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Tod Swanson

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Associate Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4302
Assoc Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4302
Senior Sustainability Scientist
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4302
Biography: 

Tod Dillon Swanson is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Senior Sustainability Scholar in the Global Institute for Sustainability at Arizona State University.  His research focusses on the social relation to nature and indigenous thinking about the environment in the western Amazon.  His work draws on Anthropological Linguistics and Comparative Religion to interpret Amazonian Kichwa, Achuar, and WaoTededo language narratives on plants animals and the forest.  Swanson grew up in the Ecuadorian Amazon where his father was a missionary doctor.  After graduating from high school in Quito he received a BA in Linguistics from the University of Minnesota and later a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago.

For the last 20 years he has directed the Andes and Amazon Field School in his wife’s home community on the Río Napo where he resides with his family in the summer months.  In that context he applies his research in collaboration with other scholars and community members to seek solutions for a more sustainable future for Ecuador’s Amazonian region.   Recently Swanson has turned his efforts to  the creation fo Field School extensions on the Curaray and Nushino Rivers in the Waorani territory.

He is co-author with Janis Nuckolls of Amazonian Quichua Language and Life: Introduction to grammar, ecology and discourse (Forth coming 2020) and author of various articles with titles such as “Relatives of the Living Forest: The Philosophy Underlying Amazonian Quichua Ecological Action” (2018); “Looking Like the Land: Beauty and Aesthetics in Quichua Philosophy and Practice,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, (2017); and “Singing to Estranged Relatives: Quichua Relations to Plants in the Ecuadorian Amazon.” Journal of Religion and Culture, (2009).

Between 1997-2007 Swanson directed ASU's Center for Latin American Studies as a Title VI National Resource Center. His recent funded projects include "Historical Ecology of the Waorani Ridgetops (Co-PI with William Balee), National Geographic, 2019-2021; “Language for Sustainability: Sustaining Biodiversity and Bio-cultures through Indigenous Languages and Participatory Science” (Co-PI), Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes, 2018-19.

Education: 
  • Ph.D. University of Chicago
  • B.A. University of Minnesota
Publications: 
  • Co-authored with Janis B. Nuckolls. Earthy Concreteness and Anti-Hypotheticalism in Amazonian Quichua Discourse. Tipiti: Journal for the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America (2014).
  • Erin O’Rourke and Tod Swanson. Tena Quichua. Journal of the International Phonetic Association (2013).
  • Tod Swanson. "A Memory Painted on a Runa Woman’s Face." 2013. (2013).
  • Tod Swanson. We Are to Talk to Him Nicely: Amazonian Quichua Women Harvest Bark from a Medicinal Tree. (2013).
  • Tod Swanson. "Ecuador’s Kichwa Language Cell Phone: Will the new technology be successful in combating language loss?". Panoramas University of Pittsburgh, Center for Latin American Studies, Online Blog (2012).
  • Tod Dillon Swanson. "Singing to Estranged Lovers: Runa Relation to Plants in the Ecuadorian Amazon". Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture (2009).
  • . . Review of: Inca Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cusco Peru (2003).
  • Tod Swanson. A Civil Art: The Persuasive Moral Voice of Oscar Romero. Journal of Religious Ethics (2001).
Research Activity: 
  • Viri,Denis F*, Swanson,Tod Dillon. Cooperative Association of States for Scholarships (CASS Program) Indigenous Mexican Professional Development Program. GEORGETOWN UNIV MED CTR(7/1/2005 - 8/15/2006).
  • Swanson,Tod Dillon*. U of A -ASU National Resource Center. UNIV OF AZ(8/15/2003 - 5/31/2007).
  • Swanson,Tod Dillon*. U OF A-ASU FLAS. UNIV OF AZ(8/15/2000 - 8/14/2003).
  • Swanson,Tod Dillon*. U OF A-ASU NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER. UNIV OF AZ(8/15/2000 - 12/31/2003).
Fall 2021
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Spring 2021
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Fall 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Summer 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 690Reading and Conference
Spring 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
REL 502Research Mthds-Religious Study
Spring 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
REL 492Honors Directed Study
Fall 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
REL 207Ritual, Symbol, and Myth
REL 330Native American Worldviews
Presentations: 
  • Tod Swanson. "Talking about the Weather in Kichwa.". Conference on Study and Teaching of Indigenous Languages of Latin America. (STILLA) (Nov 2011).
  • Tod Swanson. This Parrot is Not From Around Here: Amazonian Runa Use of Bird Perspectives as Strategies for Adapting to New Social Environments. Society for Amazonian and Andean Studies (Nov 2010).
  • Tod Swanson. "I am the Mountain Toucan's Wife: Ritual Songs to Birds in the Ecuadorian Amazon". Invited Lecture, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Pittsburgh (Oct 2010).
  • Swanson, Tod. Economic Remitances to Latin America in the U.S.: Significance and Implications for the Future of the Region. Presentation to employees of the Vanguard Group (Sep 2005).
  • Swanson, Tod. The Aging Earth, Domestic Violence, and Migration in Andean Quichua Religion. University of Pittsburg, Center for Latin American Studies (Sep 2005).
  • Swanson, Tod, Maria De La Torre, Luz. Dialect Distinctiveness and Parent Resistance to Native Language Education in Ecuador. National Association of Bilingual Education
Service: 
  • Maricopa County Superior Court, Paid consultant and expert witness on indigenous language and culture (2006 - Present)
  • Colaborated with the Center for Indian Education in program organization, language revitalization and leadership training of 21 indigenous bilingual school teachers from 8 language groups in Mexico annually studying at ASU through the CASS Program, Member (2004 - Present)
  • Committee on Review, Member (2013 - 2013)
  • Transdisciplinary Council, Member (2013 - 2013)
  • Personnel Committee, Member (2008 - 2009)
  • Committee on Undergraduate Education, Chair (2009 - 2009)
  • Conference: "Amazonian Ethnobotany: Indigenous Cultural Relations to Plants", Conference )rganizer (2009 - 2009)
  • Steering Committee, School of Historical Phil. and Religious Inquiry, Member (2008 - 2008)
  • Institute for Humanities Research Sustainability Working Group, Member (2007 - 2008)
  • ASU Internal Fulbright Scholarship Committee, Member (2006 - 2008)
  • Andes and Amazon Ecuador Field School, Director (1999 - 2008)
  • Personnel Committee, Member (2007 - 2008)
  • Faculty Search Committee, Chicana/o Literature D of Lang and Lit, Member (2006 - 2006)
  • Center for Latin American Research, Director (2006 - 2006)
  • ASU Internal NSEP Scholarship Review Committee, Member (2006 - 2006)
  • Center for American Indian Policy and Leadership, Planning and Advisory Committee Member (2006 - 2006)
  • Fundacion Amazonica Cotococha, Director (2006 - 2006)
  • Quichua Language Community Radio Station in Slasaca, Ecuador, Chair of External Advisory Committee (2006 - 2006)
  • 3 day ASU Amazonian Health Fare, Principle Organizer (2006 - 2006)
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Scholarship Committee, Chair (2006 - 2006)
  • Wacazo Sa Review, Manuscript evaluator for "Indigenous Languages and Self-Determination" (2006 - 2006)
  • Program Review of Center for Latin American Studies, Wrote the review (2005 - 2006)
  • Advisory Council, Native American Studies Program, Member (2004 - 2005)
  • Search Committee for new Director, Center for Lat American Studies, Member (2005 - 2005)
  • Faculty Search Committee, Member (2004 - 2005)
  • ASU Internal Fulbright Scholarship Committee, Member (2004)
  • Center for Latin American Studies, Interim Director (2004)
  • Encyclopedia of Religion, South American Indians Area Editor (2004)
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Scholarship Committee, Chair (2004)
  • International Programs Office Advisory Council, Member (2004)
  • Center for Latin American Studies, Director (2003)
  • Graduate Committee, Member (2003)
  • Community foundation with a Quichua Board that manages 500 hectares of Amazonian forest reserve in Napo Province Ecuador. Position involves frequent work with Quichua families in the Quichua language to limit hunting and logging and to search for economi, Board Member (Present)