Welcome to the fifth volume of Alternautas!
2018 is witnessing two major processes affecting Latin-American politics in very different ways. On the one hand, the political crisis in Brazil has developed in alarming and dramatic events with the politically motivated murder of Marielle Franco, a socialist and black feminist city councillor in Rio de Janeiro, and the scalating interference of the Army and the Judiciary in the presidential elections, resulting in the arbitrary arrest of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The combined reading of these events indicates that Brazilian institutions are failing to act impartially and are having a significant impact on the country’s democracy.
On the other hand, 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 the face of these political processes, academia is progressively taking position to clarify the empirical facts and produce rigorous analysis. Alternautas reproduced an article by Professor José Luis Rocha where he explains the events leading up to the demonstrations. Alternautas is committeed to supporting these kinds of initiatives, by analysing these events through the framework of critical development studies.
We are an academic blog focused on discussing development through critical lenses with a particular Latin-American perspective. During the last five years, we have published original and translated articles from young and prominent scholars from Latin America and other parts of the world, contributing not only to academic discussions, but also to creating a fertile environment where non-mainstream ideas and perspectives on development can flourish.
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.
Melisa Gorondy Novak’s contribution examines the emergence of MINKA (Indianista Katarista Movement), a Bolivian indigenous social movement whose main aim is to reflect on indigenous identities and knowledge in the contemporary context. The movement criticizes how the idea of the indigenous has been constructed and enacted by the MAS government, producing specific forms of power and knowledge. In addition, the movement aims to challenge colonial forms of power and bring a new layer of politicization to Bolivian society. The article uses the concept of “power-knowledge regimes” in order to analyze how MINKA, through specific knowledge-practices, is challenging what is conceived as ‘the indigenous’.
Margit Ytsanes’ article seeks to analyse the eviction of over 22.000 families from their home as Rio de Janeiro prepared to host the 2016 Olympics. Margit 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 of the author in Vila Autódromo and among former residents, during and after the eviction process. It is inspired by the concept of ‘root shock’ developed in psychiatric studies. 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.
Javier Cuestas-Caza’s essay seeks to deepen and broaden the discussion on the translation of the term Sumak Kawsay into Buen Vivir. By this way, Javier discusses its meaning from each epistemic community, its cultural referent and its relationship with development. Despite being widely used as synonyms, the author argues on the imprecise translation, their different epistemology, and different ontology. These three arguments are the result of an extensive bibliographic review of more than 150 documents from academic databases and gray literature as well as partial results of the ethnographic and coexistence work in progress in the province of Imbabura in Ecuador. The analysis of texts and information collected was guided by referential elements of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Decolonial Theory.
Maurice Tschopp’s article seeks to explore some of the tensions engendered by the quinoa boom. Maurice argues that the high degree of market integration of quinoa production accelerated an economic and social restructuration of the Southern Altiplano. The author discusses some of the impacts of the boom, not only in terms of socio-ecological consequences, but also in terms of counter reactions and adaptation of local social and political systems. The analysis suggests that some of the impacts of the boom may be usefully explained by means of the commoditization framework. Yet the research also shows that the quinoa boom led to a household- and community-level restructuring that has contributed to strengthening normative and social frameworks in quinoa-producing communities. Finally, the paper concludes on how this case is illustrative of the blurring boundaries that can exist between peasantry and entrepreneurial farming.
Gabriela Pinheiro Machado Brochner’s 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. Gabriela discusses the tensions between food security and food sovereignty as two opposed concepts, and how food sovereignty has been performed to include gender issues.
In their article, Antonio Luis Hidalgo-Capitan and Ana Patricia Cubillo-Guevara discuss the different and sometimes contradictory meanings attributed to the concept of Buen Vivir in Ecuador. They identify three ways of understanding Buen Vivir considered as a trinity: one indigenist, another socialist and another ecologist/post-developmentalist. The authors conclude on the confluence of these three streams in one conceptualization of Buen Vivir, based on the search for identity, equity and sustainability, through the transformation of Ecuador into a pluri-national, post-capitalist and bio-centric society.
Anna Heikkinen’s article discusses small-scale farmers’ vulnerability to climate change in the Peruvian Andes, using the case of the Quillcay River Basin. The study measured vulnerability of local smallholders to climatic and hydrological changes by analyzing relations between glacier recession, changes in precipitation and socioeconomic factors. The objective of the study was to contribute to the existing discourse on climate vulnerability in the Andes and other regions with similar challenges using a different perspective and a less common method. The findings of the study also aim to provide guidelines for local policymakers to plan more holistic adaptation strategies to mitigate climate vulnerability of the rural highland communities.
Finally, Valesca Lima’s article seeks to analyze the implementation of popular participation measures in Brazil taking as a case study the housing movement. Valesca studies how a variety of social programs were created to tackle social issues in the country, but addressing these issues properly has proved to be difficult for two reasons. Firstly, social problems are deeply embedded in Brazilian society and current social investment in these areas has been selective. Secondly, despite the Workers’ Party’s social project and their success in some areas over the years, those social programs focused on the effects, not on the causes of social inequalities.
In 2016, along with a guest editor (Gerardo Muñoz), Alternautas published a dossier focusing on the end of the progressive cycle in Latin America. The dossier sought to reflect on the observed “failure” of various left-wing governments of the continent in improving democratic inclusion and reducing social inequalities. It engaged with a critical discussion on the meanings of the progressive cycle and the possibility of post-hegemonic alternatives.
In the second half of the year, Alternautas published its first special issue focusing on water and (neo)extractivism in Latin America. In general, the authors highlighted both the attempts to establish durable alternatives in water management, and the difficulty of profoundly changing the (neo)extractivist structures that dominate the region.
In 2017, Alternautas published its second special issue on “Agribusiness, (neo)extractivism and food sovereignty: Latin America at a crossroads”. This special issue explores the tensions, changes and conflicts arising from the expansion of agribusiness as the dominant model of accumulation and food production in the region.
Along with publishing original content, Alternautas also engages in research and diffusion activities to the scientific community. Following this objective, the editorial team has organised and contributed to panels in relevant academic conferences, such as the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) congress, the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS) conference at the University of Glasgow, and the Nordic Latin American Research Network (NOLAN) at the University of Gothenburg.
Alternautas has seen its audience increasing over the years: since its creation in 2014, the blog has received over 50,000 visits and almost 80,000 pages views, and our social media accounts have over 1,000 followers. The blog has a global impact but has garnered the most attention in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Spain, Switzerland, and more. It is mainly read by English, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking audiences, but also by German and French-speaking people among others. Alternautas is now aiming to undertake a process of transformation, following the success and visibility gained since its creation. The current Editorial Board is therefore seeking to transform Alternautas into an indexed Open Access Journal, which will offer an improved capacity to share and make visible critical research on development on and from Latin America.
We are happy to share with you the great news that in the second half of 2018, Alternautas will be publishing a third special issue on “The Making of Caribbean Not-so-Natural Disasters”. It seeks to explore 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. Tentative special issues and calls are currently being discussed for the future, and could range from indigenous epistemologies to memory studies. More ideas and projects are always welcome!
You can download here the journal issue in PDF. We forward to see this volume shared far and wide.
The Alternautas Editorial Team,
Adrian E. Beling, Ana Estefanía Carballo, Gibrán Cruz-Martínez, Alexander D’Aloia, Emilie Dupuits, María Eugenia Giraudo, Juan Loera González, María Mancilla García, Maria del Pilar Ramírez Gröbli, Sue Iamamoto, Diego Silva, Julien Vanhulst, and Johannes M. Waldmüller
From a virtual Abya Yala, July 2018.
 The article has been originally published in http://www.alternautas.net/blog/2018/7/10/opinion-the-nicaraguan-tiger-and-the-april-rebellion, on July, 10th, 2018.