3 Responses

  1. Peter Gose June 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm |

    The Fabrikant article is a hatchet-job. First of all, not all (in fact very few) anthropological arguments about the contemporary viability of Andean lifeways and agrarian practices claim that they are timeless or outside of a relation to capitalism. Some indigenous politicians may make these claims, and sometimes under the influence of NGO colonialism, but that is not the whole story. The undeniable fact remains that millions of people in the Andean countries practice subsistence agriculture and herding and that they are fully aware that these activities are threatened by climate change and various forms of extraction. Yes, these same people also typically want access to money and higher consumption standards, but at the end of the day, they tend to value their agrarian practices more. As a case in point, the Peruvian community where I did research on these topics over 30 years ago is in the process of expelling mining companies over their treatment of the land, despite an initial enthusiasm for the economic benefits they brought. To dismiss the reality of these agrarian systems as a romantic outsider construction is monstrously irresponsible. Contemporary anthropology may reward such hopelessly bad scholarship, but don’t expect people in the Andes to think very highly of it.

    1. Phil Ward June 19, 2014 at 3:48 am |

      I do not think these criticisms of Nicole Fabricant’s paper are valid. What Peter Gose says about subsistence agriculture and herding and his observations in Peru are entirely consistent with Fabricant’s argument. My interpretation of her position is that, while there may be some practices and knowledge that are of value in traditional cultures, these cannot be transplanted wholesale to current conditions in the Global South. This is especially the case when it comes to the issues facing the poor and oppressed in urban areas. Indeed, it might be found that new form of social organisation, provided they are acceptable to the people involved, are more “eco-friendly” than traditional, indigenous ones.

      Fabricant argues that there are political statements coming from the anti-climate change movement in Latin America the over-generalise the lessons of traditional culture, something that Gose agrees also happens. As she references these statements, it should be easy enough to check how significant this phenomenon is.

      1. Peter Gose June 23, 2014 at 6:14 pm |

        I certainly agree that rural indigenous forms of organization can’t necessarily be transposed to urban contexts or scaled up. What I object to is (1) the reduction of rural indigenous culture to a discursive fabrication and specifically (2), the implicit disqualification of real rural indigenous environmental concerns on the grounds that they may be coopted by the “ecological savage” stereotype that emanates from some quarters in the global north. Rural Andean people can and regularly do arrive at their own environmental politics independently of all that, and deserve solidarity from ecosocialists, not dismissal as a discursive cipher.

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