Biocultural knowledge, power and poetics in South American featherwork

Portrait of Rosa Dyer

Rosa Dyer (Birkbeck College, University of London, in partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM), Oxford)

Supervised by Professor Luciana Martins and Dr Carmen Fracchia (Birkbeck); Dr Laura Van Broekhoven, Professor Andrew Gosler and Jeremy Uden (Oxford)


Rosa has a BA in Human, Social and Political Science from the University of Cambridge where she specialised in Social Anthropology. She completed her MSc in Ethnobotany from the University of Kent, where her dissertation focused on plants and botanical objects within 17th century French cabinets of curiosity. She is interested in historical ethnobiology and multi-species approaches to biocultural collections.

Rosa’s research at the PRM is focused on the use of feathers in objects made by South American Indigenous peoples. The project takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing from areas of anthropology, ethnobiology, ornithology and museum studies to consider the dynamic relationships held between Indigenous peoples, birds and environments, and considers how these relationships may shape indigenous activist movements in the region.

The research aims to engage with current Indigenous resistance movements occurring in South America, where feathered artefacts, alongside face paint and music, are being used as tools for empowerment to protest against biodiversity loss, threats to Indigenous cultural heritage and the defence of territorial rights. The project will include collaborative work with Indigenous peoples, with the aim to enable a better showcasing and contextualisation of the multiple voices and stories which surround the featherwork displayed in the museum.

The project also works with the Ethno-ornithology World Atlas, a collaboration between Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, and BirdLife International, to promote the sharing of knowledge, language traditions, and understandings of birds around the world.