In the key of south: Latin American political ecology and critical thinking

In the key of south: Latin American political ecology and critical thinking

By Héctor Alimonda

Here I attempt to think about the insertion of a recent theoretical-political field and diverse and branching development—that of Latin American Political Ecology—into a plural framework with very specific characteristics—the tradition of Latin American critical thinking. A first version of this obsession was recently published (Alimonda, 2015).

Perhaps it would be redundant to clarify that I do not intend to sketch an itinerary in the open field of formal history of ideas in Latin America, among what has been thought and written in this corner of the world. Instead, I attempt to identify Latin American ideas as a critical, perhaps one could say ontological, reflection about its own existence. We will be delimiting diffuse pathways in a very steep and foggy territory, full of spectres, among which the new passengers will choose their ancestors or kill the dead, as Derrida said (1994: 119)

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Héctor Alimonda, the American task of political ecology

Héctor Alimonda, the American task of political ecology

By Facundo Martín, Gabriela Merlinsky and Catalina Toro Pérez

This text is an introduction of Alternautas’ mini-dossier in tribute to the work of Hector Alimonda (1947-2017). Here, Facundo Martín, Gabriela Merlinsky and Catalina Toro Pérez present Alimonda’s unique contribution to the field of political ecology in Latin America. It is followed by the newly translated “In the key of south: Latin American political ecology and critical thinking”, the introduction of Alimonda’s latest book, Ecología Política Latinoamericana - Volumen 1 (2017), co-edited by Facundo Martín and Catalina Toro Pérez. In the next weeks, we will also publish a translation of “The coloniality of nature”, an article that appeared originally in La naturaleza colonizada (2011).

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Diálogos de (re)existencia Indígena Afro-Latinxs: Descolonialidades posibles*

Diálogos de (re)existencia Indígena Afro-Latinxs:  Descolonialidades posibles*

POR KATUCHA BENTO, ANDREA SEMPÉRTEGUI, HERIBERTO RUIZ PONCE, LOUIS DI PAOLO

Este artículo es el resultado del diálogo generado en el simposio “Descolonizando el Norte Global: Afro-Latinoamérica, el Caribe y Abya Yala en diáspora” durante el Congreso Internacional de Americanistas (56º ICA 2018). Escrito en el formato de una conversación hecha a ocho manos, este texto tiene como objetivo exponer las condiciones de opresión vivenciadas por pueblos indígenas y afro-latinos desde dos posicionalidades: La primera de ellas es la voz de lxs investigadorxs inmersxs en las realidades contextuales dadas, seguidas por los comentarios de lxs investigadorxs abordando temas relacionados al racismo institucional, a la explotación y uso de la tierra y a la construcción de identidades y espacios queer desde una perspectiva descolonial. El esfuerzo de este diálogo es apuntar hacia horizontes posibles de liberación a partir de intercambios que puedan construir redes de solidaridad.

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Dialogues of Indigenous Afro-Latinxs (re)existence: Possible decolonialities*

Dialogues of Indigenous Afro-Latinxs (re)existence: Possible decolonialities*

BY KATUCHA BENTO, ANDREA SEMPÉRTEGUI, HERIBERTO RUIZ PONCE, LOUIS DI PAOLO

This article is the result of the dialogue started in the symposium "Decolonizing the Global North: Afro-Latin America, the Caribbean and Abya Yala in Diaspora" during the International Congress of Americanists (56th ICA 2018). Written by eight hands in the format of a conversation, this text aims to expose the conditions of oppression experienced by indigenous and Afro-Latinx peoples from two positionalities. The first is the voice of researchers immersed in their given settings. This is followed by the comments of peer researchers addressing issues related to institutional racism, the exploitation and use of land, and the construction of identities and queer spaces from a decolonial perspective. This dialogue attempts to point toward possible horizons of liberation from exchanges that can build networks of solidarity.

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Well-being: a Latin American response to the socio-ecological crisis.

Well-being: a Latin American response to the socio-ecological crisis.

By Hans-Jürgen Burchardt

Ever more acute socio-ecological problems demand a reorientation of natural resource-intensive growth paths. In this regard, the Ecuadorean “healthy and good life index” (Indice de vida saludable y bien vivida, IVSBV) offers alternatives for measuring quality of life.Discussing sedimented ideas of wellbeing and the meaningfulness of its measurements, as well as the introduction of the variable “time” as a determinant of social development, seeks to advance a socioecological model.

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Necropolitics revisited: how mainstream media coverage of Marielle's shooting in Brazil depoliticises her struggle and reinforces neoliberal logics’

Necropolitics revisited: how mainstream media coverage of Marielle's shooting in Brazil depoliticises her struggle and reinforces neoliberal logics’

By GABRIELA LOUREIRO

Until her assassination on the 14th of March 2018, activist Marielle Franco was a voice of her comunidade, the favela of Maré in Rio de Janeiro, and repeatedly denounced police brutality and the genocide of Black people, a topic that is not often covered by mainstream media in Brazil. When Marielle was murdered, pressure by national and international press prompted the ex-president Michel Temer to affirm that the case would be investigated and solved in 48 hours. Many months later, the crime has not yet been solved, although Rio police have identified a group of suspects who are part of a very dangerous militia in the state of Rio de Janeiro, with at least one tie to Jair Bolsonaro’s family. The following turbulent months of 2018 made journalists follow other news: the imprisonment of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the continuation of Lava Jato’s corruption investigation, and the violence and polarization associated with Brazil’s presidential elections. The stories about Marielle quickly faded away.  When the crime happened, however, there was a considerate amount of coverage by mainstream media. That is the subject of this article.

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A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

A new Issue of Alternautas is now available!

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 addresses the disaster conditions, responses and consequences not only in Puerto Rico but also in the impacted neighbouring islands of Barbuda, Dominica 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.
You can download here the journal issue in PDF. We forward to see this volume shared far and wide.

Happy reading!

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The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists by Naomi Klein (Haymarket Books, 2018)

The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists by Naomi Klein (Haymarket Books, 2018)

BOOK REVIEW By Sarah Molinari

The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria calls into question the temporality of disaster, both in terms of lived experience and analysis. It was difficult for Puerto Ricans to mark the first anniversary while so many still live Maria’s daily effects physically, emotionally, and financially. Failing institutions and disaster recovery initiatives have too often deepened vulnerability in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, thus augmenting the confused sense of pre- and post-disaster. During a September Rutgers University symposium on the “Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico a Year after Maria,” anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla suggested that perhaps Hurricane Maria was the “aftershock” itself, the culmination of over a century of colonial-capitalist exploitation and layered traumas. If Hurricane Maria was the aftershock, how can we think about disaster and disaster capitalism? Naomi Klein’s The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (2018) is a helpful starting point.

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The Politics of Survival in Puerto Rico: The Balance of Forces in the Wake of Hurricane María

The Politics of Survival in Puerto Rico: The Balance of Forces in the Wake of Hurricane María

By FERNANDO TORMOS

Puerto Rico’s left-wing forces have long tried to unify, a goal that has proven difficult to reach and even harder to sustain. At its strongest, the Left has faced intense repression from both the United States and the island’s colonial government. Yet, activists and left-wing intellectuals agree that deeper differences account for the collective inability to build unity. Historically, left-wing forces in Puerto Rico have split over the national question. Pro-independence groups, arguably the largest sector, have prioritized decolonization while socialists, feminists, and environmentalists have proposed a broader anti-oppressive praxis centered on social and economic issues. Other groups, such as the Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores, do not see these struggles as mutually exclusive, calling for the formation of a socialist republic in Puerto Rico.

Today a new wave of Leftist organizing is emerging, one free from traditional Marxist or nationalist dogmas. This new Puerto Rican Left is organizing for economic justice and against colonialism while putting a greater emphasis on gender, sexuality, and race. It aims to foster young leadership, articulate new solidarities, and revive the practice of community organizing. It is learning from the errors of the past while picking up the sediments of previous struggles. Yet, if the Left wants to remain relevant, it must collaborate with the youth, student, community, feminist, farmer, and environmental justice groups that are bringing new energy to the island. This essay contextualizes the Puerto Rican Left in relation to the island’s political economy, identifies the forces in the Puerto Rican Left, reviews their differences and recent history, and presents a brief analysis of their political influence in Puerto Rican and US politics.

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Special Issue on Agribusiness now available in Spanish!

Special Issue on Agribusiness now available in Spanish!

For the first time, Alternautas is proud to present an updated version of the special issue on “Agribusiness, (Neo)Extractivism and Food Sovereignty: Latin America at a Crossroads?”, which includes a Spanish translation of all the articles included to facilitate the distribution, collaboration and knowledge-sharing in Latin America beyond language barriers. We thank the authors and collaborators in assisting with the translation process.

Por primera vez, Alternautas se enorgullece en presentar una versión actualizada del Special Issue sobre “Agronegocios, (Neo)Extractivismo y Soberania Alimentaria: América Latina en la Encrucijada?”, que incluye una traducción en español de todos los artículos publicados originalmente, esperando que permíta la colaboración, distribución y el intercambio de conocimientos en América Latina, atravesando barreras de lenguaje. Agradecemos muy especialmente a los autores y colaboradores por la asistencia en el proceso de traducción.

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Rewiring Puerto Rico: Power and Empowerment after Hurricane Maria

Rewiring Puerto Rico: Power and Empowerment after Hurricane Maria

By Lily Bui

Disasters unravel--infrastructures, institutions, societies, and assumptions. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season brought forth multiple storms that not only stripped trees bare and dismounted roofs, but it also caught the Caribbean and Gulf Coast unprepared for the magnitude of destruction that such storms could bring, despite the best efforts of the messengers. Nearly half a year after the last hurricane season and half a year away from the onset of the next one, stories about the damage that Hurricane Irma and Maria caused have become hauntingly familiar. The stories less often told, though, are those about the long-term recovery efforts that have inevitably followed since the seas have calmed and the winds have died down.

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Cuba, Irma, and ongoing exceptionalism in the Caribbean

Cuba, Irma, and ongoing exceptionalism in the Caribbean

BY ROBERT COATES

In this post I review disaster risk/reduction in Cuba, particularly in light of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. The year after Irma is, for a number of reasons, an appropriate time to revisit the practices, meanings, and politics of disaster risk in this most interesting of cases. While Puerto Rico is negotiating temporary housing, an insufficient budget for critical services, and a disruptive political dispute over the post-disaster privatisation of education, the signs from Cuba are of significant recovery and business-as-usual as it enters the next hurricane season. Further intrigue is added by the fact that Raúl Castro stepped down as Cuban leader in April 2018, ending 59 years of Castro rule. The recent thaw in relations with the US under the Obama administration—and only partially refrozen by Trump—leads us to think through what the future might hold for disaster risk in a state widely considered to be in a process of opening to global influences and markets. I should add that I have as my primary target here an understanding of disaster risk rather than political ideology. Yet, as I will show, viewing the two separately proves impossible, given the clear links between societal form and top-down planning. Viewing them in tandem helps us to consider the mutually reinforcing connections between ideology, political-institutional legitimacy, and the triumph of societal organisation over not-so-natural disasters. As Cuba moves into the post-Castro era, its approach to hurricane exposure remains emphatically exceptional to what’s become a sad Caribbean norm of destitution, debt, blame shifting, and global political ineptness. Clues in dealing with the presence of natural hazards going forward must surely be found in independent analysis, as far as is possible free from twentieth century ideological conjecture.

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Entering the Contact Zone? Between Colonialism, Neoliberal Resilience and the Possibility of Emancipatory Politics in Puerto Rico’s Post-Maria

Entering the Contact Zone? Between Colonialism, Neoliberal Resilience and the Possibility of Emancipatory Politics in  Puerto Rico’s Post-Maria

By César J. Pérez-Lizasuain

Undoubtedly, the colonial and neoliberal regime in Puerto Rico precedes the scourge of Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. Therefore, when evaluating the “responses” that followed this atmospheric disaster, it is important to consider that the political, legal and economic base for such “answers” have been articulated from a long-standing colonial-neoliberal complex in the island. In this article, the author identifies this complex with what he calls the degenerative evolution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, established in 1952.

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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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