Dr Chloe Nahum-Claudel

Dr Chloe Nahum-Claudel

Leverhulme Trust early career fellow

Department of Anthropology

Room No
POR 2.02

About me

Chloe Nahum-Claudel is a specialist in the anthropology of Amazonia and Melanesia, with research interests in kinship and gender relations, the interface between the material and the invisible world, and political relations at the frontiers of the global economy. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Brazilian Amazonia and in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The major fruit of Chloe’s Amazonian research is her forthcoming book Vital Diplomacy: the ritual everyday on a dammed river in Amazonia. The book is an account of the routinized ritual life of the Enawenê-nawê which coordinates fishing and agricultural activities and negotiates social, cosmological and foreign relations in order to assure the community’s health, unity and prosperity against an ever present threat of depredation. The pursuit of diplomacy via this eight month long ritual process is illuminated through an analysis of the ritual’s dialectical relational dynamics of gender and clanship, its food and cookery mediated relations with the spirit world, and its incorporation of vital resources from a hydroelectric dam consortium. The Book contributes to regional debate by synthesizing research on Amazonian fisher-agricultural cosmo-economies, providing a counter narrative to dominant representations of Amazonian societies as defined by predatory ideologies, hunting and warfare. 

As part of this Amazonian research Chloe has also worked on indigenous responses to hydroelectric damming in the Amazon watershed; appropriations of bureaucracy; and participation in cultural patrimony projects. 

In 2015 Chloe began a new project in Highland Papua New Guinea, to further her long held interest in the comparison of Melanesian and Amazonian societies. Both regions have served as laboratories for cultural critique and as privileged ‘Others’ for the discipline of anthropology. Comparing them displaces the modernist dualism between the West and its Others and opens lines of questioning in the field that are less confined by the blinkers of regional scholarly traditions. In particular, her focus in this new PNG research is on the relationship between the material and the invisible world in the context of the intractable problem of witchcraft. As well as being uppermost in the community’s self-presentation and in national and international policy debate, the theme of witchcraft draws on Chloe’s existing Amazonian research at the interface between the unseen world of spirits, demons and ancestors, and economic and social relations. In both field sites there is a similar perception of predatory, invisible agencies that determine human health and social and psychological well-being, but their nature and the kinds of social dynamics in which they find resolution is radically different and so is the postcolonial context in which they exist. 

Through a further eleven months of fieldwork between 2017 and 2020 funded by a Leverhulme Trust, Chloe will be exploring conceptions of witchcraft as they are embedded in kinship processes, gender relations and the political-economy. 

Chloe obtained her PhD in 2012 from the University of Cambridge. In 2013-14 she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the EHESS in Paris, and between 2012 and 2017 she was a Junior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. During this time she has been a principle researcher on a French National Research Agency Project on indigenous responses to the rise of immaterial cultural patrimony in the Americas (Fabriq’Am) and she has taught courses on Kinship and Amazonian Anthropology in Cambridge’s Division of Social Anthropology, and on Race and Indigeneity in the Centre for Latin American Studies.

Selected publications

In press Vital Diplomacy: the ritual everyday on a dammed river in Amazonia. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books

In press Pourquoi filmer sa culture? Rituel et patrimonialisation en Amazonie brésilienne (Karajá, Enawenê-nawê, Suruí du Rondônia)’ Journal de la Société des Américanistes. With Nathalie Pétesche & Cédric Yvinec

In press ‘The Curse of Souw among the Amazonian Enawene-nawe’. In The culture of invention in the Americas (ed.) P. Pitarch and J. A. Kelly. Herefordshire, UK: Sean Kingston. 

2016 ‘The to and fro of documents: vying for recognition in Enawene-nawe dealings with the Brazilian state’ Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 498–516.     

2016 ‘Feasting’ The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Anthropology (eds) F. Stein, S. Lazar, M. Candea, H. Diemberger, C. Kaplonski, J. Robbins, R. Stasch.

2015 ‘A people of stories in the forest of myth: the Yukuna of Miritiparaná, by Jon Schackt’ Journal de la Société des Américanistes 100 (2), 248-252. 

2013 ‘Warfare and Shamanism in Amazonia, by Carlos Fausto’ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19 (3), 659-661. 

2012 ‘Enawene-nawe “potlatch against the state”’ Social Anthropology: Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists 20 (4) 444–457.