Jason Kauffman

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

2013 to 2014
Research Fellow

Terra Desconhecida: Nature, Knowledge, and Society in the Pantanal Wetlands of Brazil and Bolivia

Abstract: My research places the Penn Museum’s Mato Grosso Expedition of 1931 within a broader historical process of knowledge creation about the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil and Bolivia. The Penn Museum and the Academy of Natural Sciences house the collections of two of the expedition’s members, Vincenzo Petrullo and E.R. Fenimore Johnson. While in the field, the expedition devoted itself to identifying, collecting, and photographing specimens obtained from the region’s flora, fauna, and indigenous people. Instead of regarding the expedition’s activities as a practice in detached, scientific research, my dissertation uses the Mato Grosso Expedition as a case study to demonstrate how scientific expeditions were embedded within local, national, and international processes related to the expansion of the global economy during the twentieth century. In this process, local inhabitants served as key interlocutors, mediating and often determining the knowledge created by adventurers, government officials, capitalists, and field scientists in the Pantanal. Read more about Jason's research as a fellow of the Consortium here.