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Luciana Martins

  • Overview



    Originally trained in architecture and urban planning, Luciana Martins specialises in visual and material culture, historical geography, and environmental humanities. She joined Birkbeck in 2003. A founding Director of the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies - CILAVS (2007-16), she was until recently CILAVS' Co-Director (2020-23). Since 2017 she has been a Visiting Researcher at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She was Assistant Dean for Research in the School of Arts at Birkbeck (2021-23).


    • I presented a paper on 'Reactivating the biocultural archive: the case of the Spruce collection' at the Plant Humanities and Botanical Collections International Workshop at the Botanical Museum, University of Padua, on 15 April 2024

    • My discussion of Archie Davies' book A World Without Hunger: Josué de Castro and the History of Geography is now published online: 'The Visuality of Hunger', Espaço e Cultura

    Office hours

    Please contact me by email to arrange an appointment.


    • PhD Geography, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, 1999
    • MSc Geography, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, 1994
    • First Degree: Architecture and Urban Planning, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, 1986

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Programme Director for BA/Grad Cert Spanish and Latin American Studies and Chair of the Sub-Board of Examiners

    Visiting posts

    • Visiting Researcher, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew,

    Professional activities

    Member of the AHRC Peer Review College, 2012-to the present

    Professional memberships

    • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

    • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

    • Member of the Association of British and Irish Lusitanists

    • Member of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland

    • Member of the Society for Latin American Studies

  • Research


    Research interests

    • The visual culture of travel and exploration
    • History of photography and film
    • Biocultural collections
    • Digital humanities

    Research overview

    I am currently completing a book entitled Drawing together: the visual archive of expeditionary travel, supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. The book explores the practice and experience of image-making as deployed on European expeditions to South America from the 1850s to the 1950s.

    Since 2015, I have been working with colleagues from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and other Brazilian institutions on a research programme on the biocultural collections of nineteenth-century botanist and explorer Richard Spruce. Drawing upon my previous AHRC-funded research project on Andean textiles, Weaving Communities of Practice, which developed a pioneering digital knowledge base, this collaborative project aims to reanimate the artefacts that Spruce sent to Kew Gardens and other British institutions.

    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research clusters and groups

    Research projects

    Digital repatriation of biocultural collections: connecting scientific and indigenous communities of knowledge in Amazonia.

    Drawing together: the visual archive of expeditionary fieldwork.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    Teaching modules

    • Visual Cultures of Travel and Exploration in Latin America (Level 6) (ARCL027H6)
    • Research Skills Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies (Modern Languages) (ARCL061Z7)
    • Memory and History (ARCL065S7)
    • Film and Politics (Level 5) (AREL094S5)
    • Culture and Image (ARLL009S4)
  • Publications




    Book Section

    Conference Item

  • Business and community

    Business and community

    I have media training.


    Digital repatriation of biocultural collections: connecting scientific and Indigenous communities of knowledge in Amazonia, video showing project workshops July 2019 (6'04"),

    The Many Lives of a Shield, a video essay of a biography of a biocultural object from the Economic Botany Collection at Kew (8’57”),; with Portuguese subtitles,

    Workshop in São Gabriel da Cachoeira, audio-visual report of the workshop activities (3’12”),

    Plantae Amazonicae, exhibition of artwork by Kew artist in residence Lindsay Sekulowicz, co-curator [with W. Milliken and M. Nesbitt], funded by Arts Council England, Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, October 2017-March 2018.

    El Encanto, exhibition of artwork by Birkbeck artist in residence Freddy Dewe Mathews, funded by Arts Council England, Peltz Gallery, April-May 2017.

    Seven Wonders of Brazil’, BBC2, interview with Faris Kermani on the cultural history of Brazil, broadcast June 2014.

    The Invention of Brazil’, BBC-Radio 4, interview with Misha Glenny on the cultural history of Brazil, broadcast May 2014.

    Unnatural Histories: Amazon’, BBC4, interview on documentary film and the exploration of the Amazon, broadcast April 2011.