R. Elliott Oakley, Ph.D.


Lecturer in Political and Social Dimensions of Conservation


Ph.D. in Social Anthropology
University of Edinburgh (UK)

B.A. in Anthropology and Economics
University of Virginia (VA, USA)


SFS 3081 Political and Social Dimensions of Conservation
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 4910 Directed Research
(The School for Field Studies)

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Faculty Profile

Dr. Oakley is an anthropologist interested in relations between place, personhood and politics. His ongoing research focuses on what it means to live well for indigenous peoples in South America, with particular interest in the opportunities and challenges of environmental conservation partnerships.

Prior to joining SFS, Dr. Oakley pursued graduate research in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, exploring Indigenous livelihoods and relations to land in the context of environmental conservation in southern Guyana. His ethnographic work with Waiwai people focused on community interpretations of conservation and development as part of sustaining desirable lifeways in a remote tropical forest village. Dr. Oakley has written about this research for The Guardian as well as for academic audiences, and recently completed a filmmaking and community museum project.

At SFS, Dr. Oakley continues to explore issues of land, community and conservation. He looks forward to working with students and local communities in Patagonia to understand and address the human dimensions of environmental stewardship.

Academics & Research

Areas of Expertise

  • Community conservation partnerships
  • Human-environment relations
  • Indigenous rights and development
  • Ethnographic research methods

Professional Affiliations

  • Member, Center for Research and Collaboration in the Indigenous Americas, University of Maryland
  • Visiting Fellow, Center for Indigenous and Intercultural Research, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (2018)


Oakley, R. Elliott. Forthcoming. ‘“Opening up” the village: Canoes, conservation, and contending with transformation in Amazonia.’ Etnofoor. Article for thematic issue ‘The Village’.
Oakley, R. Elliott and Casey High. Forthcoming. ‘Introduction: Conserving and Extracting Nature: Environmental politics and livelihoods in the new ‘middle grounds’ of Amazonia.’ Journal of Latin America and Caribbean Anthropology.
Oakley, R. Elliott. 2018. Review of Laura Zanotti. Radical Territories in the Brazilian Amazon: The Kayapó’s Fight for Just Livelihoods (University of Arizona Press). In Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 24(4): 857-858.
Oakley, Elliott. 2018. ‘Adventure tourists: when you visit remote tribes, learn the art of sharing.’ The Guardian, May 21, Global Development section.
Oakley, Elliott, Angelini, Alessandro and DeVore, Jonathan. 2017. "Our Electric Exchanges." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology ‘Fieldsites’ blog, December 19.
Oakley, Roy Elliott. 2013. ‘Schismogenesis and the 2008 American Financial Crisis: An Anthropology of Exchange.’ The Oculus: The Virginia Journal of Undergraduate Research. 12(1): 52–56.


2019. Being remembered, being forgotten: The politics of memory in Amazonian Guyana. Paper presented at the University of Maryland Center for Research and Collaboration in the Indigenous Americas, College Park, MD, September 23.
2018. ‘“Let us hear what they will say”: Indigenous-state relations in southern Guyana.’ Paper presented at the Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile working group, Santiago, Chile, September 28.
2018. ‘“So we want puranta this time”: Indigenous development-as-conservation in southern Guyana.’ Paper presented at the Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile Anthropology Departmental Seminar Series, Santiago, Chile, September 27.
2018. ‘Rebuilding the Umana Yana: Houses and indigeneity at a Guyanese National Monument.’ Paper to be presented for the Royal Anthropological Institute’s ‘Art, Materiality and Representation’ Conference, London, UK, June 1-3.
2017. ‘Permeable politics: Felled trees, borders, and boundaries in Waiwai conservation.’ Paper presented for the American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings, Washington, D.C., December 3.
2017. ‘“Therefore they said for us all to come over to Kanashen to escape the fire”’ Paper for the conference ‘Presence and Place: an anthropological conference on Christian space’ at the University of Edinburgh, UK, October 5.
2017. ‘“It had a woman, and then she became pregnant”: Waiwai perspectives on the establishment of an indigenous Protected Area in southern Guyana.’ Paper for Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America Conference, Lima, Peru, July 21.