For Eloisa


whose capacity for laughter, patience, chaos, and high-pitched castigation

allowed me a new vision of the female superhero






      Any project of this sort necessitates the involvement of a host of characters that come to the researcher's aid, enthusiastically, willingly, knowingly - or not.  Would that I could thank each person by name, but then this dissertation would have to double in size.

      Let me begin by thanking my dissertation committee, Regina Bendix, Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, and Mary Hufford who managed to maintain calm through my early drafts and saw me through to completion.  Yours was not an easy job by any means.  I also extend my deep appreciation to students and professors at the Center for Folklife and Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania, particularly Margaret Mills, Roger Abrahams, Rachel Romberg, Kim Lau, Paul Hanson, and Lisa Sherman.  Their intellectual and personal support, as well as their efforts to challenge and attune my thinking processes and forms of expression, has formed the basis of my graduate education.  I also extend my hearty gratitude to the University of Pennsylvania for its generosity in funding my research with the Pennfield Dissertation Research Grant.

      I wish to thank those many professors at the University of California at Berkeley who selflessly took me under wing as an academic stepchild, most especially Michael Watts, Alan Pred, Nancy Peluso, Louise Fortmann, and Marianne Ferme.

      On the count of UC Berkeley students who welcomed me into their various circles, I cannot say enough.  Early on, as a neophyte in social theory, Kira Foster invited me into a reading group that provided a safe space in which to probe the lines of thinking that have paved the way for my intellectual growth.  This departmentally-diverse reading group later morphed into a dissertation proposal and funding writing group, then into a methodology email discussion group while we spread to many corners of the earth for fieldwork, and then finally into a fabulously enviable dissertation writing group; a group that kept each of us alive and continuing to write, regardless of the personal and professional joys and pains through which each of us passed.  I cannot laud highly enough my very dear friends and intellectual compatriots Nancy Postero, Susana Wappenstein, Marian Mabel, Kira Foster, Mithra Moezzi and Jake Kosek.  Each of us claims, usually with lumps in our throats, that our work is nothing if not a conglomeration of ideas processed, challenged, written, rewritten and rewritten again with this group at large.  With a magical combination of soulful encouragement, intellectual challenge, literary competence, and endless laughter, this group has enabled me to produce work that that has only benefited from their experience, insight and brilliance.  I am not only a better academic and writer because of them, but also a far better human.  Thank you ever so much.

      My deep thanks to Dean Lobovits who has for nearly seven years taken on the less than glitzy job of being of my own personal cheerleader.  He often held a vision for me when I could not find one for myself.  I simply could not have done this without him.  My sincere thanks. 

      Tim Warner has braved sorting through these pages with an editorÕs eyes and leant his masterful technical support, always with a smile.

      My family will be relieved that this Ņbook reportÓ is finally done as they have carried a great weight in their emotional and often financial assistance to me during this time.  Each member: my mother Betty, sisters Geraldine, Jody, Aimˇe, and brothers Peter and David have always given words of encouragement for me and not infrequently financial support that kept the house stocked with cashew butter and dog bones.

      Panama is a beautiful country in which I have had the absolute, and somewhat accidental, fortune to conduct my fieldwork.  I am very grateful to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute which graciously supplied me with Short Term Fellows Grant not once, but three times.  The logistical support of this institution was invaluable and I greatly admire the Panamanian women who run that place.  By way of following one little fat dog home to her owners in Gamboa, I happened upon the wonderfully quirky, good-hearted and generous couple, Egbert and Lizzie Leigh.  Consequently Bert Leigh offered me financial support from his own grant moneys in addition to many good dinners, more than one glass of whiskey, and challenging conversations on the nature of conservation, for which I am deeply grateful.  Having such an esteemed and experienced biologist bolster my work is more of compliment than I can say.

      The people at the organizations with which I had the great pleasure of working, namely Fundaci—n NATURA, Fundaci—n Proni–os de Dariˇn, TechnoServe, USAID, ANAM, and the Nature Conservancy, allowed me to observe and participate in the day-to-day life of people working hard to ensure forest conservation and to develop civil networks in Panama.  I was gently slapped out of any na•ve views of conservation and given a good dose of reality, Panamanian-style.  Although we did not always agree with one another on methodologies or even objectives, I appreciate each personÕs generosity in offering me what assistance they could and for engaging in lively conversations which have broadened my perspective and understanding.  I would especially like to thank Alan Randall, Rodrigo Tartˇ, Oscar McKay, Zuleika Pinz—n, Josˇ August’n Espino, Rosario Aguilar, Jaime Caste–ada, Johnny Tu–on, Devon Reese, Hall Cardwell, Francisco Herrera, Bill Harp, Todd Capson, Georgina de Alba, Elena Lombardi, Charlotte Elton, Carla Brice–o, Morris Israel, and Julie Velasquez Runk who each contributed their own particular purview, which, particularly in combination, provided much of the heart of this dissertation.

      Most particularly, I would like to thank George Hanily who initially led me down the garden path to understanding sustainable organic agriculture as a form of forest conservation in the tropics and who also made sure that I linked up with projects appropriate for my research.  He spent countless hours providing me with background to the history of conservation in Panama.  His enthusiasm and excellent personal skills in working with people in the environmental arena remain a great inspiration to me.  George also gave me the opportunity to live with a parrot, a ferret, two dogs, countless rats and three young Panamanian men.  Although they were not able to teach me to surf, they did invite me to share many ŅrummiesÓ, their home and their lives.  I will forever be indebted to their humorous generosity in hosting this particular Ņgringa under the stairsÓ.

      Finally, I would like to thank the people of La Bonga.  I often extended my visits to this small town up the Pequin’ River solely for the pure enjoyment of spending time with them.  The women and children especially welcomed me, and it became a fabulous ritual for a different woman in town to paint my entire face and body with dye from jagua nuts (with much discussion about the design from other women, children and men that stopped by during the process), so that I would look beautiful when I returned to Panama City.  One particular family took me in, slowly at first and then with a full embrace, and gave me a home in Panama.  The hours and days spent together in the company of Arsenio, Eloisa, Poncho, Latenia, Noriel, Ilsa, Sergio, and Bookie-pan have forever changed me.  The periodic envelopes I receive from them in the mail full of various leaves and roots from the forest keep me safe and healthy in the urban jungles of California.