places_regions.doc - Places and Regions in the Age of Globality Social Movements and Biodiversity Conservation in the Colombian Pacific Arturo Escobar

places_regions.doc - Places and Regions in the Age of...

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Places and Regions in the Age of Globality: Social Movements and Biodiversity Conservation in the Colombian Pacific Arturo Escobar Department of Anthropology University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Table of Contents Preface and Acknowledgements 2 Introduction 13 1. Place 50 2. Capital 116 3. Nature 179 4. Development 249 5. Identity 321 6. Networks 405 Conclusion 474 References Cited 493 Endnotes 558 2
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Preface and Acknowledgements This book has been twelve years in the making. It has grown and stalled over this period in tandem with the demands and vicissitudes –the many facets of pain and joy-- of intellectual, personal and professional life. I started on the journey that resulted in this book in 1991-92, when I first developed the proposal which took me to Colombia in January of 1993 for a year of field research, then simply entitled “Afro-Colombian Responses to Modernization and Development.” During that initial year, I was able to assemble a small research team to work in the Southern Pacific region, at that point still customarily described as a poor and forgotten hot and humid forest crisscrossed by innumerable rivers and inhabited by black and indigenous groups –a litoral recóndito , as Sofonía Yacup, a local author and politician had put it already in the 1930s. By then, the region was fully immersed in an ambitious strategy of development that had started in the mid 1980s; armed with the tools given to us by the discursive critique of development of the 1980s, I set out to investigate ethnographically both the cultural and ecological impact of the various projects and the forms of resistance presented to them by the black groups of the river communities. Or so I thought, because what I discovered soon after my arrival was that the situation was far more complex than I had realized from the distance. And indeed it has not ceased to grow in complexity, posing unprecedented challenges to research method, politics, and understanding. First, two or three months into the project it became clear to us that besides State-sponsored development and nascent capitalist enterprises (chiefly African oil palm plantations and industrial shrimp farming at the time), albeit closely 3
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linked to them, there were two crucial factors in the struggle over the representation and fate of the region. The first was the concern with the region’s biodiversity; identified as one of the most important “biodiversity hot-spots” in the world, our arrival in the region coincided with the beginning of a novel internationally-funded conservation strategy of ambitious scope. As in other hot-spots of the sort, la conservación de la biodiversidad (the conservation of biodiversity) had become the battle cry of State, NGOs, academics, and local leaders alike. Closely related to this was a still small but highly committed and articulate “social movement of black communities.” Our initial conversations with activists of this movement, while not immediately trusting, was nevertheless auspicious.
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