From land to territory: new geographies of Amazonian struggle Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Baletti, Brenda C.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • This dissertation examines the relationship between new regimes of governance and resistance in the Brazilian Amazon in the contemporary context, where the progressive government that came to power with the support of anti-neoliberal social movements, continues to pursue commodity-driven, extractive development as a primary strategy of economic growth. Given that the Amazon region holds many of Brazil's natural resources, in this moment, Amazonia has once again been re-imagined as the key to Brazil's future. I sketch out the contours of contemporary strategies of and struggles over this neo-extractivism through an analysis of the issues raised by one particular project - the proposed (and ongoing) paving of the nearly 1000 kilometer stretch of the Santarém-Cuiaba highway (BR-163) that passes through Western Pará State (Brazil's second largest state). Embedded in issues of soy, timber, and cattle expansion, land zoning and property rights, indigenous, traditional, and migrant struggles, and the re-making of all of these issues by the progressive state, the BR-163 traverses, both literally and figuratively, the terrain of neo-extractivism. I argue that this neo-extractivism is made possible by a territorial re-organization that re-maps the entire region according to particular spatial, social, and development logics. This re-mapping happens in response to and overlaps already existing forms of territorial organization by traditional, indigenous, and migrant smallholder communities even as it partially incorporates their demands, namely through the granting property rights. Some Amazonian indigenous and traditional movements, however, increasingly recognize that attaining land rights within the field of the state does not meet their desires for justice or self-determination and in response are articulating new territorial strategies of struggle. I draw on ethnographic research from the Movement in Defense of Life and Culture on the Arapiuns River and the Movement in Defense of Renascer in the lower Brazilian Amazon to argue that their shift - from the demand for property and the right to economic productivity, to the demand for life and the production of subjects - is not simply the expression of a new form of discourse, but of new forms of territoriality that simultaneously invoke and transcend the categories of political economy and the state, giving rise to new tensions with previous forms of politics and political mediators.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Wolford, Wendy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012

This work has no parents.