¿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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Por una Vida Digna: Science as Technique of Power and Mode of Resistance in Argentina

Por una Vida Digna: Science as Technique of Power and Mode of Resistance in Argentina

By Ingrid Elísabet Feeney-McCandless

Two decades after the approval of the use of GMO seeds in Argentina, the devastating consequences of the use of agro-chemicals linked to genetically modified seeds are becoming painfully clear. Rural populations are increasingly becoming aware of the dreadful environmental and health impacts of the use of the ‘technological package’ that has fuelled the expansion of Argentina’s agribusiness. Importantly, this paper provides an insight into how this growing awareness has become translated into greater community organisation across the country, with the aim of not only questioning the implementation of the current agribusiness model, but also the different ways in which these practices are legitimised. Her analysis of the movement for a Ciencia Digna (‘a dignified science’) demonstrates the epistemological battles that are fought in the everyday resistance organised by these communities. 

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Security and Safety in the Glyphosate Debate: a Chemical Cocktail for Discussion

Security and Safety in the Glyphosate Debate: a Chemical Cocktail for Discussion

By Diego Silva

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released on the 20th of March 2015 in Lyon (France) a controversial report stating that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic for humans. The use of the word “probably” is meant to clarify that although there is a positive correlation between exposure to the chemical agent and cancer, other explanations (such as chance, bias, or confounding) could not be fully ruled out (International Agency for Research on Cancer 2015). While the debate triggered by this report has revolved around the agricultural uses of glyphosate at the international level, in Colombia the debate has been associated with the use of glyphosate to eliminate one of the main financial sources of insurgent groups: cocaine crops. Moreover, while the use of glyphosate in Colombia was banned for the eradication of illegal crops shortly after the release of the WHO report, its use remains unproblematic as a strategy of crop management for legal agricultural crops. How can these different responses to the evidence presented in the WHO report on glyphosate be explained?

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Seed Sovereignty Struggles in an Emberá-Chamí Community in Colombia

Seed Sovereignty Struggles in an Emberá-Chamí Community in Colombia

BY LAURA GUTIÉRREZ ESCOBAR

Laura Gutierrez’ article takes us to Riosucio, in the North West of Colombia, where the Embera-Chami indigenous people of the region have organised to promote and protect their agricultural sovereignty. Laura examines the intricacies of the seed conflicts that take place in this country, where the government and industrial agriculture associations have promoted the use of certified seeds, while Embera-Chami communities have challenged this system through the development of their own networks of seed saving, multiplication, and reproduction. These conflicts constitute struggles over seed sovereignty, that is, over the way seeds are produced, owned, circulated, saved, and endowed with meanings and spirituality. However, these struggles reveal a larger battle over autonomy and place-based ways of inhabiting and sustaining territory. These conflicts are the manifestation of the coloniality of power that continues to promote Euro-American models and knowledges as superior, and Latin American agricultural and botanical knowledges as inferior. The seed, as a living organism that interacts with humans, and as a recipient of cultural, symbolic, and economic values, is at the core of the struggle between colonialism and local resistance, and thus serves as a lens through which these conflicts can be analysed.

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Reclaiming the Food System: Agroecological Pedagogy and the IALA María Cano

Reclaiming the Food System: Agroecological Pedagogy and the IALA María Cano

By Jaskiran Kaur Chohan 

Industrial agriculture has been one of the key contributors to global warming and consequent climate disasters worldwide. In 2014, 44-57% of global greenhouse gas emissions were produced by industrial food production; principally from deforestation, transportation of products, their processing and refrigeration (GRAIN, 2014). This paper will focus on the case of the Instituto Agroecologico Latinoamericano (IALA) María Cano in Colombia, which aims to use knowledge as resistance in an epistemo-political struggle against industrialised agriculture. The piece will theoretically outline the phenomenon of industrial agriculture, the impact this has on societies and ecologies, as well as the overarching epistemologies that maintain this.

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Introduction to the Special Issue: Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?

Introduction to the Special Issue: Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?

By Ana Estefanía Carballo, María Eugenia Giraudo, Diego Silva and Johannes Waldmueller

In Latin America’s history, the agricultural sector has played a pivotal role for each period’s form of economic, social and political development. The papers in this special issue explore 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. This issue presents 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.

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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 fourth issue offer valuable debates and analysis that resonate with the contemporary transformations and challenges faced by Latin America and the world. On the one hand, several papers offer theoretical discussions of major concepts in the field of critical development studies, such as notions of ayllu, degrowth, cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitics, accumulation by dispossession, and non-western science. The critical lens adopted in the discussion of these concepts is essential in order to conceive new paths of alternative development in the region. On the other hand, some papers adopt a more practice-oriented approach on social policy reforms in the continent, such as social solidarity economy or wage policies. This original focus is intended to create new theories and concepts from the observation of empirical processes.

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Degrowth: Unsuited for the Global South?

Degrowth: Unsuited for the Global South?

Review Article by Miriam Lang

Translated by Diego Silva

Hegemonic common sense suggests that a project as exotic as controlled economic degrowth is at its best applicable only in the geopolitical Global North while for the South, economic growth would be a requirement. Despite this, more and more voices are questioning the arguments that give economic growth a central place in political discussions, suggesting that this type of criticism could be liberating for many parts of the world (Max-Neef 1995; Latouche 2010; Altvater 2013; Muraca 2014; Gudynas y Acosta 2014; Lang 2016). The fifth international conference on degrowth that took place in Budapest, capital of Hungary, between the 30th of august and the 3rd of september 2016, revealed that reflections around degrowth are also a place of convergence for multiple transformatory narratives: from political ecology to ecological economics, considering also feminist perspectives that suggest the organization of society around a logic of care; from ideas of environmental and climate justice to policy ideas of universal and unconditional basic income. In this way, degrowth constitutes an additional contribution from a new internationalism, a contribution that seems necessary for interventions from the plural left over the globalized world. This internationalism is not limited to solidarity practices in struggles that take place in far away places, but instead, it looks for convergence, as well as complementarity and reciprocity between transformatory struggles that are contextualized and diverse.

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Paradoxical wage policy trends: the cases of Uruguay and Chile

Paradoxical wage policy trends: the cases of Uruguay and Chile

BY JUAN VELASCO

The quality and trends of the policymaking processes in Latin America have been under permanent debate. A rich literature has pointed out different factors that have influenced policymaking since the return to democracy in the 1980s. Particularly important objects of debate have been the political and ideological predominant positions, like the neoliberal (1980s-1990s) and pink (2000s-2010s) waves (Castañeda, 2006; Roberts, 2007; Levistky and Roberts, 2011; Kingstone, 2011). It has also been pointed out the influence of the economic trends that the region has faced, and the internal economic imbalances that produced crisis and adjustments (Ffrench-Davis, 2000; Diez and Franschet, 2012; Haggard and Kaufman, 2012). Other issues discussed are more politically structural, like the balance of power under presidential regimes, how the structure of policymaking is set up between Government and Parliament or under Unitarian/Federal regimes, and the structure of political participation and the composition (fragmented/majoritarian) of political coalitions in Government or Parliament (Stein et al., 2008; Aninat et al. 2008; Sehnbruch and Siavelis, 2014). Finally, the debate also highlighted the importance of different stakeholders (i.e. business elites) and their influence in Latin American policymaking (Cook, 2007; Schneider, 2008; Karcher and Schneider, 2012).  The overlapping of these issues are key to understand how policies evolve. However, even though general economic, political and societal waves define a trend or direction, the differences in terms of magnitude and sustainability of policies among countries show there are idiosyncratic elements for explaining changes.

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The ayllu and territoriality in the Andes

The ayllu and territoriality in the Andes

By Simón Yampara Huarachi

Translated by Sue Iamamoto

The ayllu is a political, geographical and ethnic unit that encompasses indigenous communities occupying different ecological levels (Condarco Morales, 1970; Murra, 1975). It was the most basic indigenous territorial organization before the spread of haciendas in the Andean region and it is practiced today in zones historically unaffected by haciendas, or by communities that seek to rebuild their indigenous socio-political organization. The text below focuses on how the Aymara concept of suma qamaña, normally translated as “living well” or vivir bien in Spanish, relates to a native perspective of development stemming from the ayllu organization itself. The book was published in 2001, during a time when “communitarian lands of origin” (TCOs, in their Spanish acronym) were starting to be recognized and institutionalized, a process that began in the mid-1990s. Yampara’s discussion of suma qamaña was highly influential amongst academics and helped to shape the policies adopted by the current administration under Evo Morales.

Despite the important influence of this book in particular, and Yampara’s work in general, in Bolivian national politics, his work has remained largely absent in English-speaking academia. We are very happy to share this first translation with you and we welcome comments and inquiries.

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Furnishing the Social Solidarity Economy

Furnishing the Social Solidarity Economy

BY ALEX D'ALOIA

Despite its historic roots, the Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) is a concept that has come to prominence in South America over the last decade. It is an alternative theoretical construct of “the economy” that seeks to emphasise relationships of solidarity in an attempt to reinstate the primacy of “society” over “the market”. What makes the SSE distinctive is that while it (mostly) professes itself to be a theoretical construct, it is also explicitly intended to be a guide for policy. This contribution first examines the SSE as an intellectual construct, noting the lack of consistency around the term. It then proceeds to relate these conceptions to the practice of the SSE in the field, looking at the program Mobiliario Escolar, introduced by the Ecuadorian government in 2014. There, the SSE shows much potential, with its slightly ambiguous definition lending it a certain utility for guiding policy. Most importantly, the SSE is shown to be a beneficial example of practice-oriented theory.

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(PART 2) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

(PART 2) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

BY ANNE TOOMEY

In the first part of her post, Anne Toomey discussed, in more general terms, the possibilities to explore the research encounters in non-Western settings and how they shift academic practices elsewhere in the globe. In this second part, she turns to the history and development of the “Bolivian science” to illustrate these possibilities.

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(PART 1) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

(PART 1) Writing history in the present: The implications of localized forms of science in Latin America for a postcolonial world

BY ANNE TOOMEY

Scientific research practices, in particular in the biological sciences, are currently undergoing a great deal of scrutiny and change due to recent debates in the social sciences about bioprospecting, biopiracy and the co-production of knowledge.  Nowhere are these debates more relevant than in countries with high levels of both biological and cultural diversity that have been subject to a history of colonialism, such as in tropical regions of South America.  Many authors have written critically about these issues – however, there is less understanding about the links between such histories and the policies, discourses and relationships as occur in scientific practices in these regions of the world today.  In particular, little notice has been taken of localized creations of scientific practice in non-western settings, especially in terms of how they shift scientific trends and debates on a global scale. This essay takes the case of ‘Bolivian science’ in order to show how research encounters in the so-called scientific ‘peripheries’ of the world can have implications for the production and use of science that far outstretch the limits of geographical boundaries, and lead to the decolonization of science back on Western soils.

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Endless dispossession: looking at Mexico through David Harvey’s gaze

Endless dispossession: looking at Mexico through David Harvey’s gaze

BY J. ALEJANDRO DE COSS-CORZO

Mexico seems to be immersed in an unending series of catastrophes. Every day new stories of injustices and horrible deaths smother us. Social networks, both physical and virtual, are continuously filled with outrage, which more often than not, suddenly decays. This processes, some clearly connected and others apparently distant, can be explained in a systematic fashion through the work of David Harvey.

In his work, Harvey has sought to explain how capital accumulation produces and transforms space. This focus has established his body of work as one of the main contributions to Marxist theory in the last fifty years. In particular, he has focused on explaining the production of urban space; the role of violence and dispossession in the accumulation of capital, and the role finance plays in the capitalist system and its crises. Even if these three topics were scarcely explored by Marx, Harvey looks for clues and follows his steps in a critical and complementary way.

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Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitics and Indigenous Peoples: Elements for a Possible Alliance

Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopolitics and Indigenous Peoples: Elements for a Possible Alliance

By Fabian Flores Silva

We are witnessing the re-emergence of cosmopolitism. Cosmopolitanism is rising as a politico-cultural movement, which while being globalised in the inter-metropolis connection, it chiefly reaffirms the normative engagement with human rights beyond national borders. Almost simultaneously, several theories have appeared under the term ‘cosmopolitical’. They question cosmopolitan common sense and its mono-naturalism as they reclaim the polyphonic de- and re-construction of the world from the heterogeneous forces and entities that inhabit it. Considering their dissimilar assumptions, cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitics do not seem to encounter points of convergence, except their aspirations to think about the world. For those who support cosmopolitanism, this is the field of human political action, while for advocates of cosmopolitics the world is something to be constructed by involving human and non-human actors. In this way, as suggested by Bruno Latour, it could be argued that we are obliged to decide between cosmopolitism and cosmopolitics; between assuming the urgency of saving the world and the slowing down of decisions that undermine this enterprise; between the ‘logical equivalence’ and the ‘operator of equality’ that Isabelle Stengers tells us about (2014).

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A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

This is the first time Alternautas devotes an entire issue to a special topic. In this case, during the second half of 2016, we published a collection of articles and essays discussing the theme of water, a natural resource which is at the core of the debates on the kind of development model Latin American countries engage into. Indeed, water resources are at the core of numerous conflicts in which antagonist visions of development are revealed. To name just a few among those that have received extensive international scholarly attention are the ‘Water War’ against the privatization of drinking water in Bolivia (Olivera & Lewis, 2004; Perreault, 2005), the mobilizations against the mega-projects of hydro-electricity in Brazil (Fearnside, 2006, 2013, 2014) and those against the pollution of the Cajamarca water basin by the mining company Minera Yanacocha in Peru (Bebbington & Bury, 2009).

 

To mark the completion of this special issue, we have collated and published all of the articles, available in a PDF, in open-access format to be distributed freely. We wish you all a happy reading!

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Governance in “Murky Waters”: the Political Fields of Water Extractivism in Honduras

Governance in “Murky Waters”: the Political Fields of Water Extractivism in Honduras

By INGO GENTES

Profound changes in public administration after the presidential elections in Honduras (2013) resulted in a re-structuring and regrouping of public institutions and autonomous entities for the relevant legislative period (2014-2018). These adjustments, thought as a “new public-private co-management” – aimed to “…tangible impacts not only within the administration but also within communities and scattered settlements which, in turn, are expected to be both, beneficiaries as well as participants in innovative sectorial and public policies programs.”

The governments’ goal was to carry out a National Plan for Water and Sanitation (PLANASA, Plan Nacional de Agua y Saneamiento) together with a still pending financial sector policy for the WASH sector (CONASA, 2013b, c, 2014). Both politics established different mechanisms and instruments as well as strategic guidelines according to the Framework Law for Water and Sanitation (2003, FLWS, Ley Marco de Agua Potable y Saneamiento). New secretaries and institutional entities generated adjoined existing ones in their technical and administrative mandate.

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The many natures of water in Latin-American neo-extractivist conflicts

The many natures of water in Latin-American neo-extractivist conflicts

By Cristobal Bonelli, Denisse Roca-Servat and Mourik Bueno de Mesquita

Thousands of diverse ‘water protectors’ representing different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds throughout the American continent are standing firm against the destruction of ecological systems carried out by extractive development projects. One recent example concerning indigenous peoples has been the mobilization carried out by the Hunkpapa Lakota and Yanktonai Dakota Native American people of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline project is a $3.8 billion investment to move 500,000 barrels of domestic crude oil a day through four U.S. states. If constructed, the Dakota pipeline would pass through sacred burial grounds as well as the Missouri river – the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux population.

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