Dr. James Andrew Whitaker, a sociology instructor at the Raymond Campus, will be on professional leave from Hinds in fall 2021 to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship and to further his research with Indigenous communities in Amazonia. This fellowship is funded by the French government through the MOPGA initiative, which was started by French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
The initiative provides funding for rising international researchers to affiliate with French research institutions and carry out projects in France. Dr. Whitaker was selected for this fellowship from a competitive international pool of applicants in late 2020.
During the fellowship, Dr. Whitaker will be hosted by the Laboratoire Ecologie, Evolution, Interactions des Systèmes Amazoniens (LEEISA). This research institution is located in Cayenne, French Guiana, which is the only part of France and the European Union in South America. The LEEISA is a unit of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), which is a government-funded research agency based in Paris.
As a CNRS-affiliated researcher, Dr. Whitaker will conduct fieldwork with local Makushi and Akawaio communities in the interior regions of Guyana. This research builds upon his prior work with the Makushi in Guyana.
“This research constitutes a new project that will be centered around local experiences of climate change and efforts to mitigate its impacts in broader Amazonia,” he said. “The project strongly emphasizes the role of partnerships with outsiders and outside organizations, such as NGOs, tourism operators and governmental entities, in local efforts to counter and curb climate change. It will examine climate change through the framework of historical ecology, which emphasizes the anthropogenic character of landscapes and their longstanding relationships with humans.”
Dr. Whitaker was trained in historical ecology during doctoral study in anthropology at Tulane University. This fieldwork will result in publications in academic journals and will contribute to efforts to mitigate global climate change.