Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Brazil Initiative

Jeffrey Hoelle - Cattle Culture and Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

12:00pm – 1:30pm

Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.

Cattle raising is the leading driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Most analyses focus on the economic and institutional structures contributing to the spread of cattle, but cultural beliefs, values, and practices also play a role in shaping Amazonian livelihoods and landscapes.  Across the frontiers of the Amazon, the growth of the cattle industry has been accompanied by belt buckles,  rodeos, country music, and deeply-held ideas of nature and development. Attention to this "cattle culture" provides a view of deforestation as part of broader cultural system structuring daily life, from the forest to the city.  

This presentation draws on anthropological research in the state of Acre, Brazil, the setting where Chico Mendes and the rubber tapper movement once fought against cattle raising and environmental destruction.  The core features of cattle culture will be discussed, including:human-cattle relationships, cauboi (cowboy) popular culture, perceptions of pastures and forests, and the social meanings and practices associated with beef consumption.

Jeffrey Hoelle is an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of California- Santa Barbara.  He studies human-environment interactions in the Amazon with a focus on the cultural beliefs and behaviors associated with environmentally destructive livelihoods, such as cattle raising and gold mining.   He is the author of "Rainforest Cowboys: The Rise of Ranching and Cattle Culture in Western Amazonia" (Texas 2015).