I am a cultural anthropologist interested in human-environment interactions in the Brazilian Amazon. My research seeks to understand Amazonian livelihoods and land uses in relation to political and economic drivers, but also to expand the view through attention to cultural factors, such as ideals of work, nature, and masculinity, as well as food and landscape preferences. The goal is to understand why destructive environmental practices, particularly cattle raising and gold mining, make sense from the perspectives of different actors.


"From contested to ‘green’ frontiers in the Amazon? A long-term analysis of São Félix do Xingu, Brazil" - Link to open-acess article in Journal of Peasant Studies

Photo by Charles H. WoodThe Amazonian frontier, shaped by developmentalist policies in the 1970s and 1980s and a socio-environmental response in the 1990s, has historically been a site of widespread violence and environmental destruction. After the imposition of new environmental governance measures in the mid-2000s, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon dropped to historic lows. Many analyses of this ‘greening’ of Amazonia operate within a limited historical perspective that obscures complex and still-evolving contestation among diverse actors and projects. The long-term evolution of the frontier is illustrated dramatically in the municipality of São Félix do Xingu (São Félix). Emerging as a ‘contested frontier’ in the 1970s, São Félix in the early 2000s lost over 1000 km2 of forest annually, but since the mid-2000s, the municipality has entered a period of ‘greening’. This contribution deploys a historical political ecology framework to analyse how decades of agrarian frontier change and land conflicts among actors on the ground interacted with shifting national policy debates. Nearly a half-decade of field research in São Félix is combined with data from a 2014 field ‘revisit’ to situate the current ‘greening’ of policy and discourse within the longer term history of frontier development, revealing positive social and environmental developments and persistent contradictions and uncertainties.
Press release

Gold Glimmers in the Amazon, a photo essay on life in the illegal gold camps of the Brazilian Amazon, was recently published in Sapiens  The piece was written with Geographers Peter Richards and Michael Klingler and based on fieldwork conducted in the mines in the summer of 2015.  Michael's striking photographs of the mining process and the garimpeiros (miners) are worth a look.  

The Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) has awarded UC Santa Barbara anthropologist Jeffrey Hoelle top honors for his book “Rainforest Cowboys: The Rise of Ranching and Cattle Culture in Western Amazonia” (University of Texas Press, 2015). Full article from the UCSB Current.

UCSB anthropologist explores cattle raising, deforestation, and ongoing tensions between conservation and development in the Amazon

Cowboys of Western Amazonia-- Anthropologist Jeffrey Hoelle is as great an advocate of the Amazonian rainforest as the most ardent environmentalist. However, he argues, understanding the issues related to deforestation — or development, depending on how you look at it — requires a broad view that takes into account not only political and economic factors, but also the culture of the area.

8/19/16: Universidade Federal do Pará NCADR & IMAZON (Belém, Brazil)
8/16/16: EMBRAPA- Acre
8/11/16: Universidade Federal do Acre (Rio Branco, Brazil)
5/2/16: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
2/26/16: Yale Agrarian Studies
2/24/16: Brown University