My research interests center on human-environmental interaction, with specific focus on human relationships to plants and soils. I have studied the management of Amazonian Dark Earth, a fertile “anthropogenic” soil associated with Pre-Columbian Amerindian settlements, examining how past and present human activity has shaped the botanical diversity found in association with it. I have also investigated the roles that social networks and folk beliefs play in the maintenance and distribution of botanical species and crop varieties managed in rural Amazonian communities.
Currently, I am developing two new projects related to agriculture and sustainability in the United States. The first project focuses on Midwestern farmers’ adoption of soil conservation practices. Specifically, this research seeks to identify factors that motivate farmers to adopt conservation management strategies while also looking at how such strategies may address challenges posed by climate variability. My second project investigates the use and management of human excrement in American agriculture. Human waste has been used for millennia as an agricultural amendment, but its application is severely limited in many industrialized societies. This project examines how cultural taboos, sanitation infrastructure, and legal regulation influence the use of “biosolids” (i.e. composted human waste) for agricultural production in the contemporary United States.
Kawa, N.C. 2016. Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Kawa, N.C., B. Painter, and C.E. Murray. 2015. Trail Trees: Living Artifacts (Vivifacts) of Eastern North America. Ethnobiology Letters 6(1): 183-188.
Kawa, N.C., Clavijo Michelangeli, J.A, and Clement, C.R. 2015. Household Agrobiodiversity Management on Amazonian Dark Earths, Oxisols, and Floodplain Soils on the Lower Madeira River, Brazil. Human Ecology 43(2): 339-353.
Oyuela-Caycedo, A., and Kawa, N.C. 2015. A Deep History of Tobacco in Lowland South America. In Master Plant: Tobacco in Lowland South America; Andrew Russell and Elizabeth Rahman, eds. Pp. 27-44. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Kawa, N.C. 2014. ‘Saving the Amazon’: Conservation, International Covetousness, and the Politics of Research. Anthropology Today 30(2): 21-24.
Kawa, N.C., McCarty, C., and Clement, C.R. 2013. Manioc Varietal Diversity, Social Networks, and Distribution Constraints in Rural Amazonia. Current Anthropology 54(6): 764-770.
Kawa, N.C. 2012. Magic Plants of Amazonia and Their Contribution to Agrobiodiversity. Human Organization 71(3): 225-233.
Dr. Kawa's CV (pdf)