UMW Professor Laura Mentore will be featured on the With Good Reason public radio program in an encore presentation that airs Aug. 19-25.
In the show, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” Mentore discusses her research with the Waiwai, an indigenous people of Guyana, and how she discovered the path of a special songbird from the rainforest to New York City.
Mentore, who is associate professor of anthropology, has been conducting ethnographic research with the Waiwai and Makushi people of Guyana since 2002, focusing on their perceptions of the environment and emerging relations with urban Guyanese as well as conservation and development NGOs in the region.
One thread in her research began upon observing the Waiwai trapping and selling a particular species of seed-finch, which she discovered was being transported to urban areas in coastal Guyana and smuggled into Guyanese diasporic communities in New York. She found that they are key players in a favorite pastime among coastal Guyanese men, a singing competition between birds known as ‘birdsport.’
“Birdsport is far more than recreational,” said Mentore, whose research sheds light on the complex economic and environmental connections between indigenous communities and urban centers in 21st century Amazonia. “For the men of all backgrounds who participate, it provides an alternative means of social achievement in one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere.”
With Good Reason is a program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. The show airs weekly in Fredericksburg on Sundays from 1-2 p.m. on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital. To listen from outside of the Fredericksburg area, a complete list of air times and links to corresponding radio stations can be found at http://www.withgoodreasonradio.org/when-to-listen/. Audio files of the full program and its companion news feature will be available online at http://withgoodreasonradio.org/episode/its-a-jungle-out-there2/ .
Mentore is an expert in environmental transitions and critical development theory, with regional specializations in Amazonia and the Caribbean.
Since joining UMW in 2010, Mentore has launched a summer study abroad course in Guyana called Ethnographic Field Methods. She also teaches anthropology courses relating to economics, food, medicine and gender, in addition to classes on Amazonian societies, environment and development narratives and ethnography.
Mentore has been published in The Social Life of Achievement, Anthropology and Humanism and the Journal of Cultural Geography. Her article “The Virtualism of Capacity Building Workshops in Indigenous Amazonia: Ethnography in the New Middle Grounds” is forthcoming in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory.
Mentore is a member of the American Anthropological Association, the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America Society and the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She also is a board member for the journal Environment and Society.
Mentore received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her doctorate from Cambridge University.