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.
Transforming Amerindian Sociality in Peruvian Amazonia
Democratization, state control, or community autonomy?
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.
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.
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.
The lottery and precarity of farming in Peru
Astrid B. Stensrud
The neoliberal global food system has intensified the uncertainties associated with peasant farming and agrarian livelihoods around the world. This article examines processes of precarization among smallholder farmers in the Majes Irrigation Project in Peru. By discussing price volatility and uncertainty related to the “free market,” I argue that the conditions of small-scale entrepreneurial farmers today can best be understood in terms of gambling and precarity. After four decades of neoliberal deregulation, farmers in Majes describe agriculture as a “lottery” where one can win or lose everything. Despite prospects of growth and progress, most farmers rely on low-income dairy farming or contracted crops for agro-industrial corporations. The freedom to take risks in the open market entails uncertainty and often results in loss, and farmers must negotiate the ambiguous relation between autonomy and dependency.
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.
The Materiality of Roads and Public Spaces in Provincial Peru
This article sets out to analyze how concrete is implicated in the transformation of public space in provincial Peru. While concrete enhances a state's capacity to produce reliable, predictable structures, there are also significant limits in relation to its connective capacity in both the material and social domains. Ethnographic attention to the relational dynamics of concrete reveals how its promise to operate as a generic, homogeneous, and above all predictable material is constantly challenged by the instability and heterogeneity of the terrains to which it is applied. The image of power that concrete affords is thus a compromised one, as the stability and predictability of this substance is secure only insofar as it is surrounded by and embedded in specific relationships of care.
Mining Conflicts in Peru and Their Complexity
This article focuses on the debates over the Río Blanco mining project in Piura in northern Peru. Using Tsing's notion of 'friction', I explore the complexity and global connections in this case and show how the actors engaged universal categories to pursue their agendas. I argue that the campaign against Río Blanco is an example of indigenous mobilization in contemporary Peru because the local protestors invoked the global term 'indigenous', although they mobilized as peasants and as ronderos/as (civil defense patrollers). Their decision to campaign as peasants, however, illustrates the continued relevance of class in a contemporary global context. By using their peasant identity strategically in combination with their regional identity and their identity as marginalized peoples, the local population of Piura gained a more powerful voice.
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.
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.