Dr Miguel Alexiades' background, training and approach to the study of the human-environment nexus - his area of interest - is multi-disciplinary and broadly placed across the natural sciences and humanities. An environmental scientist, botanist and anthropologist by training, Dr Alexiades is particularly interested in questions relating to multidimensionality, complexity, variability and change, and highly sympathetic to the integrative approach proposed by the New Ecologies and their concomitant attention to the interplay between historical, political and symbolic processes.
Over the past thirty years, Miguel has carried out much of his research in southwestern Amazonia, often collaborating with indigenous organisations on questions relating to cultural landscapes, ethnoecology, indigenous territoriality and resource rights, as well as on medicinal plants and forest resources in relation to local well-being.
An area of recent intense interest in both Dr Alexiades' scholarship and teaching relates to the Anthropocene and the accelerating transformations, cascading crises and enhanced period risk and uncertainty signalled by the concept, and, more generally, to the emergence of the planetary as a framework through which to reconsider and rethink many of our core categories and assumptions, including the role of science and Universities. Miguel also has a long-standing interest in, and commitment to, the practice of socially engaged and applied research.
Dr Alexiades is co-director of People and Plants International and co-organiser of Anthropocene Exploratory, a cross-University and multi-disciplinary reading and study group. He also volunteers as the School focal point for the University of Kent's Sustainability Project, Future Proof.
Most of Dr Alexiades' research and applied work has focused on the Ese Eja - a small indigenous society living on several tributaries of the Madre de Dios river basin. His doctoral thesis examined Ese Eja health-related knowledge, attitudes and practices in the context of social and ecological change during the past century. Between 2002 and 2011, Miguel assisted Ese Eja in their efforts to map and document their history and knowledge regarding their ancestrally-occupied lands, serving in an advisory capacity in a number of negotiations, legal claims and capacity-building processes relating to land and resource rights in these areas.
Other research interests include Amazonian medicinal plants and forest products and their role in indigenous well-being and development. Dr Alexiades has also collaborated with colleagues in central Mexico, working to develop courses and materials in a number of indigenous universities on questions relating to indigenous territoriality and land-use planning.
Dr Alexiades is passionate about his teaching and considers it a key and integral part of his research and scholarship. Miguel's postgraduate teaching is mostly centred around the Ethnobotany MSc and Environmental Anthropology MA/MSc. His undergraduate teaching connects with programs across the School, including Anthropology, Conservation Biology and Geography. Dr Alexiades' module The Anthropocene: Planetary Crises and The Age of Humans was flagged by the University's 2018 Periodic Program Review Assessment of School programmes as being of an excellent standard.
Dr Alexiades also teaches environmental anthropology in a Masters'-level module at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Sevilla, Spain) and has taught courses in Brazil (UNESP, Botucatú) and Mexico (Universidad Intercultural de los Pueblos del Sur, Guerrero, and Universidad Veracruzana Intercultural Sede Grandes Montañas).
Current PhD students
Dr Alexiades is available to comment on issues relating to indigenous people and the environment in Amazonia, ethnobotany, environmental anthropology and human–environment relations generally, including the Anthropocene.
A talk given by Dr Alexiades at the 2010 Society for Economic Botany Annual Meeting can be viewed here: Amazonian anthropogenic landscapes: the view from the 'new ecologies'