Janet M. Chernela is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland.  After receiving her PhD from Columbia University in 1983, she served on the faculty of the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (National Institute of Amazonian Research, INPA) in Manaus.  She has worked among indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin for over three decades.  Her research interests include local knowledge, including environmental knowledge; indigenous rights and organizations; gender and language.   Her principal publications include a book, The Wanano Indians of the Brazilian Amazon: A Sense of Space (1993, 1996) and a recent trilogy on language and gender in the Upper Rio Negro: Talking Community in the Northwest  Amazon" (American Anthropologist, 2003); "The Second World of Wanano Women: Truth, Lies and Back-Talk in the Brazilian Northwest Amazon" (Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 2011); and "Mascarading the Voice: Texts of Self in the Brazilian Northwest Amazon" (Journal of Anthropological Research, 2012).  She is the founder of AMARN/Numia Kura, one of the oldest ongoing indigenous associations in Brazil and former president of the international Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America.

Areas of Interest: Cultural anthropology, ethnography of the Amazon basin, socio-linguistics, environment, NGOs, Latin American studies

CV: Curriculum Vitae

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Selected Publications:

Chernela, Janet M. (2023). The Great Pirahã Brouhaha: Linguistic Diversity and Cognitive Universality. Prepublication. Annual Reviews in Anthropology, Vol. 52.

Chernela, Janet M. (2021). Desire and the Work it Does: Alterity and Exogamy in a Kotiria Origin Myth from the Northwest Amazon of Brazil.  Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 17(1)1-15.

Chernela, Janet M. (2021). The Work and Influence of Robert L. Carneiro, Cultural Evolutionist and Pioneer in Amazonian Anthropology. Journal of Anthropological Research 77(4)452-456.

Chernela, Janet M. (2019). Language Ideology and Women’s Speech: Talking Community in the Northwest Amazon. Special volume, Hearing Women Talk, eds. Sallie Han and Jason Antrosio. Open Anthropology 7(2).  [Republication]

Chernela, Janet M. (2019). Two Anthropologists recall Dominique Buchillet, Janet Chernela, first voice; Jiame Diakara Dessano Dihpotiro, second voice.  Journal de la Société des Américanistes. 105 (2). 

Chernela, Janet M. (2018). Language in an Ontological Register: Embodied Speech in the Northwest Amazon of Brazil and Colombia, Language & Communication  63:23-32.

Chernela, Janet M. (2017) "Poor Me, I Have No Cousin:" The Pragmatics of Marital Choice in the Northwest Amazon. In The Anthropology of Marriage in Lowland South America: Bending and Breaking the Rules, edited by Paul Valentine, Stephen Beckerman and Catherine Alès.  University Press of Florida.  Pp. 157-179.


Selected Presentations:

Chernela, Janet M. (2021). Desire and the Work it Does. Keynote Address, Meetings of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America. June 21-July 2, 2021.  

Chernela, Janet M. (2020). Indigenous Rights, Territory, and Advocacy: Decolonizing Anthropology’s Legacy. New York Academy of Sciences. Dec. 7, 2020.

Chernela, Janet M. (2019). Indigenous Rights, National Policy, and International Advocacy in Brazil: Getulio Vargas to Jairo Bolsonaro.   Keynote Address, Amazonian Studies: Multidisciplinary Approaches. Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, Md., Nov. 18, 2019

Chernela, Janet M. (2010). Gibes, Jeers, and Flouts: Talking Back (and forth) in the Northwest Amazon. Keynote Address, Society for Amazonian and Andean Studies. Gainesville, Fla, Nov. 6, 2010.

Chernela, Janet M. (2008). Keeping Time: Genes, Wives and History in Yanomami Blood Collections and the Debates About Them. Invited Speaker, Series "Who Owns Our Species?" The Rock Ethics Institute and the Anthropology Department of Penn State University. Feb. 21, 2008.



Current Students

Related Students (Listed by Student on Student's Profile)

  • Jess Breitfeller
  • Emily Colon
Janet Chernela
chernela [at] umd.edu