Development and Indigenous Ecopolitics in Post-Genocide Guatemala

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SAGE Publications

How do Indigenous and peasant political paradigms interact? This essay examines the relationship between Indigenous-ontopolitical critiques of development and peasant-oriented demands for alternative development in the Guatemalan defense of territory (DT), an Indigenous-led alliance against extractive development. Drawing on politically-engaged ethnographic and historical fieldwork, I argue that theories that counterpose indigenous ecological values of reciprocity and human-nature interrelatedness to “development” oversimplify Indigenous responses to the multi-dimensional nature of colonization. I describe how cosmological critiques coexist with demands for progressive (redistributive) extraction and agrarian struggles for food sovereignty and integral development. I suggest that the ascendance of post-development critiques crowds out demands for anticolonial development in the DT, limiting its potential to present a compelling alternative for poor communities. I point to a convergence between ontopolitical critique and counterinsurgency and propose holding critiques and demands for development in creative tension to strengthen decolonial struggles.

critique of development, extractivism, buen vivir, food sovereignty, Guatemala