Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts


Sarah Townsend

Sarah Townsend

Arts and Humanities
Associate Professor
• Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese
Sarah Townsend

Research Description

My current research focuses on the Amazon (primarily but not solely in Brazil) and focuses on the relationship between culture, capitalism, and resource extraction in the region from the nineteenth century to the present. I do fieldwork and archival research in the city of Manaus and am writing a book on a famous opera house in the city that was built during the rubber boom and is now the site of an annual opera festival, the growth of which coincided with the China-led commodity boom and wave of resource extraction during the 2000s. More generally, I have an interest in the cultural and political formations that develop in relation and resistance to various forms of extractivism.

Teaching Description

I teach a graduate seminar on Amazonia and Extractivism and an undergraduate course called Culture and Social Struggle in the Amazon, which focuses on the natural resource extraction and the movements of indigenous people and others that have arisen in response. In collaboration with a faculty member in Art History, I am also in the process of creating OER modules on Gold (including gold mining and its effects), and I plan to create a series of undergraduate courses focused on particular extractive commodities (throughout the world), including Silver and Gold, Oil and Water, etc.

Arts and Humanities


Natural Resource Extraction
Indigenous Environmental Movements