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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Just concessions? Indigenous politics and oil development in the northeast Peruvian Amazon
by Baker, Lauren Miyoko, Ph.D., Yale University, 2015, 582; 10012400
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines indigenous rights claims that were articulated in relation to recent and expansive oil operations in the northeast Peruvian Amazon and the ways in which such claims were simultaneously silenced, contested, and contained even while being addressed head-on by Peruvian officials and bureaucrats.

Peru is in the midst of an extractive industry boom, with oil concessions now covering over 70% of the Peruvian Amazon (up from around 7% in 2003). The blanketing of the Peruvian Amazon in oil concessions reconfigured power dynamics and land claims, threatening local territorial security and provoking tensions and concerns about potential impacts among indigenous peoples and others living in concession zones. Drawing on 20 months of field research based in the northeast Peruvian Amazon, I gathered extensive ethnographic data about a nascent indigenous social movement that arose to denounce oil contamination and demand indigenous rights to territory, consultation and consent, and development in line with indigenous visions of "living well" (buen vivir). This emergent indigenous movement – "Amazonian Indigenous Peoples United in Defense of their Territories (PUINAMUDT)" – attracted more attention than ever before to widespread indigenous concerns with oil contamination, unsafe drinking water, and territorial and livelihood insecurity. In response to indigenous advocacy, government officials initiated myriad dialogues and working groups to address indigenous concerns, including establishing a Multi-Ministerial Commission to examine impacts from oil operations in the northeast Peruvian Amazon.

In my first chapter, I examine the rights-based approach utilized by many indigenous federations in the northeast Peruvian Amazon, which was considered to be distinct from and often preclude negotiation with private actors like oil companies. My analysis draws heavily on a case study of the Cocama Association of Development and Conservation San Pablo de Tipishca and points to the primarily pedagogical role of at least some indigenous federations, as well as their importance in fostering of a "critical consciousness" (in line with Freire's "pedagogy of the oppressed"). I also found that federations were important in shaping indigenous identity, including self-identification as indigenous in the first place.

In my next three chapters, I examine three distinct sets of indigenous-state engagements, including: 1) the negotiation of indigenous-state Accords that were signed in 2011 and 2012 between the regional government of Loreto and a number of indigenous federations; 2) indigenous-state dialogues and working groups at the regional and national levels about oil operations in Loreto; and 3) the dual national policies to criminalize protest (and legally prosecute protest leaders) and consult indigenous people about legislative and administrative measures that affect them (following the September 2011 passage of a national consultation law).

Drawing on the findings in these chapters, I found that there was a high degree of internal consistency among the distinct indigenous-state engagements examined. Each process tended to conflate participation and justice, highly bound potential outcomes given purportedly limited bureaucratic budgets, personnel, and mandates, and depoliticize solutions as being about (optional) aid or assistance to the poor. These limitations suggested that the processes are unlikely to resolve the many problems and injustices identified by movement leaders, and will continue to evoke frustration and indignation by indigenous leaders and community members. However, just because these processes are not accomplishing a great deal materially (at least in the immediate years following their initiation) does not mean that they are not accomplishing a great deal in terms of "instrument effects" (drawing on James Ferguson), or that they are not highly meaningful to indigenous people and the state alike. In particular, I found that these indigenous-state dialogues, working groups, Accords, and consultation policies reinforced state legitimacy through advancing state narratives about social inclusion, partnership, and the value of dialogue over "violence" (with most other forms of indigenous advocacy characterized as violent or potentially violent). These processes, in effect, served to control and contain indigenous mobilizations, by ensuring that leaders voiced their grievances first and foremost in closed-door proceedings in regional and national capitals, where they were limited to a few key priorities, which in turn required years-long processes to investigate, plan, and seek budgeting to address concretely.

Despite these tendencies toward controlling and containing movements, I also found that each process allowed indigenous people to gain more traction for their claims that oil operations have been imposed and unjust, and that extraction-based development is not truly "development." As such, indigenous leaders and movements can be said to be advancing in their long-term efforts to "constitute a new politics of truth" (drawing on Foucault) about legitimate and just forms of development, indigenous rights, and states' rights.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dove, Michael, Bailis, Robert
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-B 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Geography, Environmental Studies
Keywords: Environmental Justice, Extractive Industries (Oil, Development, Corporate Social Resposibility), Indigenous Peoples (Indigenous Rights, Identity Politics), Latin America (Amazon, Peru), Political Ecology (Social Ecology, Cultural Ecology), Social Movements
Publication Number: 10012400
ISBN: 978-1-339-47521-9
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