EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution
Global appropriation of bio-resources and its impacts on local people in international perspective
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00
What are mechanisms of the (international) appropriation of bio-resources in remote areas? How does the state communicate these processes to the local people and how does it conduce them? To what extent and in what ways do local people have room to manoeuver in these settings?
During the last two decades humanity has witnessed an increasing privatization of bio-resources (land, forests, water resources, minerals, etc.) around the globe, accompanied by overt international competition to commoditize and globalize natural resources. The planet's last bio-sphere sanctuaries have become commodities and currently, relatively remote local peoples are suffering from drastic alterations of their natural and socio-cultural habitats. At the same time, the state, in different national settings, has greatly extended its visibility, facilitating the transformation of bio-resources into commodities. These developments shred local people's physical and symbolic maps of belonging, weakening social bonds and impacting social organizations as the imposed changes convert local peoples' livelihood systems. In this context, different social actors and organizations and their different cosmologies of the involved actors compete with each other for the resources. Against this background, we propose a panel that will be guided by the following research questions: What are the mechanisms of the (international) appropriation of bio-resources in remote areas? How does the state communicate these processes to the local people and how does it implement them? To what extent and in what ways do local people have room to manoeuver in these settings? Our panel encourages anthropologists, who study processes of transformation focussed on the encounter of people and the state, on the transformation of commons and bio-resources into commodities and on local peoples' responses and strategies, to submit their abstract. Our own regional focus is the Amazon, but we strongly encourage contributions situated in other regions.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Consulting "the local community": mediation, inequalities and exclusion in the context of large-scale land deals. A case study from Madagascar
Drawing on a case-study from Madagascar, this paper explores how large-scale land deals are enforced locally. It analyses how opportunities offered by local consultation processes are unequally neutralised by misconceptions and exclusionary mechanisms as mediated by local state agents.
Tempting simplifications of large-scale land deals as pitting powerful investors against powerless rural populations fail to withstand close examination of the local mechanisms through which these land transfers come about. The ethnographic study of Lalifuel agribusiness project as it strives to gain land access in a pastoral area of Madagascar highlights a complex process involving a variety of state and non-state actors who present different, shifting interests and heterogeneous abilities to impose their positions on populations, decision-makers and on the economic operator. This paper focuses on the role played by local state agents in mediating the project to local populations, through discourses and actions that frequently exclude land users from decision-making. While in two of the targeted municipalities, mayors have been facilitating the manufacture of consent and the corporate appropriation of land, in a third one, the mayor has been fighting those villagers struggling to be incorporated in the project by forbidding any land transfer to the investor. Yet in these two configurations, the ability of local authorities to impose their positions on villagers has proved to vary from one village to the other. Highlighting the socio-economic unequalities that characterise the "local population" and the varying power relations that exist between non-state and state authorities, this paper argues that local populations have differentiated abilities to defend their interests in view of the risks and opportunities of the land-based investment.
Naturalised infrastructures: Amazonian rainforest, smart cities and the global biopolitics of aluminium
The Amazonian extraction of aluminium and its commodification for “smart” urban contexts exemplify two ways in which the “power over life” is exerted world over (Foucault 2008). The paper suggests that the naturalisation of human infrastructures enables and connects both biopolitical regimes.
Despite social anthropology and historical ecology having shown the Amazonian rainforest to be a humanized and anthropogenic context, colonial history has depicted it as a purely natural milieu. The social agency of its material culture, traditional infrastructures and geographical arrangements has been swallowed by the naturalist preconceptions of the civilizing project. In parallel, first the colonial despoliation, and later the mechanized extraction of Amazonian natural resources, have provided the modern West with the "raw materials" that have in part afforded an intensive process of industrialisation and urbanisation. In the last decades, the most sophisticated version of these Western ventures is represented by the "smart city" projects that endeavour to create natural environments that emerge from (and are controlled by) hi-tech infrastructural undertakings. By following the example of the extraction of aluminium ores in the river Trombetas (lower Amazon, Brazil) and its commodification for smart urban contexts in Europe, the paper investigates the role that the naturalization of human infrastructures plays in the material flows that enable globalisation and capitalism. Despite the "naturalising ambitions" of smart infrastructures being seemingly distanced from the colonial naturalisation of the Amazonian rainforest, the paper suggests that a global focus on the biopolitics of aluminium might provide an example of how these two ways of exerting "the power over life" constitute each other as historically, economically and ecologically connected technologies of power.
Environmental policy and territorial identities in Eastern Amazonia
In this paper we aim to discuss the emergence of new forms of territorial claims under the label of cultural identities in Brazilian Amazon, also as an indicator of a crisis of the territorial management policy that stands as the backbone of the environmental Brazilian model.
Since the Rio Conference (Earth Summit) in 1992, environment issues have become one of the most important topics of the Brazilian political agenda. As a consequence of these efforts, the Brazilian state tries through its territorial management agenda to merge land reform and land tenure (socio-political institutions) issues with environmental protection policies. The creation of a National System of Protected Areas (SNUC) was based on the idea that local population (seen as "traditional" population) should be an important partner of territorial management practices. After 15 years of experience, however, the expectations of local peoples' political participation and prospects of improvement of local economies through sustainable development have not been fulfilled. In addition, recently we have witnessed the emergence of new forms of territorial claims, often presented under the label of cultural identities (ethnogenesis for instance). Some groups regarded as traditional are claiming ethnicity as a major criterion for territorial ascription. By doing so, the so called traditional groups gain greater autonomy in the use of natural resources, as well as a relatively privileged access to law enforcement system and public services. Our point to discuss here is, whether these events are indicators of a crisis (or at least an indicator of a strong pressure upon the conservation units) of the territorial policy that stands as the backbone of the environmental Brazilian model. In our paper we want to consider this topic based on field research studies conducted in different settings in Eastern Amazonia.
Tropical rainforests, soybean fields and local population: a case study from the lower Amazon
Subject is the drastic changes of a nature conservation unit and its buffer zone at the Lower Amazon due to mega-infrastructure projects. Of concern is to show how the Brazilian state takes part in this endeavour, what processes are under way and what smallholders’ options and responses are.
The transformation of local population's territories in the Amazon is accompanied by the appropriation of rainforest's bio-resources (land, timber) by migrant farmers and entrepreneurs, who substitute forest gatherer's and smallholders' production into extractive exploration systems. During these processes, local people lose their physical and symbolic landscapes of meaning and belonging, as social and environmental decomposition accelerates. Local people sometimes organize collective action in coalition with social and environmental movements; but often they accept their fate to the detriment of their own rights and well-being. Against this background, I explore the case of the nature conservation unit Flona Tapajós and its buffer zone at the Tapajós River in Brazil, which is undergoing drastic changes for the last decades due to the implementation of mega-infrastructure projects in their sphere of influence, and due to the encroachment of soy-bean production. Of concern is to show how the Brazilian state takes part in this endeavour, what processes are under way and what smallholders' options and responses are. I argue that a) strategic partnerships exist between the private sector and the state; b) the state constantly transforms territories in dependence of the political and economic power play; c) the state facilitates the transformation of commons and other forms of local peoples' land property regimes into commodities; and d) one important instrument hereby is the reclassification and re-labelling of social and ethnic groups through social programmes in order to adjust the population to strategic government planning.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.