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Diogo Cabral

Assistant Professor, School of Histories and Humanities, TCD

Diogo de Carvalho Cabral is Assistant Professor in Environmental History, Trinity College Dublin (TCD). Before coming to Dublin, he was a British Academy-funded Newton International Fellow based at the Institute of Latin American Studies/School of Advanced Study, University of London. He worked at the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) for seven years before that. His academic awards include the Journal of Historical Geography Best Paper Prize (2016) and an honourable mention in the Milton Santos Prize (2017).

Diogo completed his Doctoral Degree at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where he also obtained his Master's and B.A., though in different programs (geography and history). For the past fifteen years, he has been working on the environmental history and historical geography of Brazil, with a particular focus on the pre-industrial period. He is the author of Na Presença da Floresta: Mata Atlântica e História Colonial (Rio de Janeiro, 2014) and Metamorfoses Florestais: Culturas, Ecologias e as Transformações Históricas da Mata Atlântica, co-edited with Ana Bustamante (Curitiba, 2016). He also published around thirty articles in scientific journals such as the Journal of Historical Geography, Landscape History, Applied Geography, and the Brazilian Journal of History.

Currently, he has two major research projects. The first one explores the geographic and environmental implications of the introduction of alphabetic literacy by the Portuguese in native Brazil. Literacy can be construed as an exogenous technology introduced by hegemony-seeking, global-scale actors with locally disruptive outcomes. In Brazil, colonisation relied on a contextual, oral-literate ecology where alphabetical skills were strategically brought to the fore whenever durability, movability, and other technological advantages were needed. In what kind of situations was alphabetic literacy activated, and with which objectives? More specifically, the project explores how literacy helped the Portuguese produce colonial geographies both on the ground and in peoples’ minds, as far as sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Brazil is concerned.

The second project addresses the negotiated ecologies of forest clearing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Fuelled by massive deforestation, leaf-cutting ant populations expanded, infesting the most dynamic agricultural frontiers in the Brazilian highlands. How did such deforestation process alter ground-level, human-leafcutter ecological interactions? How did large-scale settlement and economic geographies shape the biogeographic ranges of leafcutter species? How has the expansion of ant colonies, on the other hand, affected human settlement, economy, and statecraft? To answer these questions, the project combines Historical GIS analysis of human population density and leafcutter species’ ranges with the more conventional qualitative interpretation of written sources that provide information on the micro-scale, day-to-day human-ant relationships, such as travellers’ and naturalists’ accounts.