Ethno-biology during the Cold War: Biocca's Expedition to Amazonia

Centaurus 58 (4):281-309 (2016)
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Abstract

This article focuses on the ethno-biological expedition to the Amazon headed by Ettore Biocca between November 1962 and July 1963. Biocca, a parasitologist by training, assembled a multidisciplinary team to carry out an ethno-biological study of Amazon natives. The expedition work covered the natives' customs, myths, chants, diseases and the hallucinogenic compounds and curare they used, and took into account plants and animals common to the Amazon environment. This article aims to contribute to the understanding of the 20th-century Western approach to the Amazon people and its cultural importance. It sets out to show how Biocca's encyclopaedic work related to the centrality of Amazonia and its peoples in scientific and cultural debates on modernity and Western culture in the 1960s, and how it connects to Cold War anxieties about the disappearance of ‘uncorrupted’ peoples.

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