JCB Fellow's Talk: Matthew Nielsen

April 18, 2018 - 4:00pm

Matthew Nielsen (Carnegie Mellon University), Alexander O. Vietor Fellow

"Unruliness at the Margins: Politics and Environment in the Lower Orinoco River Basin, 1680s - 1790s"

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the easternmost (lower) portion of the Orinoco River Basin sat on the edge of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish Crown envisioned the region as a site of great geopolitical consequence and colonial potential. But its social and environmental intractability, coupled with its inter-imperial situation, consistently confounded Spanish colonization. Resultantly, imperial histories and romantic narratives have cast the Orinoco as a wild frontier, desolate wasteland, and a pristine wilderness on the margins of Atlantic history. This project takes a different approach and presents the lower Orinoco as an unruly territory with an entangled Atlantic history: a Spanish dominion full of geopolitical contests (Spanish-Indian-Dutch-British-French), economic activities (mostly illicit), freedom struggles, and socio-environmental exchanges and adaptations. This talk sheds light on this history and conceptualizes the lower Orinoco as a fugitive waterscape.

The Reading Room will close at 3:30 pm.