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Rainforest Warriors: Human Rights on Trial

by Richard Price

280 pages | 6 x 9 | 41 illus.
Paperback Jan 2012 | ISBN 978-0812221374 | $27.50
Cloth Jan 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4300-0 | $55.00
A volume in the Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights series

Winner, 2012 Best Book Award for Human Rights, American Political Science Association and the 2012 Senior Book Prize of the American Ethnological Society.

[description from Publisher's catalogue:]
Rainforest Warriors is a historical, ethnographic, and documentary account of a people, their threatened rainforest, and their successful attempt to harness international human rights law in their fight to protect their way of life—part of a larger story of tribal and indigenous peoples that is unfolding all over the globe.

The Republic of Suriname, in northeastern South America, contains the highest proportion of rainforest within its national territory, and the most forest per person, of any country in the world. During the 1990s, its government began awarding extensive logging and mining concessions to multinational companies from China, Indonesia, Canada, and elsewhere. Saramaka Maroons, the descendants of self-liberated African slaves who had lived in that rainforest for more than 300 years, resisted, bringing their complaints to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In 2007, when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights delivered its landmark judgment in their favor, their efforts to protect their threatened rainforest were thrust into the international spotlight. Two leaders of the struggle to protect their way of life, Saramaka Headcaptain Wazen Eduards and Saramaka law student Hugo Jabini, were awarded the Goldman Prize for the Environment (often referred to as the environmental Nobel Prize), under the banner of "A New Precedent for Indigenous and Tribal Peoples."

Anthropologist Richard Price, who has worked with Saramakas for more than forty years and who participated actively in this struggle, tells the gripping story of how Saramakas harnessed international human rights law to win control of their own piece of the Amazonian forest and guarantee their cultural survival.


"Rainforest Warriors is an extraordinary work: a historical, ethnographic, and documentary account of remarkable depth and consequence. It tells a fascinating, and thought-provoking environmental story, one documenting transnational interests (commercial, ecological, legal) as they intersect with both national and local interests and consequences. Subtle, many angled, and always with a principled eye to the conditions and courage of Saramaka communities, this is a great story. It makes manifest the ways in which anthropology and related scholarship can play a consequential role in legal and other sites central to the lives and futures of those with whom we work. Price obviously is an exceptional ethnographer of Saramaka communities, histories, and individual lives. He is also a clear and informed ethnographer of emergent human rights regimes. Informed, humane, reflective, actively written and exceptionally thought-provoking, Rainforest Warriors will be a classic."
Donald Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz
(as quoted on book's dust jacket)