel on Sovereignty and the Environment at the 2016 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting.