By Miguel Alexiades
I was very sad to learn that our colleague Stephen Nugent passed away on November 13. Many will know Steve for his pioneering and excellent work on Brazilian peasant and ribereño societies, as well as on broader social processes relating to Amazonian historical dynamics and cultural politics. Big Mouth: the Amazon Speaks (1990) and Amazonian Caboclo Society: An Essay on Invisibility and Peasant Economy (1993) are both classic texts, as indeed is the volume he co-edited with Mark Harris Some Other Amazonians: Perspectives on Modern Amazonia (2004). His last book, The Rise and Fall of the Amazon Rubber Industry: An Historical Anthroplogy, was published last year and is a magnum opus in which he cristallised his interest in the Amazon, political economy and history. Steve had also long-standing interest in visual anthropology and the politics of representation: he set up the MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths’, and was involved in a number of visual anthropology and film projects during his lifetime, and to this we might add Scoping the Amazon: Image, Icon, Ethnography (2007) and Indigenism and Cultural Authenticity in Brazilian Amazonia (2009). More recently Steve had started working on ideas relating to the Anthropocene.
In addition to his prolific career as an academic Steve was a highly accomplished musician who, among other things, collaborated with Ian Dury in writing and producing the songs for his debut solo album New Boots and Panties!! (1977)
Steve’s original, sometimes acerbic humour and wit, his matter-of-fact and direct demeanour and his outstanding, broad, clear and critical intellect and analytic (helpful no doubt in his work for many years as editor of Critique of Anthropology) will be greatly missed by those of us lucky enough to have met him and by the many who have or will read him.
Read more about Stephen Nugent’s life and work at the Goldsmiths University Anthropology Blog