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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contested Booms: The Politics of Oil Palm Expansion in the Peruvian Amazon
by Dammert Bello, Juan Luis, Ph.D., Clark University, 2017, 303; 10600663
Abstract (Summary)

In recent years, an unprecedented growth in large-scale agricultural projects has taken place in the Peruvian Amazon. The development of these projects –principally oil palm– has triggered a national scale environmental controversy due to evidence of the large-scale deforestation involved. This dissertation analyzes the ways in which oil palm expansion has been materially and politically brought into being. By examining the historical and material characteristics of this expansion, the politics of the environmental conflict around it and the ways in which the state attempts to govern it, this monograph analyzes how the interrelation of material conditions, social coalitions and the nature of the state shape the geographies of resource booms.

The methods used for data collection have been principally qualitative. These included semi-structured interviews, field observation in project areas and participant observation in discussion and planning forums on the development of oil palm. These data collection methods were complemented with a systematic gathering of policy documents, laws and regulations, grey literature and media reports.

In the production of oil palm geographies, the physicality of the resource plays an important role. Biophysical factors set conditions for oil palm development, but are also navigated in various ways by the different forms taken by the industry. Resource booms are shaped by the specific interplays between material factors and social organizations. Coalitions of actors interested in promoting resource booms are contested by counter or “environmental” coalitions when expansion raises environmental concerns such as large-scale deforestation. Struggles between environmental and agrarian agendas have been reproduced within the Peruvian state. I argue that the state has no policy regarding plantation expansion in the Peruvian Amazon but operates “on demand”, responding to pressures from growers and environmentalists.

The lenses of materiality, coalitions and the state prove to be productive avenues for the analysis of how resource booms are brought into being. These have to be used flexibly, however, in order to account for variations in the material world, the forms taken by political disputes, and the nature of the states that navigate these disputes. This framing could inform research on land grabs, environmental conflicts and environmental governance. A focus on the production and contestation of resource booms sheds important light on the actual ways in which environmental politics are navigated by disparate actors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bebbington, Anthony J.
Commitee: Brosius, Peter, Davidson, Mark, McCarthy, James P.
School: Clark University
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 78/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography
Keywords: Coalitions, Environmental governance, Oil palm, Peruvian Amazon, Political ecology, Resource booms
Publication Number: 10600663
ISBN: 978-0-355-07034-7
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