The Plantation’s role in enhancing hurricane vulnerability in the nineteenth-century British Caribbean

The Plantation’s role in enhancing hurricane vulnerability in the nineteenth-century British Caribbean

By Oscar Webber

Hurricanes are the hazard most synonymous with the Caribbean and have, consequently, received the most attention from historians. Yet, they have tended to be considered exogenous phenomena. There has been little attention paid to the role endogenous factors have played in exacerbating the potential for loss from hurricane impacts. Through a comparison of the impacts of the Barbadian hurricane of 1831 and the Dominican hurricane of 1834 this article seeks to advance the existing literature by examining the role the plantation played in exacerbating hurricane vulnerability. In revealing the significantly contrasting amount of damage these islands sustained, this article shows that, at least in this case, the more expansive plantation agriculture of Barbados exposed its habitants to far greater human, economic and environmental losses.

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Resilience and community pride after a hurricane: counter-narratives from rural water systems in Puerto Rico

Resilience and community pride after a hurricane: counter-narratives from rural water systems in Puerto Rico

By Javier A. Arce-Nazario

When Hurricane María stripped Puerto Rico of its characteristic verdant foliage, it revealed complex layers of hidden geographies. The media coverage in the United States presented the destruction through visual and textual references to developing and “third-world” landscapes, while the accompanying headlines reminded us that its residents are “Americans”. This provocative juxtaposition was supported by several photographic themes, such as residents surveying debris or floods engulfing vehicles and neighborhoods. This article explores narratives of post-María experiences from non-PRASA communities. It is based on mixed-method interviews with non-PRASA community residents about conditions after the hurricane, in phone interviews conducted between September 2017 and January 2018, and in in-person interviews carried out in December 2017. Patterns are evident in these narratives that highlight the different experiences of consumers depending on their water source and access technology, and also highlight the contrasts that these residents drew with neighboring, PRASA-served communities. The experiences related below reveal how non-PRASA communities contribute to the overall Puerto Rican waterscape. They also illuminate issues around the discourses of sustainability and agency, development, society and technology, and colonialism.

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Introduction to the Special Issue: ‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’

Introduction to the Special Issue: ‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’

By Gibrán Cruz-Martínez, Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia, Janialy Ortiz Camacho & Patria Román-Velazquez

Hurricanes are not a novelty in the Caribbean. However, 2017 left several shocking facts for history books regarding intensity and frequency. Two Category 4 and two Category 5 hurricanes – the strongest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale – hit the Caribbean in a month's-time. Despite the label ‘natural disaster’, colonialism and human-induced factors are behind the high levels of inequality, climate change and incomplete recoveries in the Caribbean region, which increase the region's vulnerability to disaster. This special issue addresses the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in the impacted neighbouring islands of Barbuda and Cuba. We expect this to be the beginning of a number of critical social research examining the Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin the Dominican Republic, and the rest of Caribbean countries who encounters natural and not-so-natural disasters.

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A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

The contributions presented in this fifth issue offer valuable debates and analyses that resonate with the contemporary transformations and challenges faced by Latin America and the world. The different papers offer both theoretical and empirical discussions on a variety of issues including Buen Vivir, climate change vulnerability, food sovereignty and gender, popular participation, urban inequality, the indigenous movement and the modernisation of peasantry.

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Housing Movements and Participation in Institutional Spaces

Housing Movements and Participation in Institutional Spaces

By Valesca Lima

This article sets out to examine the inclusion of social movements in the designing of public policy in Brazil. I situate the Brazilian political and social context in terms of its persistent social inequalities and the inclusion of social movements in policy-making during the course of 2003–2010 (Lula da Silva’s first and second terms as president) and 2011–2014 (Dilma Rousseff’s first term as president). I discuss and explore mechanisms of participatory democracy, and more specifically, I look at the process of integration of civil society in spaces of decision-making related to housing issues. This paper found that, despite some concrete results of implementing greater popular participation, the inclusion of social movements still faces challenges to be effectively included in spaces of decision-making, especially under the current conservative administration.

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Opinion: The Nicaraguan tiger and the April rebellion

Opinion: The Nicaraguan tiger and the April rebellion

By JOSE LUIS ROCHA

 

In the past months Nicaragua has witnessed a wave of protests from different sectors of society, which have been met with violent repression by the Ortega/Murillo government. During this time, access to cities has been blocked, protesters have been arrested and disappeared, and some accounts report more than 300 deaths in 75 days of demonstrations. The role of the state in these events is linked to the deployment of the riot-squad police and of pro-government youth groups who have been accused of acting as paramilitary agents. Sparked by student protests, the movement has been joined by labour unions, business groups, academics and intellectuals in an uproar that goes beyond opposition to the state’s negligence and oppressive policies. The demonstrations are also fueled by the discomfort caused by the malfunctioning of the democratic systems and by alliances of the government with segments of society that a large part of the population interprets as a betrayal of the Sandinista ideals.

In this post, Alternautas reproduces an article by professor José Luis Rocha where he explains the events leading up to the demonstrations. Rocha’s article rests on an image that is very telling about what has happened in Nicaragua in the last months: the dormant tiger. The dormant tiger is a metaphor for a society that survived years of struggle, and that grew in social organisation through the Sandinista revolution and years of USA counter-revolutionary intervention. The tiger fell dormant after victory, fatigued from resistance but fed from years of collective collaboration. Today, the tiger seems to have awakened with renewed energy from the youth and cyberspace as the ideals that created it are replaced.

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Small-scale Farmers’ Vulnerability to Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes: A Case in the Quillcay River Basin

Small-scale Farmers’ Vulnerability to Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes: A Case in the Quillcay River Basin

BY ANNA HEIKKINEN

Peru has been ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the consequences of climate change (UNEP, 2013). Most of the world’s tropical glaciers (71%) are found in Peru (Vuille et al, 2008). During the past decades, scientists have observed the alarming impacts of global warming in the Peruvian Andes—thirty per cent of the glacier snowpack has been lost in a 30-year period (Urrutia & Vuille, 2009) and abnormal changes in seasonal precipitation patterns have been monitored (Sanabria et al, 2014). These changes in hydrological cycles pose a serious concern for populations living in the Andean lowland communities where glacier meltwater and precipitation provide a fundamental source of water.

In some regions of the Andean highlands, rural populations already have restricted access to potable water and irrigation. Poor highland communities often have less capacity to respond to the increasing water scarcity due to weak infrastructure, low income, strong reliance on agriculture and limited opportunities for alternative livelihoods. It is, therefore, projected that livelihoods and the daily survival of rural populations in the Andes will be threatened as the water supply continues to decline (Mark et al, 2010).

Myriad studies have been conducted on climate change in the Andean region from the standpoint of the natural sciences, revealing the biophysical threats climatic changes are posing to local ecosystems (Perez et al, 2010; Drenkahn et al, 2015). However, fewer studies have focused on climate vulnerability of local people in the rural highlands (Bury et al, 2011; Lynch, 2012).Andean highland populations have also suffered from political marginalization and discrimination for centuries in the Peruvian society, and some studies have suggested that climatic changes will further increase their vulnerability (Lynch, 2012; Rasmussen, 2015).

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The Trinity of Buen Vivir in Ecuador

The Trinity of Buen Vivir in Ecuador

By ANTONIO LUIS HIDALGO-CAPITÁN & ANA PATRICIA CUBILLO-GUEVARA

Buen Vivir, as an alternative concept to development (Acosta 2012, Cubillo-Guevara & Hidalgo-Capitán 2015a), emerged in Ecuador at the beginning of the 1990s, with the contribution of some Amazonian Kichwa intellectuals, under the name of sumak kawsay (Viteri et al. 1992, Viteri 1993, Viteri 2000, Cubillo-Guevara & Hidalgo-Capitán 2015b); however, it did not gain relevance until the 2008 Ecuadorian Constitutions included it as a principle (Vanhulst and Beling 2016).

This concept has been defined as a way of life in harmony with oneself (identity), with society (equity) and with nature (sustainability) (Cubillo-Guevara, Hidalgo-Capitán & García-Álvarez 2016). This definition was commonly accepted by the majority of intellectuals and politicians who used the term since the drafting of the 2008 Constitution; but here the consensus ended, since this way of living in harmony took on very different meanings according to the ideological position of each intellectual and politician who used the concept. Thus, there have been at least three ways of understanding Buen Vivir in Ecuador: one indigenist, another socialist and another ecologist / post-developmentalist (Le-Quang & Vercoutère 2013, Cubillo-Guevara, Hidalgo-Capitán & Domínguez-Gómez 2014, Vanhulst 2015).

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Food Sovereignty in Latin America: a gendered and multiescalar perspective

Food Sovereignty in Latin America: a gendered and multiescalar perspective

By GABRIELA PINHEIRO MACHADO BROCHNER

This article aims to analyze how the concept of food sovereignty in Latin America has been constructed as a political tool for peasant women. In addition, it examines the practices found in this everyday life construction, by drawing on a multiscale perspective stemming from feminist political geography.

With regard to peasant women, or rather, transnational networks of peasant women, it is necessary to take into account where their demands come from and how they lead women in one region to create networks with other women movements in the world in order to achieve their goals. In Latin America, the life of rural women in agriculture revolves around family care and food production at the local scale, and also at the regional scale. Women experience different forms of violence (by state, transnational companies, partners, etc.), and their consequences are perceived in everyday life. What occurs at the local scale is reflected in other scales, such as the state, the region, and the global. Peasant women are capable of recognizing their demands as women, particularly as peasant woman, which allows them to identify a point of convergence with women from different places in Latin America, sharing demands within the region since scales are mutually constitutive.

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The quinoa boom and the commoditisation debate: critical reflections on the re-emergence of a peasantry in the Southern Altiplano

The quinoa boom and the commoditisation debate: critical reflections on the re-emergence of a peasantry in the Southern Altiplano

BY MAURICE TSCHOPP

Quinoa is currently integrated in global production networks, although this crop was almost completely unknown some decades ago. In Bolivia, prices of quinoa reached an all-time high in 2013 and 2014, which resulted in an important expansion of the agricultural frontier. This article discusses the impact of the quinoa boom through the lenses of the commoditisation debate. It examines practises and perceptions linked to land and labour, two elements that were coined out as “fictitious commodities” by Karl Polanyi. While Land cannot be sold in the region, because of its legal status, several elements point toward a commoditisation process. The findings also suggest that labour has been increasingly commoditised as well. Quinoa producers indeed tend to rely increasingly more on casual labour and the multiplication of productive assets in the area resulted in new forms of commoditised social relations.

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Call for Papers: ‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’

Call for Papers: ‘The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters’

Beyond Puerto Rico, what kind of alternative Caribbean futures are being imagined and enacted in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season, and how are these entangled with a sense of greater infrastructural, relief or racial justice-- both local and regional? This special issue seeks to address the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in impacted neighbouring islands like Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Haïti, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Martin and the Dominican Republic, among others.

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Sumak Kawsay is not Buen Vivir

Sumak Kawsay is not Buen Vivir

BY JAVIER CUESTAS-CAZA

Nowadays, the paradigm of development-consumerism is responsible for the desolating panorama of social injustice and unrestrained exploitation of natural resources that leads to self-destruction of life on the planet (Huanacuni-Mamani, 2010). From the Global South, the voices that question in depth the philosophical and civilizational presuppositions of the Eurocentric developmental model are becoming stronger and more frequent. No one is surprised that these voices emanate from the population disillusioned by the promises of global culture (Álvarez, 2014; Estermann, 2013). From the Andes, a philosophical otherness arises, denominated "Andean Philosophy", which is a sapiential manifestation of an ancient tradition that questions the civilizational centrism of the Western (Estermann, 2015). The purpose of Andean's thought is reflected in the Sumak Kawsay.

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Lives Uprooted: Urban Inequality and Olympic Evictions in Rio de Janeiro

Lives Uprooted: Urban Inequality and Olympic Evictions in Rio de Janeiro

BY MARGIT YTSANES

As Rio de Janeiro prepared to host the 2016 Olympics, over 22 000 families were evicted from their homes. What is the significance of a home? As we know, a home holds social, cultural and psychological meanings far beyond its functions as a shelter. The architecture of houses are adapted to and reflect local ways of socialising, and may also be constructed in accordance with cultural symbolism (Bourdieu 2003; Robben 1989; Ystanes 2011). This article argues that while often applied as part of ‘urban renewal’ processes in different locations, forced evictions are highly problematic. The discussion is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Vila Autódromo and among former residents, during and after the eviction process. It is inspired by the concept of ‘root shock’ coined by the psychiatrist Mindy Fullilove (2004). This concept takes the loss of home and its surrounding environment as a traumatic event with enduring impacts for individuals as well as for communities.

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The case of MINKA movement in Bolivia and its aim to re-politicize indigenous peoples

The case of MINKA movement in Bolivia and its aim to re-politicize indigenous peoples

BY MELISA GORONDY NOVAK

Since the dawn of the 21st century, indigenous identities and knowledge stand at the center of a scenario where new levers for social change are desperately sought for. In that scenario, indigenous knowledge and practices are taking on an increasingly important role in economic and social progress (Briggs ‎2005; Cleaver 1999). However, several authors argue that indigenous experiences and understandings have been idealized, leading to a process of de-politicization (Briggs ‎2005; Cleaver 1999; Zimmerer 2014). Their criticism is not based on the effectiveness of indigenous knowledge, but on its instrumentalization in order to support actions demanding social change (Cleaver 1999). These arguments made by Briggs, Cleaver and Zimmerer inevitably raise questions about the ways in which politics (and academia) produce knowledge about indigenous people and practices that reproduce de-contextualized representations.

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A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

In the second half of 2017, Alternautas was devoted to developing a Special Issue entitled 'Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?'.  More than ever, the fields of Latin America have become conceptual and direct battlefields, where ideological, economic, political and cultural positions clash. The expansion of the agroindustrial frontier, fuelled by technological advances in genetically modified crops and the large-scale use of pesticides and fertilisers, is one aspect of the intensification of extractivist activities that have dominated the region’s recent political economic model, further increasing tensions surrounding environmental issues and land use (e.g. Gudynas 2013, North and Grinspun 2016, Svampa and Viale 2014, Svampa 2015). Counterbalancing the advances of industrial agriculture, some rural communities and environmentalist groups have sought to promote and strengthen alternative agricultural models through practices as diverse as polycropping, seed saving, agroecology schools and judicial resistance.

The papers in this special issue, published between August and December 2017, have explored some of the tensions, changes and conflicts arising from the expansion of agribusiness as the dominant mode of accumulation and food production in the region. They evidence – based on original research – on the multiplicity of mechanisms through which agribusiness has transformed the social, political, economic and environmental landscape of the region. Not only do these contributions cover a wide range of topics that demonstrate the extent the agribusiness mode of production’s advancement – including educational programmes, the role of science and international initiatives, and seed sovereignty struggles – but the diverse disciplinary backgrounds and methodological approaches of the authors also offers a very rich analytical focus.

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Control, Utility and Formalization at the "Frontier": Contested Discourses on Agriculture in Eastern Colombia

 Control, Utility and Formalization at the "Frontier": Contested Discourses on Agriculture in Eastern Colombia

By Alke Jenss

This article explores the deep transformation of the Altillanura region in Colombia, where the expansion of the agricultural frontier has brought to light the dynamics of the ‘economies of dispossession and land appropriation’ (Jenss, 2017, this issue) that underpin the extractive model dominating Colombian development. Alke offers an overview of the principal mechanisms through which these dynamics are expressed, particularly the expansion of new ‘Economic Zones’ of production and the growth of large-scale plantations which are institutionalised through the pervasive development plans and legislation. The tensions around traditional forms of land tenure and the necessity to offer ‘clear’ property rights to encourage investments in the Altillanura region clearly demonstrate the key tensions in the region, where small farmers and indigenous communities’ clash with large transnational corporations over the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

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IWRM and the legacies of large-scale agriculture in the Peruvian Amazon

IWRM and the legacies of large-scale agriculture in the Peruvian Amazon

BY GISELLE VILA BENITES

The advancement of agribusiness in Latin America has created environmental strains and les to increasing conflicts with local based economies dependent on small scale agriculture. Among the efforts to halt its negative effects, new models of resource governance emerged aiming to integrate stakeholders and users into accountable organisations. This article reviews the attempt to impose Integrated water resources management (IWRM) over the water governance arrangements of a native community in the Peruvian Amazon that faces an increasing intervention of rice agribusiness in their lands. The resulting dynamic can be understood as an altered arrangement: it doesn’t lead to the creation of an IWRM institution, nor does it reject new governance architectures. The rescaling of water governance, the interpretation of IWRM meanings and the contingency of the results, all within the frame of a history of agricultural development interventions in indigenous lands, helps us understand this phenomenon..

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¿Y si no en Habana? Landless science, peasant struggle, and capitalist development in Colombia

¿Y si no en Habana? Landless science, peasant struggle, and capitalist development in Colombia

BY ALEXANDER LIEBMAN AND HENRY A. PELLER

On November 30th 2016, the Colombian government and FARC signed a peace agreement despite its narrow rejection in a national plebiscite two months earlier. The Havana Accords promise to end five decades of civil war. Among the FARC’s central objectives in the negotiations was agrarian reform. This, in order to resolve the highest land inequity in the Western Hemisphere and the accumulated centuries of violent injustice onto the rural poor. About 80% of agricultural land in Colombia is concentrated among 14% of landowners (USAID 2010). Land is most often used for export production and extensive cattle production. From the Andean highlands to the Eastern Plains, cattle dominate the landscape, occupying 80% of agricultural land, often the most productive areas. Another 40% of Colombian territory is under contract with multinational productions for agriculture, forestry, or mining export (OXFAM 2013). Inequality of land access is also borne unequally across race and gender – Afro-Colombians and women facing the highest levels of internal displacement due to rural conflict and agri-business land accumulation (Gomez 2012).

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The imperial rationality within BioTrade: A contribution to the neoextractivist debate

The imperial rationality within BioTrade: A contribution to the neoextractivist debate

By Jonas Köppel

This article addresses a recent debate on neoextractivism in Latin America by presenting ethnographic research on BioTrade in Peru. While biodiversity conservation is usually not associated with extractivist projects, such as open-pit mining or industrial monocultures, the case study on Sacha Inchi presented here reveals the same basic patterns of resource extraction: a logic that places the requirements of global markets over local realities; that chooses the needs of exporting firms over the concerns of the rural populations; and that favors the perspective of the capital over that of its hinterland. The findings lead the author to interpret BioTrade, in this case, as a form of neoextractivism. It claims to pursue goals of social equity and environmental sustainability, while in practice adopting the same imperial rationality as the century-old extractivist project, characteristic for Latin America. Thus, this article contributes to the debate by reminding of the social, or “cultural”, preconditions for (neo)extractivism, namely the “coloniality of power” (Quijano, 1992), and thus the construction, subordination, and exploitation of the Other. In a post-structural reading it suggests that, in the contemporary arena of sustainable development, the neoliberal rationality constitutes a mechanism that reproduces colonial lines of social differentiation by creating difference along the lines of the ability to live up to its emblematic figure of the entrepreneur.

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