Professor Emerita of Anthropology
PhD, Columbia University, Anthropology, 1983
Professor Emeritus of Florida International University since 2003, is Professor of Anthropology and Latin American Studies at the University of Maryland. Dr. Chernela received her PhD from the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, in 1983. After serving as Research Professor at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) in Brazil, she joined the faculty of Florida International University in 1985. While at FIU, Dr. Chernela taught both undergraduate and graduate anthropology, as well as an overseas studies course in local environmental movements. She has held visiting positions at Georgetown University and the Museu Emilio Goeldi, Belem, Brazil. In 2003 she retired from FIU and joined the faculty of the University of Maryland.
Chernela’s research interests are concerned with meanings and positioning, including the sets of relational meanings known as “identity” and those involved in situating individuals and groups in space. Trained as a cultural anthropologist with a focus on the Amazon region, Chernela has conducted field research in Brazil since 1978. Her most recent research presents the work of women in what she calls the “creation of a culture of talk” in the Northwest Amazon. Chernela’s publications include a book, A Sense of Space: The Wanano Indians of the Brazilian Amazon (1993, 1996), as well as articles in books and journals, including American Anthropologist (2003, 2005) and Journal of Latin American Anthropology (2006).
Chernela has served as President of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America (SALSA); Chair of the Committee for Human Rights of the American Anthropological Association (AAA); member of the Executive Committee of the Brazilian Studies Association and member of the Editorial Boards of Hemisphere and of the Journal for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. Chernela is founder of the Association for Women of the Upper Rio Negro, AMARN (Associação de Mulheres do Alto Rio Negro, 1982), the first Amerindian women's association in Brazil and its longest-lived Brazilian indigenous organization. Originally founded as a meeting place for indigenous urban domestic laborers, the association is now site of a craft collaborative and a bilingual school.