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Revisiting "The Decade of Destruction" (1990): An Amazon Retrospective

March 18, 2022 9:45 AM
Riley Moran

On Friday, March 18th, from 9 to 4 in the Greenleaf Conference Room, Tulane community members gathered for a one-day, multi-disciplinary symposium. This symposium used the landmark Frontline documentary series "The Decade of Destruction," released in 1990 and directed by Adrian Cowell, to revisit the Amazon crisis of the 1980s and the subsequent transformation of Amazon studies.

What do we now know about Greater Amazonia that we did not know then? Tulane scholars and postdoctoral fellows from Anthropology, Communications, Political Science, Art History, Sociology, History, and Literature addressed topics related to the greater Amazon basin, including archaeological and ethno-botanical reconnaissance, aerial surveillance, mining and oil/gas drilling, hydro-electric expansion, deforestation, migration and colonization, cattle ranching, electoral politics, Indigenous environmental ethics, parks and preserves, and global action (and inaction). We know that the Amazon region is in greater peril now than ever, and not just in Brazil. As the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic fade, what is to be done? 


Speakers included: Adrian Anagnost, Moisés Arce, Idelber Avelar, Felipe Cruz, Gustavo Díaz, Kris Lane, Jason Nesbitt, Mauro Porto, Pamela Sertzen, Ana Watson (Calgary), & Andrew Whitaker 


A reception followed at the Latin American Library, 4th fl. Howard-Tilton Library (4:30-6pm)!

See a review of the sessions here:


Session I: 9am-10:30am 

Kris Lane: General Introduction + Key Film Clips 

Jason Nesbitt: "New Advances in Amazonian Archaeology, 1990-2022" 


Coffee Break: 10:30-10:45am 


Session II 

Felipe Cruz: "Aerial Amazon: Surveilling the Forest since 1990" 

Idelber Avelar: "Kopenawa: An Amazonian Indigenous Ethics?" 

Mauro Porto: "TV, National Integration & Amazon Occupation: Insights from Bye Bye Brazil" 


Lunch Break: Noon-1pm 

BATE PAPO on Jones Hall Patio


Session III: 1pm-2:30pm 

Adrian Anagnost: "Contemporary Art 'Discovers' the Amazon" 

Pamela Sertzen: "Amazon Burning: The Museum of Natural History Fire of 2018" 

James Andrew Whitaker: TBA 


Coffee Break: 2:30pm-2:45pm 


Session IV: 2:45pm-4pm 

Moisés Arce & Ana Watson: "Territorial Ordering in the Peruvian Amazon: Camisea Gas" 

Gustavo Díaz: "The Amazon and the Politics of Development" 

Audience: Wrap-up Discussion 


Reception: 4:30pm in the Latin American Library, 4th floor of Howard-Tilton