In this article, I examine the anti-capitalist and antidevelopment politics that Diné resisters espouse in their critiques of resource extraction in the Navajo Nation. I argue that existing anthropological and historical studies about Diné resistance minimize the specifically anti-capitalist character of this resistance by erasing the capitalist underpinnings of development. I draw from Indigenous feminists, Native studies scholars, and Diné land defenders to argue that development in the form of resource extraction is a violent modality of capitalism that seeks to kill Diné life. In response to this death drive, Diné resisters have created a politics of relational life to challenge and oppose development. I examine the historical and material conditions that have given rise to this politics of relational life and suggest its central role in invigorating anticapitalist decolonization struggles.
Resource Extraction, Anti-Capitalism, and Relational Futures
Melanie K. Yazzie
Indigenous Relations against Pipelines
In the settler colonial context of so-called Canada, oil and gas projects are contemporary infrastructures of invasion. This article tracks how the state discourse of “critical infrastructure” naturalizes the environmental destruction wrought by the oil and gas industry while criminalizing Indigenous resistance. I review anthropological work to analyze the applicability of the concept of infrastructure to Indigenous struggles against resource extraction. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Indigenous land defense movements against pipeline construction, I argue for an alternative approach to infrastructure that strengthens and supports the networks of human and other-than-human relations that continue to make survival possible for Indigenous peoples.
Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism
Paul Berne Burow, Samara Brock and Michael R. Dove
This article examines different ontologies of land in settler colonialism and Indigenous movements for decolonization and environmental justice. Settler ontologies of land operate by occluding other modes of perceiving, representing, and experiencing land. Indigenous ontologies of land are commonly oriented around relationality and reciprocal obligations among humans and the other-than-human. Drawing together scholarship from literatures in political economy, political ecology, Indigenous studies, and post-humanism, we synthesize an approach to thinking with land to understand structures of dispossession and the possibilities for Indigenous revitalization through ontological hybridity. Using two different case studies—plantation development in Indonesia and land revitalization in the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Nation—we further develop how settler and Indigenous ontologies operate on the ground, illuminating the coexistence of multiple ontologies of land. Given the centrality of land in settler colonialism, hybrid ontologies are important to Indigenous movements seeking to simultaneously strengthen sovereignty over territory and revitalize land-based practices.
An Indigenous Critique of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
Lauren Eichler and David Baumeister
Within the mainstream environmental movement, regulated hunting is commonly defended as a tool for preserving and managing populations of wild animals for future generations. We argue that this justification, encapsulated in the seven principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, perpetuates settler colonialism—an institutional and theoretical apparatus that systemically eliminates Indigenous peoples, expropriates Indigenous lands, and disqualifies Indigenous worldviews— insofar as it manifests an anthropocentric ideology that objectifies hunted animals as “natural resources” to be extracted. Because this ideology is antithetical to Indigenous views, its imposition through hunting regulation interrupts Indigenous lifeways, contributing to the destruction of Indigenous identity.
Whiteness, Settler Coloniality, and the Mainstream Environmental Movement
Joe Curnow and Anjali Helferty
In this article, we trace the racialized history of the environmental movement in the United States and Canada that has defined the mainstream movement as a default white space. We then interrogate the turn to solidarity as a way to escape/intervene in the racialized and colonial underpinnings of mainstream environmentalism, demonstrating that the practice of solidarity itself depends on these same racial and colonial systems. Given the lack of theorization on solidarity within environmentalism, we draw on examples of solidarity work that bridge place and power and are predicated on disparate social locations, such as in accompaniment or the fair trade movement. We conclude that the contradictions of racialized and colonial solidarity should not preclude settler attempts to engage in solidarity work, but rather become inscribed into environmentalist practices as an ethic of accountability.
Bret Gustafson, Francesco Carpanini, Martin Kalb, James Giblin, Sarah Besky, Patrick Gallagher, Andrew Curley, Jen Gobby and Ryan Anderson
Cepek, Michael. 2018. Life in Oil: Cofán Survival in the Petroleum Fields of Amazonia. Austin: University of Texas Press. 302 pp. ISBN 978-1477315088.
Choné, Aurélie, Isabelle Hajek, and Philippe Hamman, eds. 2017. Rethinking Nature: Challenging Disciplinary Boundaries. Abingdon; New York: Routledge. xiv + 268 pp. (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-138-21493-4.
Davis, Diana K. 2016. The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 271 pp. ISBN 978-0262034524.
Gissibl, Berhard. 2016. The Nature of German Imperialism: Conservation and the Politics of Wildlife in Colonial East Africa. New York: Berghahn Books, 2016. 374 pp. ISBN 978-1-78533-175-6.
Ives, Sarah. 2017. Steeped in Heritage: The Racial Politics of South African Rooibos Tea. NC: Duke University Press. 272 pp. ISBN 978-0-8223-6986-8.
Martínez-Reyes, José. Moral Ecology of a Forest: The Nature Industry and Maya Post-Conservation. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 216 pp. ISBN 978-0816531370.
Powell, Dana E. 2017. Landscapes of Power: Politics of Energy in the Navajo Nation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 336 pp. ISBN 978-0822369943.
Raygorodetsky, Gleb. 2017. The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change. New York: Pegasus Books. 336 pp. ISBN: 978-1681775326.
Wright, Christopher, and Daniel Nyberg. 2015. Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 254 pp. ISBN 978-1107435131.
People and Plants
Kay E. Lewis-Jones
Plants have all too often been relegated to the margins—their diversity and vitality obscured within generic terms such as “habitat,” “landscape,” or “agriculture.” A green “background to human activity” (Rival 2016: 147; Sheridan, this volume), plants, the foundation of life on this planet, have frequently failed to compete with the charismatic fauna, let alone the anthropocentrism that dominates the Western cultural imagination. Th is marginalization has not only been due to an oversight by the social sciences but also, just as readily it seems, neglect by the natural sciences. Since Aristotle set in motion the perception of plants as passive and insensitive they have largely been overlooked and it was not until the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that western scientists began to comprehend the active relationship that plants have with the world (Gagliano 2013). Recent research on plants, however, is now expanding our appreciation both of the fundamental role plants have in the function and health of the living world (CBD 2010; Smith et al. 2011), and of their own intimate interactions within it (Chamovitz 2012; Marder 2013; Myers 2014)—sparking what some have optimistically anticipated as a “plant-turn.”
Sarah Besky and Jonathan Padwe
In this article, we use plants to think about territory, a concept that is at once a bulwark of social theory and an under-theorized category of social analysis. Scholarship on plants brings together three overlapping approaches to territory: biological and behaviorist theories; representational and cartographic perspectives; and more-than-human analysis. We argue that these three approaches are not mutually exclusive. Rather, different epistemologies of territory overlap and are imbricated within each other. We further argue that these three approaches to territory inform three distinct domains of territoriality: legibility and surveillance; ordering and classification; and exclusion and inclusion. Through examples of how plants operate in these three domains, we illustrate the analytical potential that a more-than-human approach to territory provides. We conclude, however, that attention to the particularities of plant ecologies can help move multispecies discussions more firmly into the realm of the political economic.
Boundary plants lie at the intersections of landscape ecology, social structure, and cultural meaning-making. They typically relate resource rights to social groups and cultural identities, and make these connections meaningful and legitimate. Landscape boundaries such as hedges and fence lines are often repositories for social identities and cultural meanings, and tools for the negotiations and struggles that comprise them. This article surveys botanical boundaries in classic ethnography, outlines social science approaches to boundary objects, and describes new theoretical work on space, place, and agency. It also introduces the concepts of monomarcation and polymarcation to delineate the contrast between technologically simple and socially complex forms of marking land. Three case studies, concerning the social lives of Dracaena in sub- Saharan Africa and Cordyline in the Caribbean, illustrate how boundary plants have a particular sort of vegetative agency to turn space into place in culture-specific ways.
Peasant Agroecological Systems as New Frontiers of Exploitation?
Anne Cristina de la Vega-Leinert and Peter Clausing
In view of the Aichi international policy targets to expand areas under conservation, we analyze to what extent conservation has become an inherent element of extraction. We scrutinize the Land Sparing versus Land Sharing debate by explicitly incorporating environmental justice issues of access to land and natural resources. We contend that dominant conservation regimes, embedded within Land Sparing, legitimize the displacement of local people and their land use to compensate for distant, unsustainable resource use. In contrast, the Land Sharing counternarrative, by promoting spatial integration of conservation in agroecological systems, has the potential to radically challenge extraction. Common ground emerges around the concept of sustainable intensification. We contend that if inserted in green economy’s technocentric and efficiency-oriented framework, sustainable intensification will contribute to undermining diversified peasant agroecological systems by transforming them into simplified, export-orientated ones, thereby stripping peasant communities of the capacity to provide for their own needs.