PEI graduate awardee Vinicius de Aguiar Furuie wins Princeton’s top graduate student honor
Vinicius de Aguiar Furuie, a doctoral student in anthropology and two-time PEI graduate award recipient, was one of four Princeton Ph.D. candidates to receive the Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship, the University’s top honor for graduate students.
De Aguiar Furuie has spent nearly two years in the field studying the economic life of Brazil’s Iriri River — a tributary of the Amazon — with support from a 2017 Walbridge Fund Graduate Award for Environmental Research and a 2018 Mary and Randall Hack ’69 Graduate Award for Water and the Environment, both from PEI.
His dissertation, “Argonauts of the Amazon: River Trade and Patronage in the Xingu Basin,” focuses on Iriri River traders known locally as regatões. He studies how these traders facilitate the flow of people and goods down the river at a time when their way of life is threatened by economic forces, habitat destruction and climate change. He also has supplemented his ethnography with original archival research in Germany on the work of the first Western scientist to venture into the Iriri River valley.
“In Brazil, recent reversals of hard-won rights for the peoples of the Amazon rainforest threaten to recreate the same horrors that colonialism wreaked upon the Amazon for centuries,” de Aguiar Furuie said. “The Amazonian landscape is expertly managed by locals who have lived on and managed the land and rivers for centuries. Illuminating local knowledge in a threatened region is important to protecting the area through public advocacy.
“I am very grateful for the support from the Hack and Walbridge fund graduate awards,” de Aguiar Furuie continued. “They were a great help in the Amazon, where distances are enormous and traveling is slow and time-consuming. Knowing that I would be able to pay my share of fuel costs and help out in emergencies liberated my mind to focus on working with the riverside peoples and their economies.”
“Vinicius has the rare ability to combine people-centered research with brilliant theoretical work and luminous writing,” said PEI associated faculty member João Biehl, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology, director of Brazil LAB and co-director of the Global Health Program.
“Committed to the production of critical and actionable knowledge, he interprets his materials in the context of Amazonia’s environmental, political economic and social history, and in dialogue with international scholarship in the natural and social sciences and the humanities,” Biehl said. “Vinicius’ critically important and trailblazing dissertation will certainly propel him into a stellar and socially meaningful academic career.”
In addition to PEI’s Hack and Walbridge awards, de Aguiar Furuie’s fieldwork was supported by a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation.Furuie was named a Princeton-Brazil Global Health Research Scholar in 2015 and received summer research grants from the Program in Latin American Studies and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS). Last year, he was a Princeton-Humboldt University Exchange Scholar.
De Aguiar Furuie came to Princeton in 2014 after earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of São Paulo and a master’s degree in cultural and media studies from the University of Tokyo.
The Jacobus Fellowships support students’ final year of study at Princeton and are awarded to one Ph.D. student in each of the four divisions — humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering — whose work has exhibited the highest scholarly excellence. The fellows all plan to pursue academic careers.
Fellows will be honored at Alumni Day ceremonies Saturday, Feb. 22, at Jadwin Gymnasium.