RGP - Excerpts Explore Magazine Volume 1 Issue 1


The Enchanted Amazon Rain Forest

Stories from a Vanishing World
Nigel J.H. Smith
University Press of Florida
"A masterpiece ... In beautiful and readable prose, the author has deftly shown how folk beliefs, myths, and superstitions regulate lives and activities in primitive societies and how they often contribute to environmental conservation."

Richard Evans Schultes, Harvard Botanical Museum

"This marvelous book, written in an engaging style, reveals the richness of caboclo folklore and, in doing so, unveils the complexity and nuances of the caboclo way of life ... wonderful descriptions and accounts of folk beliefs, the entire cast of spirit beings that dwell in the imagination of the people and inform their lives."

Wade Davis, Caribbean Institute of Anthropology and Sociology, Caracas, Venezuela

Concern mounts daily about the fate of fragile tropical forests and their indigenous people. This original collection of the folklore of peasants living in the Amazon Basin, who regard their environment with awe and respect, focuses on the significance of myths and legends as a message of conservation.

Compiled during Nigel Smith's quarter century of field work in Amazonia, the stories reflect the resilient culture of millions of small farmers, hunters and fisherfolk along the region's waterways and pioneer roads. Their lore is an intriguing blend of indigenous, European and African religious beliefs spanning all aspects of daily life and including a wide assortment of ghosts, monsters and enchanted places.

Many legends were conceived to entertain audiences with colorful and inspiring stories; indirectly, they serve to relieve some of the pressure on animal and plant life -- for example, excessive greed when harvesting forest products, hunting or fishing can provoke the ire and punishment of supernatural game wardens. Pugnacious black sows, giant white dogs and three-legged cows affect the fates of other transgressors.

As a backdrop to the tales, Smith provides information on the flora and fauna of the area, on the geographical and historical setting and in particular on the problems of rain forest conservation. All is not lost, he says. Young people in rural areas still recount tales of spirit protectors, and the region is experiencing a revival of traditional cultural practices.

With its intimate photographs, also by Nigel Smith, this book will appeal to the general public as will as to ecologists, anthropologists, botanists, natural historians and all others working in the Amazon Basin.


Nigel J.H. Smith is a professor of geography at the University of Florida. He is the author or co-author of 10 books, including Floods of Fortune: Ecology and Economy along the Amazon; Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People; Tropical Forests and Their Crops; Rainforest Corridors; and Man, Fishes, and the Amazon.

The New History of Florida

Michael Gannon, Editor
University Press of Florida

The New History of Florida, the first comprehensive history of the state to be written in a quarter of a century, is the culmination of the most recent and significant work from a galaxy of specialists. Each of the 22 chapters, which weave together in one continuous narrative, was written especially for this volume. Their authors present here not only political, economic, military and religious information, but also social history and personal experiences. Endnotes and a bibliography are appended to each chapter.

Florida's first inhabitants entered the peninsula and panhandle about 10,000 years ago. The Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513 and called the place La Florida. More than three centuries of Spanish and English colonial history followed before the United States acquired Florida in 1821. The first state flag was raised over a new capitol in Tallahassee on May 26, 1845.

Written to observe the sesquicentennial of statehood, this work documents the rich history of the Sunshine State for general readers, students and scholars well into the 21st century.


Michael Gannon, volume editor, is Distinguished Service Professor of History and director of the Institute for Early Contact Period Studies at the University of Florida. He is the author of Rebel Bishop; The Cross in the Sand: The Early Catholic Church in Florida, 1513-1870; Operation Drumbeat; and the novel Secret Mission, as well as the best-selling Florida: A Short History, which won a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association for State and Local History.


Columbia University Press

In the United States today, the average adult sees and hears some 3,000 advertisements each day. Children, who watch an average of more than 28 hours of television a week (which translates into 40 school days per year), will spend years of their lives watching commercials. In ADCULT USA, James Twitchell, author of the acclaimed Carnival Culture, takes us into the little-explored world of Madison Avenue in order to explain how "a few words from our sponsor" became a torrent.

Many cultural critics spend a great deal of time grousing about the general decline in "basic" knowledge, and advertising -- deemed "cultural garbage" -- usually takes much of the blame. Only a few generations ago, these pundits claim, any half-wit could quote from The Canterbury Tales at a cocktail party. Today , a fair percentage of high school graduates would probably have to ask who Chaucer is, but the vast majority know which team won the Bud Bwl last year. Indeed, advertising has become a Western canon of its own.

ADCULT USA is not a bitter rant about how low our society has sunk when we recognize a Burger King jingle more readily than Beethoven's Fifth. Twitchell points out the hard truth: we like to be advertised to. He shows us that advertising, frequently accused of creating artificial desire, only channels a craving that was already there in the first place.

ADCULT USA helps us understand why advertising has become the dominant meaning-making system in American culture and satisfies our desires in fundamental ways. Until some alternative system arises to satisfy those longings, Twitchell argues, advertising will continue not only to endure but to triumph.


James B. Twitchell is Alumni Professor of English at the University of Florida. He is the author of a number of books, including Carnival Culture: The Trashing of Taste in America; Preposterous Violence: Fables of Aggression in Modern Culture; Dreadful Pleasures: An Anatomy of Modern Horror; and Forbidden Partners: The Incest Taboo in Modern Culture.

Democracy, Dialogue, and Environmental Disputes

The Contested Languages of Social Regulation
Bruce A. Williams and Albert R. Matheny
Yale University Press

At every level of government, environmental regulation is under siege. In Washington, it has been attacked first through the "New Federalism" and now through the "Contract with America." Outside the capital, environmental regulation is the subject of controversy as state and local officials struggle with new responsibilities, threats of industry exit and challenges from grassroots groups.

This book addresses the conundrum of regulation by tracing its source to the competing characterizations of regulatory legitimacy that have accompanied the growth of the American state. Bruce Williams and Albert Matheny identify three distinct languages -- managerial, pluralist and communitarian -- used to articulate competing visions of regulation. They argue that each language posits a different understanding of the public interest and therefore a different relationship between the state, the market and the public. Because all three languages are invoked in regulatory debates, disputants talk past one another, leaving fundamental issues of legitimacy and democracy unresolved or masked by unexamined assumptions. The authors propose a dialogic model for analyzing regulatory policymaking, drawing on postmodernist theory that claims that establishing single languages for understanding the world inevitably distorts communication. They then apply their analysis to case studies of actual environmental disputes over hazardous waste regulation in the 1980s and 1990s in New Jersey, Ohio and Florida.


Bruce A. Williams is associate professor of urban and regional planning and of communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Albert R. Matheny is associate professor of political science at the University of Florida.

The CIO 1935-1955

Robert H. Zieger
University of North Carolina Press

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) encompassed the largest sustained surge of worker organization in American history. Robert Zieger charts the rise of the industrial union movement, from the launching of the CIO by John L. Lewis in 1935 to its merger under Walter Reuther with the American Federation of Labor in 1955. Combining the institutional history of the CIO with vivid depictions of working-class life, he also analyzes the racial and gender dimensions of industrial unionism.

Zieger details the ideological conflicts that racked the CIO even as its leaders strove to establish a labor presence at the heart of the U.S. economic system. Stressing the efforts of industrial unionists such as Sidney Hillman and Philip Murray to forge potent instruments of political action, he assesses the CIO's vital role in shaping the postwar political and international order.

Based on archival sources and oral histories, this study blends social, political, labor and foreign policy history into a compelling story of the far-reaching effects of workers' organizations in America. Zieger's analysis also contributes to current debates over labor law reform, the collective bargaining system and the role of organized labor in a changing economy.


Robert H. Zieger, professor of history at the University of Florida, is author of Rebuilding the Pulp and Paper Workers' Union and American Workers, American Unions.