Dissertation Title: Infrastructures of Biodiversity: Herbal Medicine and Motorcycles in the Making of a Southeast Asian Border Trade
Working at the intersection of environmental, economic and medical anthropology, my research examines the working world of resource extraction in the Myanmar/China borderlands. Drawing on 4 years of fieldwork in this region focused on the herbal medicine trade to China, my dissertation emphasizes the place of biodiversity not only in global markets but also in the changing workings lives of rural laborers. Doing so means tracing the close working relationships that many rural workers develop with plants, from herbal field medicines that help them negotiate grueling conditions to agroforestry innovations and cash-cropping enterprises. To understand the borderland economy, I attend to the various social and material infrastructures (logging roads, motorcycles, militias) that facilitate the continued trade of natural resources across this conflict-ridden space. The result is not only a portrait of some of the key institutions behind one of China's "informal" global markets but also a look at how Chinese markets are remaking rural spaces and lives around the world. Alongside this project I have engaged in over a decade of advocacy work with indigenous and forest-using communities in Asia and America, which I look forward to continuing in future projects focusing on international indigenous conservation movements and efforts to regain control over (and foster the expansion of) biodiversity resources.