Susanna HECHT

Professor, International History and Politics
Areas of expertise
  • Political ecologies of land use change, especially tropical forest
  • Environmental history and the history of environmentalisms
  • Indigenous and comparative knowledge systems in history and development
  • Rural development and resource governance
  • Climate change and forest politics
  • Gender and natural resources
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Central America



PhD, University of California, Berkeley

Susanna Hecht's research focuses largely on land use change in the Latin American tropics. Her work represents a remarkable integration of the humanities, including the history of ideas, social and environmental history, and the social sciences of development into the dynamics and sciences of tropical and planetary change. As one of the founding thinkers of Political Ecology now a widespread interdisciplinary approach in geography, anthropology, development studies and environmental sciences, she has consistently carved out new analytic terrain  through highly active tropical and archival research. As an advocate for social justice, she makes theoretical and practical linkages between what may at first seem arcane investigations but that change the discourses, practices and questions that ultimately become transformational in the field. While her findings when first published are controversial, they ultimately became the centering references, recasting the ideation of the tropics and illuminating its usually unexplored social and political history. With social nature at its center, her research actually marks out future scholarly terrain in terms of heterodox methods given the kinds of planetary changes we now confront. She has always been attentive to theory, but also at least as much to what the  world itself has to say. Thus the research speaks through the past, the present and the future and to the natures and societies we are inhabiting.

Susanna Hecht's research has been supported by numerous research agencies and foundations including US National Science Foundation, NASA, National Academy of Sciences, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies,  Guggenheim Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, National Geographic Society among many others. Her work has also been supported by activist agencies including the CIFOR (the International Center for Forestry Research), CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) EarthWatch, WWF, Environmental Defense Fund, Resources for the Future. She has worked with the governments of Brazil, El Salvador, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia and for European and US development agencies such as GTZ, as well as The World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank, and many non-government organizations.. She is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Her recent book, Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides da Cunha, won the  Eleanor Melville Award for best book in Latin American  environmental history from the American Historical Association, and the Carl O. Sauer Award.

Professor Profile | Susanna Hecht

Selected publications


Selected Books and  Peer Reviewed Papers

2016. Special Edited Issue of Journal of Peasant Studies: Soy Development in South America. Vol 41 (5-6) (With Gustavo Oliveira)

2015. People In Motion, Forests in Transition. Trends in migration, urbanization and remittances, and their effects on tropical forests. (With Anastasia Yang, Bimbika Bassnett, Christine Padoch, Nancy Peluso). CIFOR Occasional Paper 142. 37pp

2014. The Social Life of Forests: The Past, Present and Futures of Wooded Landscapes..Edited with Kathleen Morrison; Christine Padoch, University of Chicago Press

2013. The Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides da Cunha. University of Chicago Press  (April 2013)

2012  Land Use Dynamics and Forest Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean  Sustainability Report

2011. InterAmerican Development Bank. Washington DC. IDB.

2012. Migration, Livelihoods and Natural Resources. Susanna Hecht, Susan Kandel, Abelardo Morales (eds) IDRC, El Salvador

2011. Fate of the Forest: Destroyers, Developers and Defenders of the Amazon. University of Chicago Press (updated fourth edition)

1992. Development or Destruction:  The Conversion of Tropical Forest to Pasture in Latin America.  T. Downing, S. Hecht, H. Pearson, C. Downing, (editors). Westview Press. (405 pages)

1990. Agroecology and Small Farm Development. With Miguel Altieri.  Boca Raton:  CRC Press. (262 pages)

Selected Papers

John Muir in the Amazon and Muirism in Amazonia. Annals of the AAG Forthcoming.
Beyond Canudos: Euclides da Cunha and the Amazon, Latin American Research Review


2016. Sacred Groves and Sacrifice Zones: globalization, intensification and Neo-nature in South America. Journal of Peasant Studies Vol 41 (5-6) 877-910

2016. Domestication, domesticated landscapes and tropical natures: Environmental humanities in political ecologies of Amazon land development politics In : Ursula Heise and Michele Niemann. New Frontiers in Environmental Humanities. Routledge

2015. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: A meditation on Nietschmann’s cultural ecology and the Politics of History. Progress in Human Geography Vol 39 (6) 852-866

2014. Forests Lost and Found: the Woodland “Green Revolution”. Journal of  Peasant Studies 41 (5)  877-909

2012. Insurgent Citizenship, and the Politics of Environmentalisms, Journal of Cultural Geographies. Vol. 28 (1)203-225.

2010. Thomas Rudel, Laura C. Schneider , Maria Uriarte , B. Turner, Ruth DeFries, Deborah Lawrence, Jacqueline Geoghegan , Susanna Hecht , Amy Ickowitz , Eric Lambin, Trevor Birkenholtz , Sandra Baptista , Ricardo Grau, “Agricultural Intensification and Changes in Cultivated Areas, 1970-2005”.  Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 106(49) 20675-80.

2009. “The New Rurality: Globalization, Peasants and the Paradoxes of Landscapes,” Land Use Policy 27(2) 161-169.

2007. Susanna B Hecht and Sassan Saatchi, “Globalization and Forest Resurgence: Changes in Forest Cover in El Salvador,” Bioscience Vol. 57(8) 663- 672.    
2007. Factories, Forests , Fields and Family:  Gender and Neoliberalism in Extractive  Reserves,” Journal of Agrarian Change. Vol. 7 (3)  316-347.

Susanna Bettina Hecht
Susanna Hecht

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