Welcome to the sixth volume of Alternautas!
We are already halfway through 2019, and the year has been marked by strong disjunctures and continuities with 2018. Despite widespread discontent and protests, Ortega remains in power in Nicaragua; although recent international pressure has secured the release of a large number of political prisoners. Similarly, despite dramatic scenes in the news, Guaido and his opposition groups failed to oust Maduro, and the Venezuela president firmly remains in power. After what was, for many, a shock election in 2018 in Brazil, Bolsonaro has proven to be just as controversial a figure in power as he was during his campaign. Diverse opposition groups have united against the right-wing figure, but the Brazilian president has continued to display his authoritarian tendencies.
Yet not all disjunctures are positive nor all continuities negative. The passing of Héctor Alimonda in 2017 was a tragedy, but his legacy continues in the tradition of Latin American political ecology. Similarly, the assassination of Marielle Franco was a terrible shock, but her life provided an inspiration to many to fight for the rights of the poor, dispossessed and marginalised. While generally seeing ourselves as a vehicle for change, here at Alternautas we also wish to emphasise a continuity and solidarity with struggles past and ongoing. This issue in particular expresses our passion for these issues of political ecology and issues of positionality, respectively.
We are an academic blog focused on discussing development through critical lenses with a particular Latin-American perspective. During the last six 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.
Our sixth issue presents contributions that continue the Alternautas tradition of offering new insights into the situation of the continent, providing space for alternatives to mainstream ideas, and helping spread the work of Latin American scholars to speakers of other languages. Two big themes come out of this issue: positionality and the environment. From an analysis of the death of political activist Marielle Franco, to a conversation about decolonising the global north, our authors examine how race, gender and sexuality are performed and experienced, often in ways that are detrimental to the disenfranchised. In response to the passing of Héctor Alimonda, the environment has also arisen as an important theme, whether it be in the context of conceiving development differently or the intertwined nature of the exploitation of both peoples and the environment.
Gabriela Loureiro starts this issue with a piece on the mainstream media coverage of Marielle Franco—a city councillor for Rio de Janeiro. Marielle was known for her work in the favelas of Rio, often seen as giving voice to these communities. In particular, she worked to represent poor black women. She championed causes related to gender-based violence and reproductive rights, and as an elected official with a female partner, Marielle worked to make queer communities visible and stood up for their rights. Nevertheless, despite widespread outrage, mainstream media coverage has largely depoliticised her struggle, rendering it safe and palatable for neoliberal logics.
It is commonly acknowledged that traditional measures of development are overly focused on economic indicators. Nevertheless, both the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals still fall into this paradigm. In contrast, Hans-Jürgen Burchardt discusses the need to not just develop a different concept of ‘development’ but do away with it all together. Instead, he proposes using the concept of ‘wellbeing’, particularly with reference to ideas of Buen Vivir developed in Ecuador. By merging this with the concept of ‘time’ as an independent variable, this leads to the formation of the Índice de vida saludable y vien vivida—the index of a well-lived healthy life.
The next article returns us to the topic of positionality, gender, race and sexuality. Rather than a traditional article, however; its four authors (Katucha Bento, Andrea Sempértegui, Heriberto Ruiz Ponce, Louis di Paolo) lead the reader through a wide-ranging conversation from the creation of an “Amefricaladina” space of resistance, to a struggle against extractive projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon, to even a discussion of the commercialisation of LGBTQ+ tourism in Uruguay. A common theme across all of these discussions is decolonisation, broadly conceived—what it might look like and the struggles of those attempting to achieve it.
Facundo Martín, Gabriela Merlinsky and Catalina Toro Pérez begin our mini-dossier on Héctor Alimonda, a seminal thinker in regard to Latin American Political Ecology. The three authors offer a brief overview of his life and make a powerful case for the man’s importance with regard to analyses of the overlapping realms of ecology and politics, particularly in Latin America.
Our first work from Alimonda is a translation of In the Key of South: Latin American Political Ecology and Critical Thinking, an introduction to his latest book—Ecología Política Latinoamericana – Volumen 1. In this piece, Alimonda explores critical thinking in a Latin American context, arguing that it is a unique production of the history of the continent. Although borrowing from the English- and French-speaking traditions of political ecology, Latin American political ecology, particularly understood as critical thinking, is fundamentally linked to the experience of colonisation—the trauma of conquest and the experience of being incorporated into a subordinate in the world system.
Finally, despite being an earlier piece, The Coloniality of Nature: An Approach to Latin American Political Ecology expands on this discussion of Latin American political ecology being a recognisable and unique product of the continent’s history of colonisation. In particular, Alimonda explores how the current wealth of the Global North and ecological crises of the Global South are not simply dichotomies, but closely intertwined—the wealth of the North could not have existed if it were not for the systematic exploitation and degradation of the natural environments of the South.
Alternautas began 2018 with an excellent series of articles, particularly focused on food sovereignty, urbanisation and alternative conceptions of development. Also, for the first time we were able to publish a Spanish-language version of our special issue on agrobusiness and neoextractivism—reaffirming our commitment to alternative venues for intellectual discussion, not just the traditional English-language spaces. In the second half of the year, we published a special series of articles on not-so-natural disaster. This special issue explored how although hurricanes such as María are natural, the poverty, destruction and death that result are far from it—they are the legacy of exploitative histories.
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 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.
At Alternautas we are always looking for new ideas and perspectives. We encourage readers to engage in the community and join in the discussion around these important topics. To this end, we have recently opened a call for editors. We are looking for more to join our editorial board, an excellent experience and a great way to help foster discussion around alternative ideas of development that otherwise tend to be overlooked. Details are on the website, Facebook page and Twitter, but if you are interested, please email us a brief statement and a CV by the 26th of July 2019 to email@example.com. We are always keen see new faces and work with passionate individuals.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this issue!