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Mara Dicenta

Assistant Professor

Areas of Specialization: Science & Technology Studies; Environmental Anthropology; Indigenous Knowledges; Latin American Race and Ethnicity Studies; Argentina; Multi-species Ethnography; Feminist Epistemologies; Decolonizing Science and the Environment; Settler-colonialism

I am an anthropologist and STS scholar studying the production of environmental knowledges and problems as they bear on racial and colonial legacies. To do this, I conduct ethnography with scientific communities and indigenous collectives, and I analyze policy and advocacy meetings, laboratory practices, and archival repositories. My work draws on Feminist, Decolonial, and Multi-species epistemologies.

I have conducted fieldwork in Tierra del Fuego (Austral Patagonia), where I examined the invasion of beavers and the long-lasting effects of settler-colonialism, the introduction of species, and the whitening of nature and society. In Virginia, I expect to engage in new and collaborative research with scientists and indigenous communities in topics that involve caring for the earth, environmental and multi-species justice, and indigenous knowledges and sovereignty. By studying the politics involved in the social production of knowledges across time, disciplines, and communities, I seek to advance decolonial and plural forms of knowing that integrate social, intergenerational, and interspecies reparation.

My first book project follows the history of beavers in Tierra del Fuego (TDF) to explore the co-production of human and nonhuman histories of violence, colonialism, and ecological imperialism. Beavers were introduced in 1946 to modernize and whiten a region whose peoples and natures were deemed exotic, invaluable, and uncivilized. Today, global actors are trying to eradicate the beavers: the fur industry was never implemented, and, without predators, beavers expanded while damaging TDF's native ecosystems. With methods from Anthropology, STS, and Environmental History, I analyze environmental methods, narratives, debates, concepts, statistics, technologies, maps, films, and textbooks to unpack the socio-ecological history of beavers and to trace i) the racial and colonial politics that shaped environmental visions and knowledges of TDF during the 20th century, and ii) the social and environmental consequences of such racializing visions. I found that environmental visions, whether colonial, extractive, or sustainable, not only transform how people know and intervene in nature, but also in society: While environmental notions in the 1940s argued that introducing modern species and white settlers would end up "dissolving" any trace of non-whiteness, today's global actors are repairing the effects of those visions with conservation agendas. These actors, however, are also producing new asymmetries either by i) acquiring extensive lands for conservation practices that are funded with elite tourism and carbon credits selling, or by ii) bringing universalizing ideas on diversity that foreclose the demands of local indigenous communities. Hence, while social science scholarship has often have argued that naturalizing something obscures its history and politics, my research shows the opposite: in TDF, nature has become a proxy for politics.
Dicenta, Mara. "White Animals: Racializing Sheep and Beavers in the Argentinian Tierra del Fuego." Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies. Forthcoming.

Dicenta, Mara and Gonzalo Correa. "Worlding the End: Edging Extinction in the Castorcene." Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society. Forthcoming.

Anderson, Christopher B., J. Cristóbal Pizarro, Alejandro E. J. Valenzuela, Natalia Ader, Sebastián Ballari, José Luis Cabello Cabalín, Valeria Car, Mara Dicenta, et al. 2021. "Reconceiving the Biological Invasion of North American Beavers (Castor Canadensis) in Southern Patagonia as a Socio-Ecological Problem: Implications and Opportunities for Research and Management." In Biological Invasions in the South American Anthropocene, edited by Fabián M. Jaksic and Sergio A. Castro, 231–53. Cham: Springer.

Archibald, Jessica L., Christopher B. Anderson, Mara Dicenta, Catherine Roulier, Kelly Slutz, and Erik Nielsen. 2020. "The Relevance of Social Imaginaries to Understand and Manage Biological Invasions in Southern Patagonia." Biological Invasions 22 (11): 3307–23.

Dicenta, Mara. 2020. "Can 'Southernized’ Science have Authority?" Science as Culture, 29:4, 621-624.

Dicenta, Mara. 2020. "The Beavercene: Eradication and Settler-Colonialism in Tierra del Fuego." Environment & Society Portal, Arcadia (Spring 2020), no. 1. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.

Campbell, Nancy D. 2019. "La criminalización de las mujeres embarazadas que consumen drogas." Original title: The Construction of Pregnant Drug-Using Women as Criminal Perpetrators. Translated by Mara Dicenta. Zona Franca 27: 320-341.

Dicenta, Mara. 2019. "The Abortion Green Scarf as a Boundary Object: Beyond the Curse of the Left." Somatosphere.
Ph.D., Science & Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
M.S., Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
M.S., Social and Cultural Anthropology, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
M.S., Sexology. Sexual Education and Counseling, Universidad de Alcala
B.A., Social and Cultural Anthropology, Universidad Complutense Madrid
B.A., Social Work, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
Courses Offered

ANTH 350 / CONS 440: Conservation Ethics

Indigenous Voices in Conservation

Environmental Anthropology

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