Chris N. Lesser F'20

Chris N. Lesser
Doctoral Candidate
Geography
University of California, Berkeley

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2020
Doctoral Candidate
Geography
University of California, Berkeley
Forests for the English to See: Looking for the Effects of Environmental Legislation in Modern Brazil

Sanctioning practices ostensibly beneficial to the environment while criminalizing others that apparently degrade it, Brazil’s post-1988 legislation has indelibly shaped the meaning of environmental care. Yet Brazil’s most progressive environmental laws have also served to authorize social and environmental violence. Employing archival, archaeological, and ethnographic research, this project demonstrates that empirical effects of environmental law have often diverged from statutory assumptions. Laws have prescribed “preservation” that in effect opens a path to dispossession of diverse socio-ecologies by land speculation and commercial agriculture. Rather than instances of poorly designed, or perhaps disingenuous, legislation, these contradictory outcomes reveal the limitations of juridical efforts to reverse the kinds of socio-ecological harm often associated with deforestation. This project explores how current forms of ecological authority have perpetuated, and in fact naturalized, environmental violence, and looks for other socio-ecological relationships capable of effecting repair for damaged environments.