Environmental Humanities and the Andean Mountain Range: Science, Geography, and Climate

AHA Session 82
Conference on Latin American History 14
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Ryan Edwards, Princeton University
Maria de los Angeles Picone, Boston College

Session Abstract

The Andes Mountains have been called the “backbone of the Americas.” Spanning the length of western South America, the range includes a variety of climates and eco-systems, and has been home to some of Latin America’s most powerful indigenous empires, as well as its most vulnerable communities. The environmental humanities provide methodologies and analytical frameworks to re-examine the Andes as a region, and some of its long-standing questions. For example, the Andes were central to indigenous cosmologies that influenced the work of Alexander von Humboldt, were the site of Charles Darwin’s revelations on geological forces, and yielded the theory of a vertical archipelago. Thus, while the Andes played important roles in understanding the sweep and scale of ecological and land-use networks, studies in recent years have often reduced their scope to localized issues and national histories. This panel strives to bridge this divide by re-reading colonial evangelical sources as climate data, examining the development of natural history and scientific institutions through geopolitical and economic concerns, and coupling agrarian reform with nutrition studies and carrying capacity. As a whole, these papers engage the Andes through studies of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, though always with an eye toward their broader implications for the region. In short, how can the environmental humanities help us to better understand the Andes as a region, rather than a set of isolated archipelagoes?
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