Racialized environmental conflict and emerging political subjectivities in Latin America
1. Latin America: 1500- 1900 struggles over access and control of environment inform and are justified by emerging racial ideologies. 2. 20 th century modern development and the “disappearance” of Indians 3. Starting in 1990s, surge of interrelated environmental conflicts and racialized identities 4. Dawn of 21 st century, new subjectivities with environmental justice and indigenous / afro identities 5. How does this push and motivate us to rethink conventional notions of environment and of race?
(1) For several centuries people of European heritage have striven for privileged access to use and shape environments across the Americas. People labeled as indian and negro have resisted in many ways, and generally lost access and control, been displaced from their environments, and lived in environments that have been penetrated and polluted by mining, drilling, logging, plantations, urbanization.
AAA statement on race “In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences”
Race is NOT a biological reality. Race is a worldview featuring a myth about biology. Race is a historically specific sociocultural system manifest in legislation, economy, education, residence patterns, kinship, bodies, and of course, environments.
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles: Race, Class and the Environment Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society Uproar at Dancing Rabbit Creek: The Battle over Race, Class and Environment in the New South Jews, Race, and Environment Aboriginal Connections to Race, Environment and Traditions We Speak for Ourselves: Social Justice, Race and Environment Dumping In Dixie: Race, Class, And Environmental Quality A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster Algeria in France: Transpolitics , Race, and Nation Race et Histoire La Nacion y Sus Otros: Raza, Etnicidad y Diversidad Religiosa En Tiempos de Politicas de La Identidad Immigrants at the Margins: Law, Race, and Exclusion in Southern Europe Roma And Gypsy - Travellers In Europe: Modernity, Race, Space And Exclusion The Color of Liberty: Histories of Race in France Reproducing the French Race: Immigration, Intimacy, and Embodiment in the Early Twentieth Century Races on Display: French Representations of Colonized Peoples, 1886-1940 The Trouble With Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de- Siecle Europe Essai Sur l'inégalité Des Races Humaines Ruling Passions: Sex, Race and Empire White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son Race, Class, & Gender: An Anthology Race, Incarceration, and American Values (Boston Review Books) Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools Race, Ethnicity, and Health: A Public Health Reader Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader Bringing the Empire Home: Race, Class, and Gender in Britain and Colonial South Africa Race, Ethnicity, and Health: A Public Health Reader The Social Construction of Difference and Inequality: Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality
(2) In the context of 20 th century modern development: many observers---from scholars to political leaders to National Geographic magazine—declared that “Indians were disappearing.”
“ Given their advantage in force, it is not surprising that aspects of the colonizers’ value systems have become hegemonic, so that the stigma attached long ago by Europeans to ‘Indianness’ has worked its way into ‘Indian’ self-consciousness as well. Consequently, self-proclaimed Indians are exceedingly scarce” (Thomas Abercrombie 1992:96).
Evo Morales, Bolivia’s “First Indigenous President”
(3) Starting in 1990s, Latin America has been shaken by an explosion of environmental conflicts in which people engaged in struggles over natural resource use and environmental governance often explicitly identify themselves as indigenous and/or afro.
2006 Achuar protesting oil drilling along Peru-Ecuador border
(4) At the dawn of 21 st century, a new type of political action and subjectivity is emerging in which environmental justice is mutually constituted with indigenous and afro identities.
“ I investigate how race and ethnicity are implicated in the recognition process in Brazil on the basis of an analysis of a successful struggle for indigenous identity and access to land by a group of mixed-race, visibly African-descended rural workers.” Jan Hoffman French 2004: 663
“ Motivated by new legal rights, access to land, and the possibility of improvements in their standard of living, residents of Mocambo embarked on a campaign to gain quilombo recognition, even though it would mean identification with a -derided category associated with oppression and slavery—“negro.” Jan Hoffman French 2006: 341.
Bus stop at Kilometer 25
Family fishing at their pond
Family finished fishing
Family working together to prepare bags for cacao seedlings
Making boards from a log using a chainsaw
When I worked on the plantation I was a slave. (eu era um escravo). I did not have control over my body or my labor. I worked like a black man. Everything we produced was sold for profit. I was hungry. My family was hungry. Now that I work my own land I am free. I can do what I want when I want. I am strong and can grow food for my family to eat. Here I can breathe freely.
(5) How can we rethink conventional notions of environment and of race in ways that grasp relationships between them?
The emergence of collective ethnic identities in the Andes, in Brazil, and in the Colombian Pacific reflects the irruption of the biological as a global concern and the intensification of the cultural or ethnic as a political issue. How can we understand what’s emerging? Consciously constructivist and strategically essentialist? Racial identity about Nature, but Not about genetic determination? Identity constructed through environmental practices and struggles, which are biological processes?
In a discussion of movements of black communities in the Pacific rainforest, Escobar and Paulson (2005) explore an alternative conceptualization of biodiversity as “territory plus culture” that is emerging as Afro-Colombians define environment as a cultural/natural space of ethnic groups and life corridors associated with the riverine production systems.
In a study of racial inequalities in health published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Clarence Gravlee urges us to move beyond ‘race-as-bad-biology’ to explain how race becomes biology . Arguing that race exists as a sociocultural phenomenon that has biological consequences, Gravlee presents a model for explaining how racial inequality becomes embodied—literally—in the biological well-being of racialized groups and individuals: “It is a vicious cycle: Social inequalities shape the biology of racialized groups, and embodied inequalities perpetuate a racialized view of human biology” (Gravlee 2009:48).
“ The body, in Andean thinking, is an object built up over time. As it ingests, digests, and expels substances from the world around it, it provides its owner an identity drawn from worldly substances. Body and identity thus originate in the intimate physical relationship between persons and their social milieu.” Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes , Mary Weistmantel, 2001:91.
Jan Hoffman French 2006. Buried alive: Imagining Africa in the Brazilian Northeast. American Ethnologist 33 (3): 340 - 360. Jan Hoffman French 2004. Mestizaje and Law Making in Indigenous Identity Formation in Northeastern Brazil: “After the Conflict Came the History." American Anthropologist 106 (4): 663 – 674. Arturo Escobar and Susan Paulson 2004. The Emergence of Collective Ethnic Identities and Alternative Political Ecologies in the Colombian Pacific Rainforest. In Susan Paulson and Lisa Gezon, eds. Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales and Social Group s. Rutgers University Press. Pp. 257-278. Susan Paulson Forthcoming. Arms that cultivate, hands that eat: Racialized sensations in Northeast Brazil. In Rachel Slocum, ed. Geographies of race and food: fields, bodies, markets.
Ethnicity and Race “Members of an ethnic group may consider themselves or be defined by others as different and special because of their language, religion, geography, history, ancestry, or physical traits. When an ethnic group is assumed to have a biological basis (shared blood or genetic material), it is called a race .” Conrad Kottak and Kathryn Kozaitis. 2007, p. 87.
Fetishism: Value inheres in the individual commodity, rather than coming from the socio-economic system, Race inheres in the individual human body, rather than coming from the socio-economic system.