Conferences, Core Program

The Forgotten Canopy: Ecology, Ephemeral Architecture, and Imperialism in the Caribbean, South American, and Transatlantic Worlds Conference 3: Imperialism [Day 2]

Saturday, April 15, 2023
10:00 am PDT – 12:45 pm PDT

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

–conference organized by Stella Nair (University of California, Los Angeles) and Paul Niell (Florida State University)

This project is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and is co-sponsored by the UCLA American Indian Studies Center and UCLA Latin American Institute.

This conference is free of charge. It will be held in person and livestreamed on the Center’s YouTube Channel. To attend the conference in person, you must reserve your space by submitting the booking form at the bottom of this page. Bookings open Thursday, March 16, 2023 and close Monday, April 10, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. No registration is needed to watch the livestream.

Face masks are not required but are strongly recommended at all indoor campus events.

The 2022–23 Core Program hosted by the UCLA Center for 17th– & 18th-Century Studies and William Andrews Clark Memorial Library will convene scholars around the topics of “Ecology,” “Ephemeral Architecture,” and “Imperialism” in the early modern (16th–19th-century) world. The circum-Caribbean is our starting point; specifically, we use this term to refer to the deep connections between the peoples and places of the Caribbean and South America, along with parts of North America. Due to national politics, language barriers, and scholarly divisions that have their roots in the European colonization of the Americas, the long and complex history of exchange among these regions and peoples have been greatly understudied. In truth, this history of entanglement across water and land stretches back millennia, resulting in a rich and diverse built environment that is deeply tied to ecological change. This dynamic did not end with the invasion of 1492, but rather continued to expand and accelerate when people, plants, and empires came from across the Atlantic. Using ephemeral architecture, in particular the complex and exquisite creation of thatch roofs as the leading thread in these tapestries of exchange, this series of conferences highlight the profound ways in which environmental practices, botanical knowledge, technological development, architectural innovation, and creative expression were deeply tied across these distinct regions and peoples, and shaped by imperial actions. This conference series brings an unusually diverse number of disciplines together in order to unpack these complex dynamics, which challenge how we understand the built environment, the early modern Atlantic World, and the intersections between the local and the global.

Critical consideration of the interrelationships between ecologies and ephemeral architectures sets the stage for the theme of the third conference, which will address the imperial transformations of the Caribbean and South America and their impact on and entanglement with the larger early modern Atlantic world. Participating scholars in this conference will use studies of ephemeral architecture, especially thatched roofs, to focus attention on processes of imperialism and landscape transformation relating to Indigenous and Black Americans.  In particular, this conference will highlight the complex ways in which Imperial authorities impacted, transformed, and were transformed by, long standing ecological practices and ephemeral architectural knowledge. In doing so, the conference underscores the vital role of ephemeral architecture, such as thatched roofs, in telling histories, even that of global empires, and thus is a reminder of the critical need for the study and preservation of this “Forgotten Canopy.”


Daniela Balanzátegui Moreno, University of Massachusetts Boston
Maria Paz Gutierrez, University of California, Berkeley
Jayur Madhusudan Mehta, Florida State University
Everett Osceola, Cultural Ambassador for the Seminole Tribe of Florida
Alice Samson, University of Leicester
José Antonio Sierra-Huelsz, Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales, Universidad Veracruzana
Shannon Speed, University of California, Los Angeles
Lorena Tezanos Toral, Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE)
Dell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles
Cheryl White, Anton de Kom University of Suriname

Image: View of a hut, and a dance of the Yuracares Indians, Bolivia. Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale, vol. 3. Paris, 1835–1847.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

9:30 a.m.
Morning Coffee and Registration

10:00 a.m.
Stella Nair, University of California, Los Angeles and Paul Niell, Florida State University
Welcome (Back)

10:15 a.m.
Session 3: Tourism, Sustainability, and Impermanence in Ephemeral Architecture
Moderator: Faiza Moatasim, University of Southern California                       

José Antonio Sierra-Huelsz, Universidad de Guadalajara     (Remote Presentation)
“Linking Tourism, Thatched Architecture, and Tropical Forest Management”                                               

10:45 a.m.
Maria Paz Gutierrez, University of California, Berkeley
“Fantasy Island: The Other Amazon”

11:15 a.m.
Coffee Break

11:30 a.m.
Dell Upton, University of California, Los Angeles
“What is Impermanence?”

12:00 p.m.
Morning Session Discussion

12:45 p.m.
Conference portion of program concludes

Afternoon Workshop at Chumash Museum

March 16, 2023 Update

Apologies, we have been having some issues with our registration forms. To register please email with the following information:

Full name
Email address
Academic Status (such as General Public, UC Staff or Faculty, Student, Other Faculty, etc.)
Academic Institution if applicable
Lunch (Vegetarian/Non-vegetarian)