The trouble with 'the local': responses to extractive development in the Peruvian Amazon
Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti
Paper short abstract:
I engage with different positions over extractive development, progress, wellbeing and sustainability held by the indigenous and non-indigenous inhabitants of a region in the Peruvian Amazon. In doing so, I problematise 'the local' in mainstream analyses of responses to extractivism.
Paper long abstract:
My paper problematises the 'local' in mainstream analyses of responses to extractivism by revealing the diverse positions and conversations over extraction, development, progress, wellbeing, sustainability, and the state's responsibilities in regards to these, held by indigenous Ashaninka people in villages of the Bajo Urubamba and Tambo river valleys of Peruvian Amazonia, and indigenous and non-indigenous inhabitants of the town of Atalaya, the main urban centre for both valleys. The area is impacted in environmental and social terms by Peru's flagship extraction project at Las Malvinas/Kamisea, and other concessions for hydrocarbon extraction and hydroelectric dams. These projects correspond to the growth of extractivism in Peru, pushed by an agenda based on an economic understanding of development and progress that has lead to the zoning of three-quarters of the Amazon for extraction. In spite of macroeconomic success, extractivism has failed to create a significant improvement in either the quality of life or economic poverty of those it directly impacts. This failure, and the imposition of further projects with no consultation to local populations, has led to violent social conflicts throughout the region. I will consider their positions in light of national and international policies, and the positions held by representatives of Ashaninka political organisations and the local government. I will conclude by considering the challenges and opportunities presented by such diversity of positions to initiatives seeking to address issues of social and environmental (in)justice in similar contexts, and to the broader scholarly literature on the topic.
Thinking otherwise at the extractive frontier: conflict, negotiation, translation, and a more equitable conversation