SLATER, Candence. Entangled Edens: vision of the Amazon. 1. Berkeley: University of California, 2002.
Candace Slater Department of Spanish & Portuguese
(BA, Brown University; PhD, Stanford University) is a Marian B. Koshland Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and the Director of UC Berkeley's Townsend Center for the Humanities. Among her primary areas of research are Lusophone Amazonian culture, narrative folklore, poetry (the literature de cordel, which had its roots in Portugal) and mythology with roots in both Portugal and other cultures that took root in Brazil. Dr. Slater is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the Ordem de Rio Branco, the highest honor Brazil can bestow a foreigner (1996) and the Ordem de Merito from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, an award generally reserved for Brazilians (2002). In 2000, she was selected as United States Representative on the Humboldt Commemorative Expedition to the Orinoco and Amazon. Recent books include Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon (University of California Press 2001) and Dance of the Dolphin, Transformation and Disenchantment in the Amazonian Imagination (University of Chicago Press 1994), as well as articles on topics ranging from folklore to landscape interaction. She is also the editor of In Search of the Rainforest (Duke University Press, 2004).
Candace Slater takes us on a journey into the Amazon that will forever change our ideas about one of the most written-about, filmed, and fought-over areas in the world. In this book she deftly traces a rich and marvelous legacy of stories and images of the Amazon that reflects the influence of widely different groups of people--conquistadors, corporate executives, subsistence farmers --over the centuries. A careful, passionate consideration of one of the most powerful environmental icons of our time, Entangled Edens makes clear that we cannot defend the Amazon's dazzling array of plants and animals without comprehending its equally astonishing human and cultural diversity.
Early explorers describe encounters with fearsome warrior women and tell of golden cities complete with twenty-four-carat kings. Contemporary miners talk about a living, breathing gold. TV documentaries decry deforestation and mercury poisoning. How do these disparate visions of the Amazon relate to one another? As she fits the pieces of the puzzle together, Slater shows how today's widespread portrayal of the region as a fragile rain forest on the brink of annihilation is every bit as likely as earlier depictions to obscure important aspects of this immense and complicated region.
In this book, Slater draws on her fifteen years of experience collecting stories and oral histories among many different groups of people in the Amazon. Throughout Entangled Edens, the voices of contemporary Amazonians mingle with the analyses of such writers as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Theodore Roosevelt, and nineteenth-century naturalist Henry Walter Bates. Slater convinces us that these stories and ideas, together with an understanding of their origins and ongoing impact, are as critical as scientific analyses in the fight to preserve the rain forest.
In Candace Slater’s book Entangled Edens: Visions of the Amazon; she starts off the first chapter, titling it “The Meeting of the Waters”. She starts this section off with describing a personal experience in which she saw an IMAX movie in the National History Museum in Seattle. The author gives the reader a descriptive picture on what the short documentary displayed to the audience, in including basic and interesting facts about the Amazon, “Here, in what has become a threatened natural paradise, a typical four-square mile patch of forest contains up to 1,500 species of flowering plants, as many as 750 species of trees, 125 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, 100 different reptiles, 60 amphibians, and 150 butterflies”(2). Slater continues to share her thoughts on the video, saying the video struck her as very similar to every other Amazonian documentary she has seen, making the Amazon appear “as an exotic realm of nature”(3). Slater also described the movie as “simplistic” and not what she had in mind, “But where were the less-glamorous swamps, and brush lands, the big and little cities that account for more than half the population of 23 million people for whom the Amazon is home?” (3)
Slater proved to have very high expectations of the video she was watching, expecting it to have a much more in depth look and accurate historical information,“But where were the descendants of black slaves, the Sephardic Jews, the Japanese agricultural workers, the Arab merchants, and the mixed-blood rubber tappers who have helped create the rich, distinctive cultures of an immense and varied region?” (3). Slater then continues to explain to the reader that this concept is the main idea behind her book. She claims that “Entangled Edens” refers to the various images of this terrestrial paradise (The Amazon) (8). Slater’s main argument revolves around the idea that the Amazon, or Amazonia, culturally, physically, and geographically vary tremendously because of the variety and area of land, and the amount of people within this area. Slater also argues in order for us to preserve the rain forest, we must understand it better, “if we truly want to save the rain forest, then we have to learn to see and hear them too” (22), very similar to Sarkar and Montoya. This section of the article related well to the class discussion in relation to our views and perceptions of society, and especially of indigenous people similar to Castro’s Amazonian ethnography article. Slater then continues to somewhat outline the structure of her book, she discusses how perception strongly influence and shape one’s ideas and thoughts about nature, touching on the idea of subjectivity, “The stories themselves make clear ways in which different groups and individuals use particular images to further their own interest.” (7) She also discusses how aspects of “outside” societies and cultures are hard for American culture to grasp, for instance, the idea of “Shape-Shifters” “Encantados” or “Enchanted Beings” having cursed or bewitched beings raising havoc for the tribe and how the indigenous people recognize this cross-cultural misunderstanding by telling Slater “These stories talk about a world you cannot know” (5).