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The Cosmopolitan Amazon: A Deep History of the World’s Largest River
Building on earlier work that explored the history and mythology of the Amazon River from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, the project I am currently researching examines Amazonia as a transnational site for cultural exchange and circulation: a “cosmopolitan” history of the Amazon and its place in the global imagination. The aim of this project is to move away from a model that posits the Amazon basin as an isolated field laboratory populated by colonial bureaucrats and isolated indigenous tribes and instead to understand the region as a space in which waves of immigrants and eclectic individuals — from Bolognese architects and Russian princes to German naturalists and precocious New Englanders — contributed in conjunction with native groups to the region’s social, cultural, and intellectual formation. Scholars have often considered Amazonian history as a series of predominantly local phenomena, removed from their transoceanic implications. By arguing that Amazonia became consolidated as a geographical notion and a global phenomenon during this earlier and often understudied historical period, my project will redefine the region and situate its emergence within the complex global politics of an imperial age. My aim is to use the insights of archaeology, anthropology, and global history to rethink the Amazonian past with regard to more ambitious time scales and broader geographical circuits.
To watch a video (in Portuguese) by the Brazilian filmmaker Jorge Bodansky interviewing Professor Safier about the Amazon River and its future, click here.
Luso-Atlantic Itineraries in an Age of Revolution
This project consists of a collection of essays that will be suitable for use in undergraduate courses on European, Latin American, and Atlantic history. The essays follow a group of Luso-Brazilian actors on the Atlantic stage during the critical half-century between 1775 and 1825. During this period of Atlantic revolutions, including Brazil’s own separation from the Portuguese crown in 1822, agents of the Portuguese empire focused their attention on procuring agro-industrial commodities across a range of Atlantic environments, including Portuguese America, the nascent United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Portuguese Africa. Each of the five chapters focuses on an individual and on a particular activity related to Atlantic exploration and commercial exploitation in a colonial context: Hipólito José da Costa’s journey to Philadelphia and role of the press in fomenting natural knowledge, as well as the constitution of a political impulse around the abolition of the slave trade; Frei José Mariano da Conceição Veloso and the nexus between botanical exploration and Portuguese cultures of print; Manoel da Gama Lobo d’Almada and the politics surrounding Iberian border disputes in northern Amazonia; Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira and the place of indigenous cultures in procuring and exploiting natural historical knowledge; and, finally, Francisco José de Lacerda e Almeida’s aborted project to construct a commercial route in equatorial Africa between Angola and Mozambique, thereby connecting Portuguese colonies across the Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean. Combining environmental history with the history of science and Enlightenment political thought, Luso-Atlantic Itineraries revises and deepens the important work of Maria Odila de Leite Silva Dias, Fernando Novais, and Kenneth Maxwell on the so-called “Generation of the 1790s,” showing the considerable diversity not in the crown’s overarching ideology but in the social and material itineraries of the agents themselves.
For a full CV in PDF form, click here.
Measuring the New World: Enlightenment Science and South America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. Paperback edition forthcoming, 2012.
Winner of the 2009 Gilbert Chinard Prize from the Society for French Historical Studies and the Institut Français de Washington.
To hear an online interview with Professor Safier about Measuring the New World, click here.
Articles in Print
“Of Mosquitoes and Men: A Conversation with J.R. McNeill,” Atlantic Studies: Literary, Cultural and Historical Perspectives 9.4 (2012): 377-385.
“Climates of the Enlightenment: Humboldt, the Torrid Zone, and the Eighteenth Century” in Vera Kutzinski, Ottmar Ette, and Laura Dassow Walls, eds., Alexander von Humboldt and the Americas. Berlin: Verlag Walter Frey, 2012.
“Instruções e impressões: Hipólito da Costa, Conceição Veloso, e a ciência joanina,” in Lorelai Kury and Heloisa Gesteira, eds., Ensaios de história das ciências no Brasil das Luzes à nação independente. Rio de Janeiro: EdUerj, 2012.
“AHR Conversation: Historical Perspectives on the Circulation of Information,” with American Historical Review 116.5 (December, 2011): 1393-1435. [PDF]
“Myths and Measurement,” in Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader, Jordana Dym and Karl Offen, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).
“Transformations de la zone torride: Les répertoires de la nature tropicale à l'époque des Lumières,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 66.1 (2011). [PDF]
“Itineraries of Atlantic Science: New Questions, New Approaches, New Directions,” Atlantic Studies: Literary, Cultural and Historical Perspectives 7.4 (2010): 357-364. [PDF]
“Apropriação Indevida,” Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional 57 (June, 2010).
“Global Knowledge on the Move: Itineraries, Amerindian Narratives, and Deep Histories of Science,” Isis vol. 101, no. 1 (March, 2010): 133-45. [PDF]
“Como era ardiloso o meu francês: Charles-Marie de la Condamine e a Amazônia das Luzes,” Revista Brasileira de História (São Paulo) vol. 29, no. 57 (2009): 91-114. [PDF]
“Cidadãos e soberanos: A chegada da corte portuguesa na ótica norte-americana,” Revista da Universidade de São Paulo 79 (2008): 44-53. [PDF]
“Spies, Dyes, and Leaves: Agro-Intermediaries, Luso-Brazilian Couriers, and the Printed Worlds They Sowed,” in Simon Schaffer, Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj, and James Delbourgo, eds., The Brokered World: Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770-1830 (Uppsala: Science History Publications, 2009). [PDF]
“The Confines of the Colony: Boundaries, Ethnographic Landscapes, and Imperial Cartography in Iberoamerica.” In James Akerman, ed., The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). [PDF]
“Fruitless Botany: Joseph de Jussieu’s South American Odyssey.” In Science and Empire in the Atlantic World, eds. James Delbourgo and Nicolas Dew (New York: Routledge, 2007). [PDF]
“‘Every day that I travel... is a page that I turn’: Reading and Observing in Eighteenth-Century Amazonia.” Huntington Library Quarterly 70.1 (2007):103-128. [PDF]
“Mapping Maritime Triumph and the Enchantment of Empire: Portuguese Literature of the Renaissance.” In The History of Cartography: Cartography in the European Renaissance, ed. David Woodward (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) (co-authored with Ilda Mendes dos Santos). [PDF]
“‘…To Collect and Abridge… Without Changing Anything Essential’: Rewriting Incan History at the Parisian Jardin du Roi,” Book History, vol. 7 (2004): 63-96. [PDF]
Grants, Honours, Prizes
UBC Killam Research Prize, awarded in recognition of outstanding research and scholarly contributions to the university, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 2012.
Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) Visiting Fellowship (awarded in 2011; to be taken in Easter Term, 2013), University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Exploratory Workshop Grant for “Artefacts of Encounter: Cross-Cultural Exchange in Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspective” (to be held in 2013), Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, UBC, 2011.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant for “Itineraries Across the Atlantic: Science and Imperial Reconnaissance in an Age of Revolutions” (2011-2014).
Long-Term Dibner History of Science Research Fellowship, Huntington Library, San Marino, California (2011-12).
Short Term Research Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library (2011-12) [declined].
Visiting Research Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (2009-10).
Early Career Scholar, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia (2009-10).
Gilbert Chinard Prize for Measuring the New World: Enlightenment Science and South America. This prize is awarded for books on the history of themes shared by France and North, Central, or South America. Society for French Historical Studies and Institut Français d’Amérique (2009).
Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Grant, for project entitled “Global Encounters: An Interdisciplinary Project for Enhancing the Teaching of Cultural Contact and Exchange”, University of British Columbia (2009).
Hampton Faculty Research Grant, University of British Columbia (2008-10).
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, Penn Humanities Forum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2006-7).
Short-Term Grant for Research in Atlantic History, International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2006).
Faculty Research Fellowship, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2005).
The William Koren, Jr. Prize, Honorable Mention, Society for French Historical Studies (2005). Awarded for article in Book History, vol. 7, 2004.
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) Graduate Student Essay Prize (2004). Awarded for article in Book History, vol. 7, 2004.
Arthur and Janet Holzheimer Fellowship in the History of Cartography, Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Madison (2004).
Franklin Research Grant, American Philosophical Society, for summer research project entitled “The Politics of Print in the Court of Fernando VI” (2004).
Michigan Society of Fellows, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Three-year postdoctoral fellowship with joint appointment as assistant professor of history (2003-2006).
Dibner Library for the History of Science Residential Fellowship, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (2002).
Dean’s Teaching Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. Awarded fellowship for “Unveiling the New World: European Cartography and the Americas, 1492-1750” (2002).
Charles H. Watts Short-Term Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI (2002).
J. B. Harley Research Fellowship in the History of Cartography, British Library, London. Awarded short-term fellowship for research in the British Library, National Maritime Museum, and the Royal Geographic Society (2001).
Bourse de Recherches, Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris, France. Short-term fellowship for research in Portuguese archives (2001).
Bourse Chateaubriand, Ministère des Affaires Etrangeres, France. Research fellowship awarded by French government for dissertation research in France (2000-2001).
Fulbright Fellowship. Awarded by Commission Franco-Américaine d’Echanges Universitaires et Culturels for dissertation research in France (1999-2000).
Alexander O. Lovejoy Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University. Graduate research fellowship awarded by history department (1999-2000).
Walter W. Ristow Prize for Cartographic History and Map Librarianship, Washington Map Society, Washington, DC (1999). Awarded for article in The Portolan, vol. 46, 1999-2000.
International Society for the History of the Discoveries Annual Essay Prize (1999). Awarded for article in Terrae Incognitae, vol. 33, 2001.
Program for Cultural Cooperation between the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture and U.S. Universities. Grant awarded for dissertation research in Spain (2000).
National Library Summer Research Fellowship, Lisbon, Portugal. Awarded by the Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa and the Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (1999).
“SEDE” Technology Fellowship, Johns Hopkins University. Awarded for project to integrate web-based technologies into the Humanities curriculum (1999).