Touted as a means to extend democracy to previously disenfranchised people, participatory budgeting actually covers a variety of motivations and effects. This article explores diverse reactions and meanings through a case study of the Peruvian peasant community of Allpalumichico. Although the economic system embedded in the legal requirements of the Peruvian participatory budgeting process derives from the global neoliberal agenda, the actual practices also reflect the personal and political strategies of local and national politicians. At the same time, the citizen participants and beneficiaries of the process understand it on their own terms. Despite both the decline of the peasant community as an institution and the increasing heterogeneity of the residents, collective norms of resource distribution continue to inform how allpalumichiqueños engage in participatory budgeting decisions. This collective sense of community could be the basis for much more organic and relevant forms of participatory budgeting.
Democratization, state control, or community autonomy?
The Travels of José Uriel García and Aurelio Miró Quesada Sosa
Rupert J.M. Medd
From the 1930s onward, Peru began to acknowledge its own intellectual travel writers who were committed to writing about national geographical and social realities. This can be evidenced by the output during the period of independent travelers and those connected to state-funded institutions such as the Sociedad Geográfica de Lima. The underlying position is that the act of travel and its literature can work against imperialism and, therefore, become expressions of patriotism. Here, the travel narratives of two prominent Peruvian figures are analyzed: José Uriel García from Cusco and Aurelio Miró Quesada Sosa from Lima. Together, they provide valuable evidence about two different responses to the modernization of Peru while also representing the nation’s significant sociogeographical divides. The focus is on questions of history, coloniality/modernity, national identity, and natural resources such as water and wood. It is hoped that this will contribute to literary studies on travel and the environment.
Citizenship and environment-as-common-property in highland Peru
Mattias Borg Rasmussen
Since the early 1990s Peru has experienced an expansion in mining activities and an expansion in what the Peruvian ombudsman defines as socioenvironmental conflicts. This article examines the dynamics through which an environmental issue is transformed into a matter of citizenship and social belonging during a weeklong uprising in defense of Lake Conococha. Highlighting the collective actions and personal narratives from participants in the region-wide blockade, the article therefore seeks to understand how dispossessions of environmental resources perceived as common property are cast in terms of individual rights that move well beyond the site of conflict. It is therefore argued that the actions to reclaim Lake Conococha were not only a battle for natural resources and clean water, but more fundamentally an attempt to repossess a citizenship that may be constitutionally secured but all too often fails to be a lived reality in the high Andes of Peru.
Wellbeing, Place and Extractivism in the Amazon
Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti
In this article, I argue for a broadening of the conceptualisation of wellbeing in the scholarly and policy literature on the topic. I do so as, despite the calls for the inclusion of place in analyses of wellbeing, the literature on the topic still carries a dominant conception of wellbeing as a measurable index based on Euro-American practices and discourses, with their associated views of humanity and nature. I will advance the discussion on wellbeing’s intimate connection to place and place-based consciousness through an ethnographic engagement with kametsa asaiki (‘living well together’), an ethos of wellbeing pursued by indigenous Ashaninka people in the Peruvian Amazon. This is a revealing context as Peru exemplifies how extractive development initiatives tend to misrecognise or underestimate their socio-natural consequences on local pursuits of wellbeing. I argue that an understanding of the role of place and place-based consciousness in wellbeing is key to enhancing the concept’s utility in policy and practice, especially due to its centrality in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In doing so, I call for further ethnographic explorations of the link between wellbeing models and understandings of humanity and nature.
Structuring urban landscapes on the margins of the possible in Peru
In Peru, land invasions have played an informal yet prominent role in implementing agrarian reform. In the southern Andes, peasant mobilization and land takeover were used as a means to circumvent a stalled expropriation process. Strategic lessons learned in agrarian settings have application on the margins of cities as well. New “urban areas” created out of expropriated hacienda lands in Cuzco were initiated by spontaneous occupancy which gradually became regulated and standardized in predictable ways. Administrative planning becomes a response to land takeover, playing a retrospective role in situations in which internal kinds of development already are unfolding. State permissiveness towards illegal occupancy is a carefully courted prize, not to be taken for granted. Nevertheless, residents invest years of effort in building their homes and neighborhoods, in the hope of eventually prevailing, despite contradictory and frustrating experiences with changing policies and bureaucratic encounters.
Documents, Infrastructure and Political Experimentation in Highland Peru
This article tracks the political effects of documents produced in relation to a public infrastructure project in the Peruvian Andes. By contrast with the recent focus on bureaucratic documents as aesthetic artefacts and instances of institutional form, I attend to the political processes enacted through project papers, exploring how their relational, material, affective and referential dimensions opened up spaces of political experimentation. In particular, I suggest that the power of documents to mediate the regulatory ambiguities incurred by Peru's ongoing decentralization lies partly in their capacity to espouse normative formality whilst always hinting at the possibility of its undoing.
Transforming Amerindian Sociality in Peruvian Amazonia
This article examines the legacies of a missionary organization’s project to assist the transition of the Amahuaca and others in Peruvian Amazonia into permanent communities. The central aim of this state-sponsored project was to bring Amahuaca people into the ‘modern world’ and allow them to participate as productive members of Peruvian society. I take their approach of ‘intercultural community work’ as an early manifestation of ‘capacity building’ projects in the region. By examining the contrasting ways such transition projects have been framed by the organizers and participants over time, points of comparison can be identified between an Amerindian conceptualization of ‘transformation’ and the way ‘transformation’ is understood to be central to ‘capacity building’ projects within a contemporary United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] framework. I argue that it is critical to examine the transformative impulses of capacity building projects in relation to how change is conceptualized by those involved.
Billie Jean Isbell
This article describes the Cornell Peru Project of 1952 and the subsequent return of Cornell researchers to Vicos in 2005. It assesses the successes and failure of the 89 researchers over the 15-year period of the project during the Cold War and contrasts the interventionist methodologies of that time with the participatory methodologies that guided Cornell's return to Vicos in 2005. Various contemporary projects are described and evaluated.
Collective responses to shrinking water access among farmers in Arequipa, Peru
Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen
This article examines what economic growth and state versions of progress have done to small and medium-scale farmers in an urban setting, in Arequipa in southern Peru. The general reorganization of production, resources, and labor in the Peruvian economy has generated a discursive move to reposition small and medium-scale farmers as backward. This article analyzes how farmers struggle to find their place within a neoliberal urban ecology where different conceptions of what constitutes progress in contemporary Peru influence the landscape. Using an analytical lens that takes material and organizational infrastructures and practices into account, and situates these in specific historical processes, the article argues that farmers within the urban landscape of Arequipa struggle to reclaim land and water, and reassert a status that they experience to be losing. Such a historical focus on material and organizational infrastructural arrangements, it is argued, can open up for understanding how local and beyond-local processes tangle in complex ways and are productive of new subjectivities; how relations are reconfigured in neoliberal landscapes of progress and dispossession. Such an approach makes evident how state and nonstate actors invest affects, interests, and desires differently within a given landscape.
Governmentality and profit extraction through fabricated abundance and imposed scarcity in Peru and Spain
Ismael Vaccaro, Eric Hirsch and Irene Sabaté
As a result of the financialization of household and national economies, indebtedness has become a system of domination shaping the making of contemporary subjects. Th is sort of governmentality through debt is a multifaceted phenomenon affecting people’s economic and political behavior in both the North and the South. Disguised and legitimized by the moral obligation to repay debts, and by promises of upward social mobility (for the working classes in the North) and of development (for the population of the Global South), indebtedness disciplines households and neutralizes political agency under finance capitalism, as our ethnographic examples on the mortgage crisis in Spain and on microfinance in Peru reveal.