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Post-frontier Resource Governance

International Relations and Development Series

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Lessons Learned
Peter Bille Larsen
Indigenous Rights, Extraction and Conservation in the Peruvian Amazon

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Post-frontier Resource
Indigenous Rights, Extraction and
Conservation in the Peruvian Amazon

Peter Bille Larsen

Lecturer, University of Lucerne, Switzerland
© Peter Bille Larsen 2015
Foreword © Jonathan Friedman 2015
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List of Tables and Maps vi

Foreword by Jonathan Friedman vii

Acknowledgements x

List of Acronyms xii

1 The Post-frontier Paradox 1

2 The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 21

3 Frontier Narratives 35

4 Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 50

5 Greening the Frontier 67

6 The Double-bind of Community Conservation 78

7 Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 95

8 Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 113

9 Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 134

Concluding Remarks: Theorizing Post-frontier Governance 149

Postscript: Biosphere Dreams and Biosfears 160

Notes 162

References 166

Index 182

Tables and Maps


1.1 Contrasting narratives 8

C.1 Post-frontier accumulation 156


2.1 Location of Oxapampa and its districts 24

2.2 Oil concessions, protected areas and indigenous
communities in Oxapampa 26


This book emerged out of a research project that the author initiated at
the EHESS in Paris and the IHEID in Geneva. The issues that we debated
in our discussions covered the paradoxes of development as well as those
of political ecology and the contradiction between development and
ecosystemic maintenance which have dominated a great deal of the
debates in the field. The author plunged into the issues with alacrity
after having worked in the development field for quite a few years out-
side of the academy. His return was marked by questions of framing his
previous activities, by reflecting on his own very broad experiences in
both Asia and Latin America. The history of indigenous peoples is one in
which empires have continuously encroached on the latter’s domains.
There is of course a logic to this confrontation, one that can be said to
pit ontologies but, more importantly, life strategies against one another.
The focus of this study is the complex relation between indigenous pop-
ulations, multinational extractive industries, the state and NGOs. Much
of the literature in the field has been constructed on the basis of oppo-
sition between the linear strategies of exploitation and accumulation
and the holism of indigenous society. This book re-situates the prob-
lem in terms of what is referred to as the post-frontier. Resources are no
longer just there for the taking and accumulation cannot so easily run
its savage course. Extractivism is interlocked in a conflictual articulation
with indigenous actors, and the latter are clearly not mere representa-
tives of a Batesonian holism or even primitivism. They are practical and
engage in activities that are far removed from any simple understand-
ing of the former type. A number of important challenges are generated
from this approach. First, the notion of the indigenous population as a
passive victim of encroaching capitalism needs to be rectified. Indige-
nous populations are neither passive nor mere victims, even if this may
have been closer to the truth in times past. In an era saturated with
precisely an ideology of anti-victimization where human rights and
especially indigenous rights have been adopted by the United Nations,
for whatever that is worth, there are instruments that can be invoked
against pure extractivism. And this is further complicated by the reality
that indigenous actors are not necessarily green in their ideologies, nor
even in their “ontologies”. While casino indigenism is not necessarily
anti-ecological, it is clearly not anti-capitalist. Studies from Melanesian

viii Foreword

mining zones indicate that populations are often split between those
who would close the mines and those who support them as long as they
bring in revenues. The Maori, who have had one of the strongest indige-
nous movements, have achieved a great deal of autonomy as well as a
substantial revenue base in New Zealand’s Kiwi production and fisheries.
The latter has been capitalized upon and led Elizabeth Rata to qualify
the phenomenon as “tribal capitalism”. I remember showing this to a
leader for the Hawaiian movement who said, “so what’s wrong with a
little capitalism?”
The world of the post-frontier is one that follows the rise of indige-
nous movements, their consolidation in international organizations of
various sorts and their representation at the United Nations, first in
the form of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples and now the
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. This is a major shift in the
constellation of power relations and cannot be dismissed when con-
sidering what has happened to the relation between multinational
companies’ extractive strategies and the indigenous peoples whose terri-
tory houses the coveted resources. Larsen demonstrates the importance
of ethnography for transcending simple ideological versions of indige-
nous actors, versions that are still prevalent in debates concerning
indigenous rights and even the very existence of the very category itself
(as evidenced in the recent debate triggered by Adam Kuper’s “Return of
the Native” (2003)). Now as this book focuses on the interface between
ecology, indigeneity, capital and the state, the issue of intentionality
becomes all the more important as well as interesting. If the issues raised
here concern the post-frontier, we might suggest that today we are also
in a period of post-indigeneity in the sense that the focus on indigeneity
as such has become transformed into one concerning the strategies of
indigenous actors in real time and not the category of indigeneity itself.
One might call this the study of “real existing indigeneity”. The lat-
ter was once conceived as a kind of actor, however, passive, but this
was wrong in the past and it is clearly inadequate in the present. In
detailing the articulation of strategies in a period in which extractive
expansion and the destruction of nature for the sake of accumulation
are no longer as simple as they were in the past, the invoking of ecologi-
cal sustainability, local and indigenous knowledges and resource-specific
management has become something different, even if there is no reason
to hope that this is part of a transition to a new and better world. After
all, there is a balance of power involved in all of this so that critical
junctures might well reveal the fragility of extractive industries’ power
to maintain their accumulative practices or perhaps their capacity to
Foreword ix

develop their own strategies of manipulation. This is a critically impor-

tant field of investigation and, while a number of contributions are
already available (e.g. Tsing 2005), the contribution of Larsen is to show
exactly how the interaction takes place. In all its complexity there is no
confusion and the actors know clearly what they are up to themselves.
In this work, the notion of assemblage is re-situated as a systemic way
of dealing with the multiplex human–non-human networks rather than
as a cover term for what appears as overly complex and that cannot be
dealt with adequately in a theoretical analysis.
This is a book that should aid our understanding of the reality of log-
ics involved in the confrontation between extractivism and indigenous
peoples, one in which the state plays a crucial role but one that varies
significantly among different countries. This is an important contribu-
tion that goes beyond the old debates concerning identity, to a new
field of power that depends on the nature of the actors involved. It is
important that indigeneity is not a category external to the state as
in North America, Australia and the Pacific, but crucial to the defini-
tion of the state, for historical reasons that are specific to Latin America.
It would be interesting in this respect to compare the political situation
in Peru to that in other parts of the world. The approach offered here
combines systemic analysis with ethnographic detail that provides such
an expanded possibility for future research. As such, Larsen can be said
to have succeeded brilliantly in his original project to understand the
reality that underlies his engagement as a consultant in environmental
and indigenous issues.

Jonathan Friedman
University of California San Diego

My deepest gratitude goes to Eve-Marie, Emil and Louis for having

joined me and lived through the preparations, fieldwork and the rather
lengthy process of writing up this book. Nor would this book ever
have materialized without the long conversations, shared trips and
interviews with many people from Oxapampa Province to Lima, unfor-
tunately far too numerous to name and thank in person. I want to
express my gratitude to these friends and colleagues for their patience,
despite my lengthy meanderings to make sense of the worlds shared
with me. I would also like to extend big thanks to Marc Hufty and
Jonathan Friedman for their enthusiasm as creative minds and support
for the initial project linking disciplines, universities and continents.
I am deeply indebted to Richard Chase Smith and Percy Summers of
the Instituto del Bien Común for their institutional and personal pres-
ence, introducing people, places and processes in both Oxapampa and
Lima. Particular thanks go to Richard for sharing personal correspon-
dence that was critical for the book. Professor Carlos Llerena and the
La Molina Forestry Department most kindly hosted initial fieldwork,
and provided invaluable support in securing research permits. I should
like to single out the junta directiva of AMARCY for allowing me to
closely follow their work, constantly arguing for the importance of
research and allowing me to join their meetings. FECONAYA leaders
and their junta directivas were friendly hosts, accepting my research
plans and presence. I am also grateful to the leadership of ANAP, UNAY
and CONAP for allowing me to work in their areas. While indigenous
leaders and Yánesha comuneros are regrettably not mentioned in name
here to maintain their anonymity, their continuous support was cru-
cial. In the IBC Oxapampa office, Joaquin Arteaga, Stéphanie Borios,
Danny Pinedo, Edgardo Castro, Cynthia Yabar, Carlos Soria, Ermeto
Tuesta and – later – Federico Rizopatron, Arlen Gaspar and Cesar Laura
were good friends and often travel companions. I am deeply indebted to
our numerous Oxapampino friends who went out of their way to make
our family feel at home. On behalf of the family, I would like to specif-
ically extend our warm gratitude to Carmen, Wilma, Leonara, Eliseo,
Jenny and their families for hosting us and making us feel at home.
I should like to thank Lourdes Quiroz for her help in transcribing some
of the recorded interviews. Jean-Michel Servet, Alexandre Surrallés and

Acknowledgements xi

José Marín provided excellent comments. Laura Rival, Dawn Chatty and
Barbara Harriss-White made the stay at the Oxford Department of Inter-
national Development most enjoyable. Colleagues at the University of
Lucerne, in particular Bettina Beer and Don Gardner, offered helpful
critiques on earlier chapters. I am also thankful to Gisli Palsson for com-
ments on the introduction. Morgan Scoville-Simonds, Paroma Ghose,
David Matley and Harsh Bedi kindly helped out with the language edit-
ing. Many thanks also to Marc Galvin, Barbara Coghlan and Catherine
Fragnière (IHEID), as well as Ambra Finotello, Christina Brian and the
anonymous reviewer from Palgrave for their patience and insights. I am
also grateful to Anselmo Mariño Cruz for the artwork appearing on
the cover. Finally, this research would never have materialized with-
out the generous research grant and continuous support from NCCR
North South colleagues, a CRUS grant to work at the EHESS and a Swiss
National Science Foundation grant enabling the visiting fellowship at
the University of Oxford.

AIDESEP Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva

Peruana (The Interethnic Association for the
Development of the Peruvian Rainforest)
AMARCY Asociación para la Conservación y Manejo de la
Reserva Comunal Yánesha (The Association for the
Conservation and Management of the Yánesha
Communal Reserve)
ANAP Apatyawaka Nampitzi Asháninka Pichis (Ashaninka
Organization of the Pichis Valley)
CBD Convention on Biological Diversity
CCA Community Conserved Areas
CEDIA Centro para el Desarrollo del Indígena Amazónico
(Centre for the Development of an Indigenous
CGTP Confederación General de Trabajadores del Perú
(General Workers Union)
CIPA Centro de Investigación y Promoción Amazónica
(Centre for Amazonian Research and Promotion)
CISA Consejo Indio de Sudamérica (Indian Council of
South America)
COFYAL Cooperativa Forestal Yánesha Limitada (Yánesha
Forestry Cooperative)
COICA Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la
Cuenca Amazónica (Coordinator of Indigenous
Organizations of the Amazon Basin)
CONAP Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la
Amazonía Peruana (Confederation of Amazonian
Yánesha Nationalities of Peru)
DGAAE Dirección General de Asuntos Ambientales
Energéticos (General Department of Energy and
ECA Ejecutor de Contrato de Administración (Contract
EIA Environmental Impact Assessment
FDI Foreign Direct Investment

List of Acronyms xiii

FECONAYA Federación de Comunidades Nativas Yánesha

(Federation of Yánesha Native Communities)
FPCN Fundación Peruana Para la Conservación de la
Naturaleza (later renamed ProNaturaleza)
FSC Forest Stewardship Council
GIS Geographical Information Systems
IBC Instituto del Bien Común (Institute of Common
ICCA Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Community
Conserved Areas and Territories
ILO International Labour Organization
INRENA Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (National
Institute of Natural Resources)
IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature
IWGIA International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
MINAM Ministerio del Ambiente del Perú (Ministry of
MRTA Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
NGO Non-Governmental Organization
OAS Organization of American States
OCEOCOLMIL Military Colonization Programme during the
Velasco Government
ONERN National Office for the Assessment of Natural
PEPP Proyecto Especial Pichis Palcazú (Pichis Palcazú
Special Project)
PROMOSAC Programa de Monitoreo Socio Ambiental Comunal
(Communal Socio-environmental Monitoring
RCY Reserva Comunal Yánesha (Yánesha Communal
SERNANP Servicio Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (Peruvian
Protected Area Agency)
SIL Summer Institute of Linguistics
SINAMOS Sistema nacional de movilizacion social (National
System of Social Mobilization)
SINANPE Sistema Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas
(National Protected Area System)
TNC The Nature Conservancy
TSC Tropical Science Centre
UN United Nations
xiv List of Acronyms

UNAY Unión Nativa Ashéninka – Yánesha (The Union of

Ashéninka – Yánesha Communities)
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
USAID United States Agency for International Development
WCMC World Conservation Monitoring Centre
WCS World Conservation Strategy
WWF World Wide Fund for Nature (World Wildlife Fund,
US Context)
ZEE Zonificación Ecológica Económica (Ecological and
Economic Zonification)
The Post-frontier Paradox


Consider the all-too-familiar images of deforestation, socio-

environmental conflict and rights infringements in the Amazon. The
20th century involved an unprecedented scramble for resources fuelled
by flows of capital to the most remote corners of the world from the
South American rainforests, across the Russian tundra, to the highlands
of Southeast Asia. This run, and the traces it left, intensified after the
turn of the century. Whether targeting sub-soil resources, land or forests,
both state and corporate expansion efforts have led to an exponential
growth of resource frontier creation, which is transforming ecologies,
geopolitics and social dynamics.
Now picture the mosaics of community land titles, territorial reserves
and protected areas which have spread out across places like the Amazon
in the last four decades. The second half of the 20th century wit-
nessed a quiet revolution with environmental protection and land
and community tenure regimes gradually taking hold, albeit unevenly,
across the global South. While, just a few decades ago such regions
would only figure as national backwaters and resource pools, they
now feature equally as biodiversity hotspots, titled territories and pro-
tected areas. Institutional topographies and policies have never before
appeared as green and socially inclusive; yet they coexist with a deepen-
ing socio-environmental crisis. Nowhere is this paradox more apparent
than in so-called resource frontier regions, where intensified pressures
stand in contrast to, persist and even thrive under new environmen-
tal and social protection measures. How do we make sense of this

2 Post-frontier Resource Governance

The post-frontier

Whereas much anthropological literature offers a critique of state

expansion, neoliberalism and corporate predation, the resulting call
for “more” rights and conservation measures is no longer adequate.
At the resource frontiers of the 21st century, sustainability measures
are no longer simply absent, but part of the problem complex. I call
this new situation the post-frontier, and this book aims to offer an
ethnographic portrayal of it. I define the post-frontier as the host of
new regulatory technologies, practices and institutions that nominally
close, yet more accurately characterize and restructure, contemporary
resource frontiers. It entails a narrative shift from governance modali-
ties of discovery, conquest and extraction to modalities of recognition,
environmental protection and social safeguards. I examine these post-
frontier arrangements ethnographically in the Peruvian Amazon by
focusing on the Yánesha people and their involvement with indigenous
rights organizing, conservation and protected area planning, logging
and oil development.
While by no means resolving the deep sustainability challenges of
our times, post-frontier regimes, albeit unevenly implemented and
diverse, have arguably transformed the rules of the game. In the early
21st century, resource frontiers are no longer formulated through the
century-old frontier language of extraction potential alone, but rather
are framed in terms of post-frontier sustainability and positive out-
comes. Consider the “the future we want” Rio + 20 outcome acknowl-
edging “that mining activities should maximize social and economic
benefits as well as effectively address negative environmental and social
impacts” (United Nations 2012). Whereas frontier modernism implies a
radical transformation of localities to be discovered, extracted and trans-
formed by new technologies and external actors alone, post-frontier
narratives build on and work through the recognition and incorporation
of localities, rights and environments. Backwaters across the globe are
no longer black holes awaiting discovery at the “outer edge”, but are part
of the inner sustainability calculations of nation states. With ever more
detailed maps, inventories and regulations, contemporary hopes and
utopia are no longer encapsulated in the frontier dreams of El Dorado
alone, but equally so in the post-frontier of sustainable development.
Biodiversity planning, indigenous land titling and safeguard mea-
sures, this book argues, involve new forms of governance modalities.
Yet, the more such modalities have been implemented, the more new
and different questions have cropped up about their effects, new forms
The Post-frontier Paradox 3

of violence and dispossession. The post-frontier coexists with intensi-

fied processes of land grabbing, environmental degradation and social
exclusion. Multiple frontiers seem to thrive within this post-frontier era,
perhaps better perceived as a Pandora’s box of fractured regulatory and
bureaucratic measures unable to resolve an ever-deepening environmen-
tal and social crisis. We are therefore challenged to view post-frontier
closures not merely as poorly implemented sustainability solutions, but
rather to interrogate the entanglements of post-frontier sustainability
and frontier expansion. This book zooms in on this paradox by offering
a historically informed ethnography of indigenous rights, conserva-
tion and sustainable forestry in the Peruvian Amazon. It moves beyond
merely denouncing a failing post-frontier, and takes it seriously in both
ethnographic and theoretical terms. Like any other transformative pro-
cess (Scott 1998), post-frontier projects rarely fare as planned, yet they
do something. Where and how the post-frontier is found in practice is
significant. These patterns and practices are not chaotic, but structured
and structuring of new frontier encounters.
Looking towards the Amazon was an obvious choice given my long-
standing professional involvement with indigenous rights and conser-
vation preceding my return to academia (Larsen and Oviedo 2005;
Larsen and Springer 2008; Maffi et al. 2000). Not only does the region
exhibit some of the most telling resource frontier dramas, it equally
hosts emblematic efforts to recognize and title indigenous territories,
promote community forestry and promote protected area conserva-
tion to halt deforestation. Against the odds of extractive industries,
investment-eager governments and entrepreneurs, conservation actors
and indigenous organizations have, over the last four decades, carved
out new legal spaces for indigenous rights and environmental con-
servation. The stark contrast between massive development pressures
exemplified by road building, deforestation and extractive industries on
the one hand and the pioneering efforts to adopt indigenous rights
legislation and ecological planning measures on the other offers a
particularly potent terrain which is explored in this book.

Rethinking the frontier

From a minimalist economic perspective, a frontier is “an area or source

of unusually abundant natural resources and land relative to labour and
capital” (Barbier 2011: 7). Yet from another perspective, such “unusual”
resource abundance is not objectively given, but relies on distinct place
constructions, development ideologies and a distinct political economy
4 Post-frontier Resource Governance

(Tsing 2005). Kopytoff has similarly stressed frontiers as a “political

fact”, where areas are defined as “lacking any legitimate political insti-
tutions and as being open to legitimate intrusion and settlement”
(Kopytoff 1989: 11). Schmink and Wood, in a similar vein, portray
frontiers as a power field characterized by resource contestation and
resistance (Schmink and Wood 1992: 14). Geiger defines frontiers as
“areas remote from political centres, which hold strategic significance or
economic potential for human exploitation, and are contested by social
formations of unequal power”. He equally describes them as “loosely-
administered spaces rich in resources coveted by non-residents” (Geiger
2008: 78). He proposes eight properties of contemporary frontiers in the
South including particular forms of state operations, economic dynam-
ics and environmental aspects as well as the exclusion and denial of
indigenous claims.
Anthropological depictions have long thrown into question state pro-
jections bringing new orders, technologies and people to the frontier.
Ethnography often begins, and in part ends, with a critique of its
violent, unruly and chaotic nature, whether under colonial or post-
colonial regimes. The Comaroffs spoke of the “unwritten agreements,
unruly populations, and protean social arrangements” of the imperial
frontier “with little of the ethical restraint that reined them in ‘back
home’ ” (Jean Comaroff and Comaroff 2012). Where planners aspire
to new social orders and development, in what Anna Tsing tellingly
called “free-for-all frontiers” (2005), anthropologists often portray the
ensuing environmental havoc and social disorder. Where nation states
see frontier entrepreneurship, anthropologists unmask the “far west”
agency, laissez faire politics and impacts of voracious transnationals,
uprooted colonos and state expansion (Burger 1987; Davis 1977; Geiger
2008). Frontiers are seen as deregulated and raw wilderness appearing in
confusing boundary-lands of “law and theft, governance and violence,
use and destruction” (Tsing 2005: 27). They are imposed and “not a
natural or indigenous category . . . a foreign form requiring translation”
(ibid.: 31). The technical optimism of anthropological involvement in
frontier settlement projects of the 1950s and early 1960s is long forgot-
ten, and is replaced instead by studies of conflict, marginalization and
contestation. For many, the frontier is simply a natural consequence of
unleashing unmediated capitalist forms of extraction. As Schmink and
Wood in their incipient political ecology of Amazonia argued: “So long
as governments do not impose their own regulatory mechanisms, the
natural environment can (indeed must) be exploited for short-term
gain” (Schmink and Wood 1987: 42). Depictions of social disruption,
The Post-frontier Paradox 5

environmental degradation and internal colonization undermined the

belief that further expansion and development of so-called hinterlands
would harbour solutions to all the instances of national disarray. Fron-
tier ideologies were, from this perspective, both in crisis and in need of
a regulatory cure. As new resource frontiers have proliferated across the
globe, emphasis on neoliberalism and deregulation is often employed to
explain the unleashing of frontier wilderness. For Tsing, the Dayaks in
Meratus, Kalimantan experienced shock, disruption and radical trans-
formation resulting from a “free-for-all” frontier, at once “unstable” and
expanding. Specific historical conjunctures had allowed for the intensifi-
cation of a frontier culture “dedicated to the obliteration of local places,
local land and resource rights, and local knowledges of flora and fauna”
(ibid.: 68). As Anna Tsing summarizes the situation:

A frontier is an edge of space and time: a zone of not yet not yet
mapped, not yet regulated. It is a zone of unmapping: even in its
planning, a frontier is imagined as unplanned. Frontiers aren’t just
discovered at the edge; they are projects in making geographical and
temporal experience. Frontiers make wildness, entangling visions and
vines and violence; their wildness is both material and imaginative.
(Tsing 2005: 28–29)

While the frontier critique has offered modernist pretensions a sober-

ing reality check, ongoing transformations rendered evident by two
decades of sustainability language and institution crafting prompt new
questions about the nature of contemporary frontiers. Summarizing
contemporary frontiers as under-regulated or unplanned chaos is, in
most cases, empirically untenable and obscures the significance of a
regulated post-frontier. It is challenged and contrasted by the mas-
sive resources, scientific investigation, planning and regulatory devices
involved in their creation and maintenance (see Chapter 3). As Tsing
herself noted, these constitute the “salvage frontier, where making, sav-
ing, and destroying resources are utterly mixed up, where zones of
conservation, production and resource sacrifice overlap almost fully,
and canonical time frames of nature’s study, use, and preservation
are reversed, conflated, and confused” (ibid.: 32). Such dynamics, this
book argues, are neither exceptional nor confused, but representative
of contemporary post-frontier governance patterns. Descriptors such as
messiness, friction and dispossession obscure rather than qualify and
elucidate the phenomena at stake. Fractioned and reversed spaces are
not exceptional, but patterned mediations. Resource frontiers are no
6 Post-frontier Resource Governance

longer simply encountered, resisted and contested, but fundamentally

mediated through elaborate policies and new post-frontier institutions.

The advent of the post-frontier

“Loreto has come a long way since the rubber era and is no longer gov-
erned by the logic of frontier expansion” (Santos-Granero and Barclay
2000: 308). So ends a landmark study, entitled “Tamed frontiers”, of
Loreto in the Peruvian Amazon at the turn of the millennium. The post-
frontier at stake was not simply the “low” after the resource high had
dried out; rather, the authors pointed to an evolution of governance
practice. Horror stories of enslaved Indians and rights abuses, reflect-
ing the dark side of rubber and other resource booms, belonged to the
past. After almost two centuries of Peruvian independence, and further
waves of violence and dispossession, the Amazonian frontier had been
tamed in Loreto through “the suppression or containment of the worse
traits identified with the frontier economy” (Santos-Granero and Barclay
2000: 5). In a critique of sweeping statements about violent Amazonian
frontiers, the authors concluded that there were no doubts about the
magnitude of positive change (ibid.: 308), emphasizing the “assertion
of civil rights, the shaping of a regional identity and the development
of a regionalist ideology” (ibid.: 320).
In Brazil, Cleary would judge the notion of frontier to have “run
its course” and become meaningless as an academic construct (Cleary
1993: 349). The demise of frontier development politics seemed to sug-
gest that “frontiers” had become a thing of the past. The historical
events leading to the post-frontier are well illustrated by the Amazon
gaining global media attention, notably in the 1980s, as a stage for
iconic frontier battles in response to ruthless development, coloniza-
tion and forest clearance on the one hand, and for forest dwellers and
environmentalists on the other. The Amazon “crisis”, epitomized by the
murder of the rubber tapper leader Chico Mendes in 1988 and the arrival
of indigenous leaders to the global scene, triggered waves of protests and
sustainability planning (Cleary 1991). Most countries in the Amazon
now have complex legal bodies, institutional systems and safeguard
measures that – on paper – sustain the forests, secure the rights of indige-
nous peoples and protect biodiversity. Whereas the literature stressed
how sustainability was ignored in Latin America just two decades ago
(Goodman and Redclift 1991), it has since become omnipresent.
In narrative terms, the arrival of a post-frontier of social complexity
would appear to signal the end of frontier dynamics, which since the
The Post-frontier Paradox 7

16th century had shaped the governance topographies of the continent.

Forests are no longer simply timber stocks waiting to be harvested, but
part of recognized ecosystems worthy of protection. Protected areas have
been set up in areas doomed for clear-cutting. Land rights have been
won after long battles. Protected area expansion is particularly illustra-
tive of the global reach of post-frontier institutions. By 2010, 12.7% of
the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas were designated as pro-
tected areas numbering some 177,547, their extent having increased by
48% since 1990 (Bertzky et al. 2012). Today roughly 41% of the Amazon
Basin is covered by protected areas and indigenous territories (IBC 2011;
RAISG 2009). The resulting institutional topography is revelatory in
regard to the reach of the post-frontier, yet equally treacherous about
its significance.

Contrasting frontier and post-frontier narratives

Whereas frontiers represented uncharted territory out of sight and con-

trol, the post-frontier is, in narrative terms, visualized, inventoried and
managed. Where frontier missions would map routes, conversions and
infidels, post-frontier maps would cover plant communities, protected
areas and indigenous territories. Whereas the development frontier
brought “civilized” order to nature and wilderness, the post-frontier,
on paper, re-establishes socio-ecological order to civilization. Where
dynamic frontiers would replace dormant hinterlands, regulated post-
frontiers would project to normalize the Wild West. The list could
Post-frontier projects, I argue, on paper often harbour distinct pre-
scriptive qualities that depart from the deficits of frontier narratives.
They, in modernist narrative terms, advance from a deficient frontier
past projecting a re-ordered post-frontier present and future with new
and more sustainable institutions. Such prescriptions are typically man-
ifest in legislative and rationalist policy orders projecting to achieve
a set of hoped-for sustainability outcomes. Frontier narratives, on the
one hand, evolve around presenting dormant or idle resource spaces
in need of frontier expansion, investment and extraction. Post-frontier
narratives, on the other, “close” such spaces through new technologies,
safeguard regulations and social change. Whereas resources in frontier
narratives await discovery, the post-frontier emphasizes protection and
sustainable extraction.
Forest concessions have been replaced by sustainable forestry as the
management paradigm, just as regulatory shifts in the energy, mineral
8 Post-frontier Resource Governance

and oil sectors today speak about minimizing negative impacts and gen-
erating benefits. Environmental plans are now staple ingredients in both
local and national administrations. Today, projects on carbon sequestra-
tion, mitigation and biodiversity conservation, among others, appear
side by side with agricultural expansion, road penetration and resource
extraction in a new narrative of post-frontier sustainability order in the
global South.1 The post-frontier not only concerns resource planning,
but also the wide array of land rights, redistributive mechanisms and
labour legislation, which equally transform the social landscape. The
absence of citizenship and other papers, which were common just a few
decades ago in the peripheries of nation states, are increasingly being
replaced by registers, identity cards and associated rights regimes. The
frontier property landscape of state and private ownership has increas-
ingly, notably in Latin America, been complemented by other forms of
individual and collective property forms (Sunderlin et al. 2008). Beneath
global post-frontier trends are huge differences, of course: 98% of forests
are under government ownership in Africa, 68% in the Asia-Pacific zone
and 33% in Latin America (Hatcher and Bailey 2011: 16). Protected
areas also vary considerably in terms of recognizing community rights
and needs, just as safeguard measures in the extractive sector differ
substantially between countries.

Table 1.1 Contrasting narratives

Frontier narratives Post-frontier narratives

Legal terra nullius State order and regulation

Economic value Multiple socio-ecological values
Nature as obstacle and resource Biodiversity and ecological values
Exclusive governance Inclusive governance
People as labour People as citizens with rights
Entrepreneurialism and extraction Protection and sustainability
External values Intrinsic values
Centrifugal (centre to periphery) Centripetal (periphery to centre)

Keeping such differences in mind, there is, nevertheless, an overall

trend towards redefining frontier spaces in post-frontier narrative terms
as regulated and normalized (Table 1.1).
Running the risk of simplicity, I have, in the above table, sought to
schematize what I consider the prototypical differences marking the
narrative shift from frontier ideology to narratives of post-frontier regu-
lation. This involves a shift from stressing the significance of uncharted
The Post-frontier Paradox 9

territory up for grabs to one of state order and legislation. It shifts

the main emphasis from economic potential to one concerning mul-
tiple socio-ecological values. Whereas nature in frontier narratives is
a matter of resources and obstacles to extraction, the post-frontier
stresses biodiversity and ecology. Where frontier narratives stress what
we might call “exclusive” governance, granting rights to external actors
and investment projects, the post-frontier emphasizes inclusive gover-
nance through and with local inhabitants. Local communities in the
frontier narrative represent a potential labour force to be mobilized;
they are, however, recognized as citizens with rights in the post-frontier.
While the frontier values entrepreneurialism and extraction, the post-
frontier stresses protection and sustainability. The former entails the
introduction of new external monetary values, whereas the latter rec-
ognizes intrinsic values. In sum, the frontier narrative builds on the
centrifugal process of exporting values and technology to the periphery,
whereas the post-frontier entails the centripetal transfer of periphery
values and practices to the centre. No specific case fits all proper-
ties, nor are the categories necessarily mutually exclusive. The purpose
here is rather heuristic and aims to demonstrate the prototypical shift
from development narratives grounded in frontier expansion towards
narratives framed around post-frontier reconciliation. Nonetheless, con-
tradictions abound in the post-frontier prompting critical questions
about the nature and effects of the change.

The post-frontier paradox: Trouble in paradise

Take a deep breath and sense the green, biodiversity-rich and equitable
post-frontier. Listen to the World Bank in Brazil listing the protec-
tion of 24 million ha of forest, the classification of 45.4 million ha of
indigenous lands, and 2.1 million ha of community-managed extractive
reserves resulting from their support (World Bank 2013: xii). Also lis-
ten to the Colombian Ministry of Environment informing a Norwegian
delegation that 84% of the Amazon is protected and conserved,2 while
proposing a park expansion plan to secure 0% deforestation by 2020.
The post-frontier paradox, however, soon becomes apparent and makes
you snap for oxygen.
Across the Amazon, 24 million ha of forest, or the size of the
Ecuadorian Amazon, or the area protected through World Bank sup-
port in Brazil, were deforested in the first decade of the 21st century,
while 84% is also the extent of coverage of oil concessions in the
Peruvian Amazon, an area overlapping with half of Peru’s protected
10 Post-frontier Resource Governance

areas and two-thirds of its indigenous territories. Protected areas and

indigenous territories may cover 40% of the Brazilian Amazon, yet
27% are also under mining concessions (RAISG 2012). A recent World
Bank evaluation concluded that support provided to over 100 pro-
tected areas showed “little evidence to support an evaluative conclusion
about biodiversity outcomes” (World Bank 2013: xii). Beneath post-
frontier success stories, evaluated in hectares and regulatory injections,
the actual effects are presently under debate to say the least (Nelson and
Chomitz 2009).
On a global scale, processes of downsizing and degazetting protected
areas are increasing (Mascia and Pailler 2010), just as indigenous titles
are being cut short or rules changed to facilitate buy-up or resource
extraction by third parties. As a consequence, celebrations of percent-
age increase based on the growing number of protected areas, or of the
sizes of land titling, remain fragile public relations events and are poorly
suited to adequately understanding the profound sustainability chal-
lenges of our times. Despite policy proliferation and some 170 national
biodiversity strategies and action plans, species extinction, habitat
degradation and human ecological footprints have accelerated. UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in 2010, recognized the “collective fail-
ure” of halting biodiversity loss, “conflicting policies” and the need for
a “new vision” (SCBD 2010). On the social side, language loss, discrim-
ination and violation of indigenous rights exist side by side with public
policies supposedly guaranteeing their protection. Post-frontier regula-
tion and interventions stand in contrast to the ongoing biodiversity
crisis, the fragility of indigenous rights and continued deforestation.
While civil society organizations have caught on to the possible con-
sequence of the ever deeper resource bonanza at stake, analysis of the
true paradox remains limited. It is neither the resource hunger driving
it nor the resulting social conflicts which are surprising. Rather, it is
the very fact that they can and continuously do take place in a post-
frontier ordered institutional landscape. Resource frontiers are thriving
and have intensified in the very same years that post-frontier regulatory
regimes have been consolidating globally. How do we make sense of the
grey zone between ever more complex legal and institutional apparatus
on paper, which is closing frontiers, and the intensification of resource
frontiers? How do we make sense of this coexistence of outstanding
natural and mineral values, of protection and degradation, rights and
infringements? How can violence and rights abuses persist and even
accelerate under multicultural constitutions building on international
The Post-frontier Paradox 11

Beyond weak implementation

Is the post-frontier paradox the consequence of a collection of fail-

ing management institutions that we haven’t yet got right (Acheson
2006)? Historian John McNeill spoke of “our political institutions”
as “ill-suited to large-scale but slow-moving environmental problems”
(McNeill 2007: 327), a statement which characterizes the institutional
failure to address social inequities as well. We may be living in a risk
society (Beck 2009), anticipating or staging environmental catastrophe,
but institutions easily appear as piecemeal responses.
Environmental protection and rights schemes are often criticized,
notably by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), for being “weak”,
“failing”, poorly designed or lagging behind in terms of implemen-
tation. Conclusions about deficient post-frontier institutions resonate
with wider strands in the literature denouncing the weakness of post-
Rio regimes. As stated by a group of sustainability thinkers who recently
summarized the predicament of sustainable development: “Despite
many encouraging achievements in the past quarter century and a per-
ceptible shift in the global conversation, in terms of tangible efforts
and real change, we have simply not done enough” (Halle et al. 2013:
2). “Now is the time to implement all these recommendations,” United
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated at a press conference at
the Rio + 20 Summit. While the post-Rio sustainability challenge is
often framed as one of lax implementation lagging behind the grow-
ing basket of good intentions, I wrote this book to shed light on what
in fact is being done.
Whether through deregulation or the rapid spread of capital, tech-
nologies and people, much analysis presumes the post-frontier as sheer
state smoke and propaganda serving to legitimize and deepen age-old
predatory practices. For many critics, recent policy agendas in Latin
America and elsewhere that challenge the neoliberal agenda have failed
and have been overtaken by extraction-oriented policies (A. Bebbington
2012; D. Bebbington and Bebbington 2012; Gudynas 2010; Haarstad
2012). Is the post-frontier then merely a shallow and politically distorted
décor in exceedingly predatory societies with deepening inequalities
and ever weaker regulatory mechanisms? Has the modern state been
hollowed out under intensified globalization?
When the Comaroffs spoke of the North “evolving” southward,
they hypothesized world-historical forces evolving towards deregulated
spaces, lax environmental control and labour legislation that they
experienced in postcolonial Africa and elsewhere (Jean Comaroff and
12 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Comaroff 2012: 13). Is this, then, the moment of truth for modern
regulation in the postcolonial era, which is questioned as being “espe-
cially, excessively, distinctively violent and disorderly” (John Comaroff
and Comaroff 2006: vii)? Indeed, does it make sense to retain the
notion of the post-frontier if all it amounts to is a re-orchestrated
political rhetoric used to render further frontier creation acceptable?
As David Harvey notes, capitalist history is littered with technologies
and “utopian schemes for the promotion of new social relations . . . only
to be either co-opted or abandoned in the face of a dominant capitalist
logic” (2010: 130).
From the World System perspective, post-frontier measures do not
replace frontier creation because the very essence of the capitalist sys-
tem requires expansion to survive. At stake is a zero-sum world where
global production and consumption patterns depend on continuing
unequal exchanges of energy and entropy, the constitutive elements
of the resource frontier, as a reproductive necessity (Hornborg 2009).
New “external” areas, peoples and resources – what Wallerstein named
hinterlands – are incorporated as frontiers in the system under asym-
metrical conditions defined by the centre (Hall 2009). Frontiers are,
from this perspective, not simply outdated development models, but
“necessary” for capitalist reproduction and are structured in global sys-
temic terms. New regulatory regimes, in essence, do not fundamentally
alter this structural condition. This creates a systemic contradiction
between nominal attempts to close frontiers and the continuous frontier
openings required to feed the global system.
The post-frontier, from this perspective, is merely shallow window
dressing, a Marxist supra-frontier so to speak, disguising the “raw mate-
rial diplomacy”3 and the geopolitical mediation necessary to sustain
economic growth. It represents a form of state intervention to normal-
ize frontier appetite through a sort of “crisis displacement” which allows
for continued capital accumulation (Hay 1994). What is tamed or closed
in the post-frontier, from this perspective, is social critique, not the
structural demand for resources. Post-frontiers do not abandon unequal
exchange or resource utility, but simply reconfigure them to a mod-
ern regulatory legitimacy framework. Do post-frontier institutions then
merely communicate regulatory order without any (significant) regu-
latory effect? Do post-frontier regulatory measures then simply reflect
the identity-marking process of coming to terms with frontier con-
tradictions and defusing counter-politics without resolving underlying
structural tensions? Much of the post-frontier reform hype certainly dis-
appears when one looks at the governance of non-renewable resources,
The Post-frontier Paradox 13

which essentially remains a centralized state-controlled, and business-

driven, venture in many countries. With a few exceptions, governments
have been far more ready to integrate participation and communal
property rights language in economically less significant areas and are
far less interested when it comes to mineral-, gas- and oil-rich areas.
While such critique is warranted, it, nonetheless, easily obscures subtle
transformations of governance modalities that are taking place.
While there is no doubt about the post-frontier mechanisms often
falling short of delivery, conclusions about weak or piecemeal regu-
latory frameworks thus remain rudimentary about what they actually
do. Although asserting weakness and deregulation offers a tempting
explanation, my argument is that such critique obscures the emergent
dynamics, contested fields and modi operandi of contemporary forms of
post-frontier regulation. Whereas anthropologists, for several decades,
have joined ecologists and social movements to decry the absence of
effective indigenous rights and environmental institutions, the growing
presence and influence of socially inclusive language and environmen-
tal institutions now prompts the need for a different analytical gaze.
Whereas the post-developmentalist literature points to the inherent
contradictions of the global sustainable development agenda and dis-
course (Escobar 1995; Rist 2002), merely dismissing the post-frontier
as poorly disguised power reiterations in the global South is not suf-
ficient. In practice, the relationship and contradictions between old
frontier problems and new sustainability institutions are often treated
in passing only. The global South is not, this book argues, experiencing
a post-frontier limbo awaiting salvation through hoped-for implemen-
tation, but, rather, is confronted with the contradictions of new forms
of statehood, policy implementation and territorial power.

Towards a new reading of the post-frontier

As analysis around sustainability solutions has matured, research is

increasingly pointing towards new forms of accumulation and the blur-
ring of boundaries between extraction and protection. Contemporary
frontiers, involving shifting terrains with new enclosures, have played
out through evolving forms of accumulation, territorialization, legal-
ization and new property regimes (Peluso and Lund 2011). This has
led authors to call for “more in-depth understanding of the historical
trajectories and specific tactics and instruments used by powerful and
less powerful actors to enclose, exclude, territorialize, and challenge the
moment’s ‘common sense’ ” (ibid.: 669). To say that frontier literature
14 Post-frontier Resource Governance

has ignored these factors would be unfair, yet this book argues for more
explicit treatment. Much anthropological literature is caught between
opposite poles of rejecting frontier narratives of progress and calls for
change, on the one hand, and dismissing the fragile nature of post-
frontier alternatives, on the other. What is needed is a less normative
approach to the post-frontier, thus enabling empirical attention paid to
its forms of practice to “steer clear of both apology and denunciation, to
avoid both prophecies and caricatures” (de Sardan 2005: 1). Post-frontier
institutions are not, this book contends, merely poorly camouflaged
public control mechanisms, but cover a rich terrain of complex insti-
tutional processes, power dynamics and social battlefields. A number of
arguments support this claim.
Firstly, while the World System perspective helps to explain the pro-
liferation of frontiers, it offers only a starting point for making sense of
the practice of post-frontier institutions. Furthermore, dismissing hol-
low or weak measures framed by neoliberal and globalization tropes
easily disguises the complexity of actual social processes. Arguing, for
example, that protected areas have failed globally to halt biodiversity
loss (Mora and Sale 2011) is not wrong per se, but it does not actually
tell us what then is taking place. Consider the intensified spread of oil
concessions into fragile ecosystems. This would, at first sight, illustrate
the effects of deregulation or piecemeal safeguards. Yet, contrary to the
critique of neoliberal deregulation, the post-frontier gaze rests on the
exact opposite observation: namely, that most frontiers have become
ever more regulated in both environmental and social terms. The recent
oil concession bonanza across the Amazon has taken place in “mature”
post-frontier landscapes, not in open lands up for grabs. Transnational
access to frontier resources does not entail less regulation, but specific
“flexible” regulations, often sanctioned by trade agreements, woven
carefully to retrofit conservation restrictions that allow investments to
move forward. The paradoxical nature of protected areas overlapping
concessions is not an anomaly, but part of the emergent post-frontier.
What has changed is not the retreat of regulatory mechanisms per se,
but evolving forms of re-regulation, modus operandi and state practice.
Contemporary frontiers are not invisible sites of deregulated violence,
but visible sites of re-regulation. In a similar vein, what Charles Hale
named neoliberal multiculturalism (Hale 2002) did not in fact involve
neoliberal deregulation per se, but a re-regulated multicultural space
involving distinct forms of recognizing rights.
Secondly, post-frontier institutions do not settle the power politics
of the frontier once and for all. Rather they cover a vast and highly
The Post-frontier Paradox 15

contested terrain of multiple projects and power dynamics. While gov-

ernment may appear absent, new forms of governance involve blurred
boundaries between public policy and a multitude of ways in which the
act of governing takes place beyond the state through distinct regulatory
practice, territorial management and sustainability techno-fixes. The
very nature of post-frontier regulation is subject to fierce political strug-
gles about specific institutions and measures. Environmentalists, human
rights lawyers and social movements invest hard labour in crafting and
lobbying for particular models of post-frontier change. This concerns
not only intense political debate and struggles about the formulation of
social and environmental policy ambitions, but also the ways in which
such ambitions are put into practice and materialized in institutional
and regulatory terms. Unlocking frontier opportunities from the grip of
more radical post-frontier projects is at the heart of state and corporate
negotiation positions. These, in turn, seek to displace and reconfigure
power into new “do-able” arenas, forms of knowledge and legitimate
agency. Such arenas need to be unpacked in terms of their particular
discursive constructions and social effects. Writing off the post-frontier
as empty talk closes off the necessity of a fine-grained analysis of such
Thirdly, the post-frontier does not merely maintain the status quo,
but transforms it and may even deepen it by creating new frontier
openings, new realms of vulnerability resulting in new forms of envi-
ronmental degradation and social marginalization. Environmental and
social safeguards may become enablers of new forms of frontier action.
Sustainability language, green economy and market-based environmen-
tal measures open up new frontiers of investment, tradeability and
profits. Green grabbing illustrates this trend of capitalizing on the post-
frontier. The contradictions of resettlement, biofuel projects and dams
financed through green energy schemes amply illustrate the muddling
of the post-frontier territories. It is striking that among new frontiers
of land control (Peluso and Lund 2011), several deal with post-frontier
institutions: carbon capture to mitigate climate change, conservation
and land rights. It is further noteworthy that much land grabbing is
not only limited to untitled land, but is found across lands with stable
tenure situations (Saturnino M. Borras Jr. et al. 2011). Carbon cowboys
seeking to capitalize on indigenous land rights in carbon trade schemes
capture the essence of creating new frontier value on top of and through
social safeguards.
Intensified nature commodification and the mushrooming of resource
frontiers are, in this sense, mediated by, rather than existing in spite
16 Post-frontier Resource Governance

of, post-frontier institutions. In this scheme there appears not only

coexistence, but also synergies between ordered post-frontier spaces
and the intensification of resource frontiers. Only in narrative terms
is the post-frontier defined as being in opposition to or replacing the
frontier. Both appear on a continuum, wherein post-frontier assem-
blages connect practices and sustainability discourse in new ways. Put
somewhat differently, my interest in the post-frontier is not one of
auditing whether or not frontiers are truly closed (the answer is obvi-
ous), but rather to interrogate the ways in which post-frontier qualities
and resource frontiers are reassembled in policy arrangements and
To avoid both the optimism of techno-managerial speak and the
pessimism of post-development critique, this book seeks to establish a
middle ground for careful empirical attention to the post-frontier field.
Rather than relegating the post-frontier as empty rhetoric, this book
suggests that it exists based on the fact that (i) it differs substantially
from previous frontier narratives; (ii) actors and institutions recognize
such changing frontier politics “as an object or an end to which they
devote time, money and professional competence” (de Sardan 2005:
25); and (iii) such practices and institutions have real governance effects,
which cannot be ignored while attempting to understand contemporary
resource frontiers. Ranging from radical change agendas to managerial
fixing, post-frontiers and their effects vary. These call for empirical ques-
tions about how and under what terms frontiers are “closed” and for
tracing actual effects.

Towards an emergent reading of the post-frontier

How do we then take post-frontier mediation seriously, in its own emer-

gent terms, as part of the sustainability problem complex? A somewhat
positivistic bias, assuming that we know what sustainability measures
(should) do, has, in part, blinded the scrutiny of its emergent properties.
Yet, it is precisely in the anomalies, contradictions and imperfections
of actual practice that a true diagnosis of post-frontier governance
dynamics is to be found. The epistemological challenge thus involves
striking a balance between taking post-frontier measures seriously as real
social phenomena and maintaining a healthy critique. To explore such
shifting terrains, the book employs the concepts of linearity and non-
linearity to distinguish the different dynamics at stake. More generally, it
suggests approaching the post-frontier through a form of subtle realism
based on the following four premises.
The Post-frontier Paradox 17

Firstly, post-frontiers harbour narrative qualities, which on the surface

mark a dramatic shift from frontier ideology. I define this shift as linear
in the sense that it conveys linear causality and opportunity through
purposeful and morally sound action leading to (more) sustainable
outcomes building on, rather than replacing, local subjectivities, knowl-
edges and practices. This linear causality in narrative terms resolves
the frontier drama through projections of expected social change with
actors, act, scenes and agency “plotted” to achieve sustainability at the
frontier. Bateson spoke of the “systemic nature of the world” and against
the idea of governments thinking only in terms of “purpose and com-
mon sense”. Man “can never control the whole”, he argued, concluding
that “simple lineal control” was not possible (Bateson 1973: 443–44).
This book suggests that our ability to understand current sustainability
challenges nonetheless requires rigorous attention to how state actors,
often joined by think tanks, NGOs and experts, present, frame and
defend particular linear rationalities (Herzfeld 2001: 128). Road maps
to sustainability are all about the future(s) we (should) want in a recon-
ciled post-frontier space. A central anthropological tenet involves taking
cultural concepts and their effects seriously rather than debunking them
as illusory. However flawed linear prescriptions may appear, such “vir-
tualizing institutions” and modern state projects are not without effect
(Carrier and West 2009: 20; Scott 1998). This prompts attention to the
ways in which linear prescriptions are framed, negotiated and articu-
lated. Whether such goals are actually achieved is another story, yet
they, in linear terms, reframe the nature of the frontier. They vary across
space and time and may be analysed in terms of their evolving descrip-
tive and prescriptive properties, which in turn generate new, as well as
close, old arenas of legitimate and normalized social action.
Secondly, post-frontier is a field of considerable investment and insti-
tutional activity. As a field of practice, I argue, the post-frontier covers a
range of new phenomena from particular forms of bureaucratic action,
safeguard mechanisms and fields of expertise of a different nature com-
pared with the conventional frontier complex. Not only do institutions
support and implement post-frontier mechanisms, but people also work
within and against them. They constitute real, if contested, practices.
Acknowledging this battlefield of practice allows one to pay analytical
attention to the different kinds of actors and modalities of action. Rather
than assuming the existence of only one post-frontier, such as the offi-
cial authorized policy discourse, this book suggests analytical attention
to the variety of struggles around the formulation and design of specific
rights regimes and environmental measures.
18 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Thirdly, the post-frontier is real not only in terms of a set of prac-

tices, but also in terms of having actual social effects. The answer to
what happens when resource frontiers are reframed in terms of social
and environmental safeguard measures is clearly not nothing but some-
thing. This does not imply that claims to sustainable mining, and the
likes, should be taken at face value. The political rhetoric of closing
or taming frontiers, while deepening resource dependence, obviously
falls short of capturing the contradictions. Instead of offering com-
plicit analysis assuming policy rationale or effectiveness, this book draws
attention to the shifting terrains of regulatory practices and their effects
on the ground. Anthropologies of development and policy (Mosse 2013;
Shore et al. 2011) are increasingly seeking to interrogate the complexity
of practice. This has rendered anthropology sensitive not only to the
meaning of production and power implications of new mediatory tech-
nologies and devices, but also to the variable nature of social effects and
their socially embedded nature.
Fourthly, post-frontier institutions are taken as socially embedded
assemblages of practice that harbour more than their linear proper-
ties. Several chapters of the book illustrate how decision making at
the post-frontier entails dynamics outside or beneath formal rules and
regulations. I label such phenomena “non-linear”, as they are socially
significant yet remain distinct from the linear discourse and dynamics
of post-frontier narratives. Indeed, what happens to structure indige-
nous rights and protected area practice is often very different from its
linear prescriptions. Still, such phenomena, from social obligations to
deep cultural practices, are far too often left in the margins of gover-
nance analysis. The ethnographic response, generally positioned as a
non-linear methodology (Agar 2004), is arguably well positioned to take
up the challenge. Anthropologists have long defended non-linearity as
a characteristic and analytical premise to understanding social complex-
ity. De Landa, for instance, concludes how Western society has sought
to transform the world according to its linear predicament, and that we
“today” are “beginning to incorporate nonlinear elements” and start-
ing to “think heterogeneity as something valuable, not an obstacle to
unification” (De Landa 2000: 274). Much policy analysis, in this vein,
is exactly out to unmask the messiness of previous linear (read vertical)
My point here, however, is not to advocate for such heterogeneous
governance crafting (a normative perspective) but, more fundamentally,
to clearly distinguish between the linear qualities of policy prescriptions
and the less publicly visible non-linear dynamics, which also structure
practice. Understanding post-frontier forestry, for example, cannot be
The Post-frontier Paradox 19

achieved by evaluating its linear implementation modalities without

understanding its socially embedded nature. What effectively drives the
post-frontier is often of a very different nature from its linear prescrip-
tions, and this needs to be taken into account. We may, therefore, more
productively, see the post-frontiers as distinct assemblages harbouring
both linear and non-linear properties. Ethnography offers a unique role
to grasp a broad panoply of relations (Larsen 2011), offering a good start-
ing point to explore the shifting modus operandi of governance processes
and interrogating rules in use. It is now time to step further out of the
analytical constraints posed by managerial language and, in turn, to step
inside and behind the post-frontier reality of conservation measures and
indigenous rights. Satellite imagery may show overall forest cover, just
as official maps depict boundaries of indigenous titles or protected areas.
Yet, what takes place beneath the canopy is another story, one to which
this books seeks to contribute.

Outline of remaining chapters

Addressing the multiple and diverse forms of post-frontier regimes

rehearsed above is well beyond the scope of one book. The multi-sited
ethnography proposed here focuses on the Peruvian Amazon. Specif-
ically, it describes how environmental matters and indigenous rights
are managed within, outside and beneath the titled lands of Yánesha
communities, oil concessions and the adjacent protected areas. The
main protagonists in this ethnography are state officials, NGO workers
and Yánesha indigenous communities alongside academics, consultants,
timber barons and oil prospectors in the Peruvian Amazon. It is based
on PhD fieldwork undertaken between 2007 and 2008 with follow-
up visits in 2009 and 2010,4 as well postdoc research undertaken in
2012 and 2013.5 Chapter 2 introduces the specific regional context and
ethnographic fieldwork setting of the Central Jungle area of the Peruvian
Amazon. It presents major post-frontier themes encountered in the
province of Oxapampa, my entry points to field as well as some method-
ological considerations. Chapter 3 adds historical depth by exploring
how three centuries of frontier narratives in the region served to legit-
imize and shape the creation of a frontier economy. This also serves
as the necessary backdrop to comprehend the significance of subse-
quent governance crafting, and the emergence of particular post-frontier
South American countries have been at the forefront of transform-
ing tenure arrangements and political rights leading to empowered
communities. Chapter 4 explores the historical process leading to the
20 Post-frontier Resource Governance

recognition of indigenous rights in the Peruvian Amazon, coupled

with a local history of land titling among the Yánesha. Chapter 5
portrays the “greening” of the Amazonian frontier space. It focuses
on how Oxapampa, as an area of “wilderness” ripe for conquest and
resource extraction, became a “green” place in need of ordering and
protection. Community conservation areas are proposed as win-win
solutions incarnating post-frontier solutions that combine environmen-
tal sustainability and social equity. Chapter 6 provides a historical
ethnography of the Reserva Comunal Yánesha, a protected area, and
governance form, explicitly aimed at supporting indigenous peoples.
The chapter explores how, and with what effects, an area established
to sustain a hunting reserve was converted into a co-managed protected
area dominated by the state. It interrogates global and national discourse
framed around recognition and support to community conservation
challenging mainstream ideas of empowerment. Chapter 7, in turn,
addresses the shift from forestry models grounded in concession-based
timber extraction towards post-frontier logics of sustainable harvest-
ing and community forestry. It presents one of the first continental
community forestry initiatives. In an ethnographically informed his-
tory of attempts to set up community cooperatives and management
operations, the chapter presents and seeks to explain the kinds of
failure encountered. The final post-frontier regulatory field explored
involves the role and practice of social safeguards in extractive industry
projects. Images of displaced communities, environmental contamina-
tion and social conflict abound in the aftermath of extractive industry
projects. Chapter 8 explores the advent of the extractive post-frontier.
The chapter offers an ethnographic portrayal of the workings of new
mitigation devices as they were employed in the oil fields of the Central
Jungle area. The post-frontier is not just about changing government
policies, but is also about a changing landscape of political actors and
spaces. One characteristic of the post-frontier in the Amazon is the
advent of indigenous organizations and their role in contesting, medi-
ating and transforming state–society relations. Chapter 9 explores the
role and significance of indigenous organizations, and argues for a new
way of thinking about indigenous politics. It offers an ethnographic por-
trait of one of the first indigenous organizations on the South American
continent: the federation of the Yánesha. The concluding chapter sum-
marizes the main findings and sketches further elements of theorizing
the post-frontier.
The Peruvian Amazon and
Post-frontier Ethnography

The Peruvian Amazon

I was drawn to Latin America and the Amazon not only because of
the presence of centuries of deepening frontier pressures, but equally
so by the proliferation of indigenous rights and environmental mea-
sures in recent decades. The Peruvian Amazon covers more than 78
million ha or some 61% of Peru’s total surface, with a total popula-
tion of around 3.6 million. Of these, some 332,975 live in 1,786 native
communities – the term used to simultaneously describe indigenous
communities and their land titles in the Amazon region. By 2010, 1,254
of these communities had received titles covering some 11 million ha
(13.6% of the national territory) and five territorial reserves had been
created for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation. The 2007 census
lists 1,786 indigenous communities, which constitute 9% of the total
Amazonian population. In total, the combined figure of protected areas
and indigenous territories covers 36.3% of the Peruvian Amazon (IBC
Before setting my feet in the Peruvian high jungle, I had discussed
protected areas, oil exploration and indigenous titling with lawyers,
activists and anthropologists in both Europe and Lima. The institutional
contact of the Swiss research network financing my initial PhD research
grant was the Instituto del Bien Común (IBC), an action research NGO.
Upon arriving in Lima in 2007, staff members showed me maps of
indigenous communities, oil concessions and protected areas produced
by the organization’s GIS unit. Counter-mapping, as Nancy Peluso
labelled it, was at the heart of their efforts. Their message conveyed
conflicts and tension, which would intensify and sharpen in the public
debate in the following years.

22 Post-frontier Resource Governance

The main period addressed in this ethnography took place under

the second presidency of Alan García, who returned to power in July
2006 and remained there till 2011. During that period, Peru was far less
affected by insurgency and authoritarianism compared with preceding
decades. The country, furthermore, experienced unprecedented eco-
nomic growth rates and democratic stability, yet major frontier conflicts
were looming. The granting of oil concessions exploded and President
García initiated a campaign to free up more land and resources for pri-
vate investments. Conflicts would escalate around a series of neoliberal
policy initiatives.
During 180 days of exceptional executive power, from 1 January to
28 June 2008, 99 legislative decrees were expedited in order to speed-
ily facilitate the implementation of the US–Peru Free Trade Agreement.
In practice, the decrees went much further and were equally aimed at
facilitating investor access to land and resources. The ramifications of
the decree package cemented the point that the neoliberal state was
not about laissez faire politics, but fundamentally required a set of reg-
ulatory interventions to allow for entrepreneurialism to take hold. The
fate of post-frontier institutions – such as indigenous land rights, con-
sultation practices and environmental protection – was at the heart of
contested politics. In particular, nine decrees were raised by indigenous
organizations in the Amazon as potential threats to their territorial secu-
rity, collective rights and resource base. Social protest would increase
in intensity and in coverage throughout 2008 and 2009, consequently
affecting road and river access as well as oil installations across the
One of the protests against the decrees took place in the province
of Bagua in Northern Peru. Thousands of Amazonian and mestizo
protestors were blocking a stretch of highway; eventually police and
military forces were sent in to reopen it. On 5 June 2009, shooting and
violence broke out leading to the death of indigenous protestors as well
as 23 police officers, 11 of whom had been held hostage and were exe-
cuted (Valverde and Calleja 2010). For many critics it was a tragic sign
of a profound conflict between neoliberal reforms, resource grabbing
and indigenous peoples’ rights. The social drama, from this perspective,
reflected the material conditions and violence of capital in an ever-
expanding omnivorous extractive economy. From another perspective,
it revealed structural inequalities and the deep divide between Lima and
its Amazon hinterlands. Peruvian society has, ever since then, sought
to transform politics “after Bagua” through round tables, reconciliatory
measures and truth reports. I have addressed some of these national
The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 23

processes elsewhere and briefly explore their regional significance in

Chapter 9, yet they are not the prime focus here.
Whereas post-frontier measures are often analysed in generalized
terms as a sequence of conflicting policy events between a mono-
lithic (neoliberal or otherwise) state, conservation forces and indige-
nous peoples, this easily obscures the significance of the everyday
mechanics of the post-frontier and its effects. Agencies in charge of
protected areas, environmental matters and indigenous land titling
have undergone substantial change over the years (on the creation
of a Ministry of Environment, see for example Larsen 2010). Yet,
questions of indigenous rights and environmental management are
not merely about national policy battlefields and new institutional
arrangements, but equally consist of far less visible everyday practices,
bureaucratic forms and institutional set-ups. Understanding the impor-
tance of such ordinary governance phenomena is just as important as
decrypting the outcome of national politics. On the other side of the
Andes, in the Central Jungle, more questions would soon arise as con-
versations deepened with indigenous leaders, NGOs and government

The Selva Central

I chose the Upper Central Jungle area to explore post-frontier arrange-

ments and practices ethnographically. Not only did the region possess
a history profoundly shaped by resource frontier dynamics due to its
proximity to Lima (see Chapter 3), it had also been the scene for some
of the earliest efforts in the country to organize indigenous communi-
ties, title their lands as well as set up co-managed protected areas and
indigenous forestry operations. The high concentration of post-frontier
institutions and experimentation, combined with the recent presence of
oil concessions and mining rumours, offered a potent terrain: the exact
kinds of problem constellation I was interested in. IBC, furthermore,
ran a river-basin programme and a small field office in the region and
was offering to host my research and facilitate contacts with indigenous
organizations and local authorities.
I particularly focus on Oxapampa Province (Region of Pasco), an area
roughly half the size of Switzerland, located in the Central Jungle area
(Selva Central) some 400 km northeast of Lima (Map 2.1).
The province derives its name from the Quechua words ochsa for
straw and pampa reflecting its location in the Ceja de Selva, “the eye-
brow of the forest”, or montaña, the valleys and slopes east of the
24 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Map 2.1 Location of Oxapampa and its districts

Source: Federico Rizopatron (IBC) adapted by Catherine Fragnière.

Andes. It stretches over 18,674 km2 and is home to 81,929 people

(INEI and UNFPA 2008). The Yanachaga cordillera running from north
to south splits the province between western higher-lying areas (dis-
tricts of Pozuzo, Huancabamba, Palcazú, Villa Rica and Oxapampa)
and the eastern lower-lying districts of Puerto Bermudez, Palcazú and
Ciudad Constitución. Ecosystems in the Selva Central are differentiated
according to four altitude and vegetation types: the Selva Baja (lowland
Amazonian rainforest), Yungas (low-altitude montane rainforest), Ceja
de la Montaña (mid-altitude cloud forest) and Puna (high-altitude alpine
grassland) (Pronaturaleza 2006).
The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 25

The history of the Selva Central can largely be read as a series of fron-
tier waves (rubber, agriculture, timber and now oil) involving upfront
colonization programmes, road construction and spontaneous migra-
tion (Santos-Granero and Barclay 1995). As a result, today it harbours
a particular demographic mix of indigenous peoples, Austrian-German
descendants settling in the area from the 1850s, and Andean settlers.
Compared with certain other areas of contiguous and large indigenous
territories, intensive colonization processes have largely left indigenous
land titles as a dotted mosaic throughout the province, interspersed with
relatively large settler holdings, small migrant lands and vast forest areas
mainly covered by state-owned protected areas.
Oxapampa, by the 1980s, had shifted away from being an iconic
frontier towards becoming an emblematic post-frontier for ordering
development and territorial management. It was even being used as a
model for developing guidelines (Beauclerk and Narby 1988; OAS 1987)
and became a widely quoted text book case for transforming projects
to include indigenous concerns and titling needs (Burger 1987; ICIHI
1987). One text about Peruvian ecology highlighted it as the first
province in Peru to achieve the “ordering” of development (Brack and
Mendiola 2000). World Bank anthropologist Shelton Davis called it an
example of how “native rights and interests can be included in regional
resource management plans without sacrificing either local or national
goals” (Davis 1988).
The province not only hosts some of the earliest efforts to title
indigenous lands in the lowlands, it also has the highest concentration
of protected areas in the country from a provincial perspective. This
includes the Yanachaga–Chemillén National Park, the San Matías–San
Carlos Protection Forest, parts of the El Sira Communal Reserve and the
Yánesha Communal Reserve. The latter was the first protected area of its
kind to be recognized in the country along with pioneering efforts to
support community forestry. In 2010, the whole province was even rec-
ognized by UNESCO as the Oxapampa Ashaninka Yánesha Biosphere
Reserve. The fate of these post-frontier institutions was at the heart
of my field research. Still, paradoxes abounded. While the majority of
forestlands had been classified for protection, clear-cutting and preda-
tory harvesting of high value species were rampant. Despite its reordered
status, the province area paradoxically harboured all the ingredients
of an Amazonian frontier thriller. Illegal logging, land trafficking, road
construction and latent extractive industry conflicts were widespread.
There were major concerns regarding the explosion of oil exploration,
consultation practices and potential environmental impacts (Map 2.2).

Map 2.2 Oil concessions, protected areas and indigenous communities in

Source: Ermeto Tuesta (IBC), further adapted by Catherine Fragnière.
The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 27

The reconciliation of environmental protection and indigenous rights

was, at best, a work in progress. I was particularly keen to learn from the
indigenous experiences not only with land titling, but also in terms of
their dealings with specific post-frontier arrangements in the fields of
protected areas, forestry and extractive industries. This led me to geo-
graphically concentrate fieldwork activities in the Palcazú valley, where
decades of post-frontier investment among the Yánesha coexisted with
mounting resource pressures.

Introducing the Yánesha

The Upper Central Jungle area constitutes the customary territories

of the Asháninka-Ashéninka, the Nomchiguenga and the Yánesha, all
Arawak-speaking indigenous peoples. In particular, I worked among,
and with, the Yánesha, who number roughly 7,500 individuals. Despite
their low numbers, they have been remarkably present and influen-
tial in the post-frontier history of the Peruvian Amazon. Not only did
they spearhead the ethnicity-based political organizational form now
common across the continent, they were also in the forefront of indige-
nous land titling, community forestry and community engagement in
protected areas.
The ethnonym Yánesha, signifying “we, the people” in yeñoño,
appeared in 1980. Till then, they had been classified by etic terms
as Amuesha, Campas, Chuncos and Antis to name a few of the 20 terms
identified by Richard Chase Smith (Smith 1977: 33). Varying ethnonyms
reflect, in part, changing socio-political contexts. Whereas the generic
terms of Antis and Andes were predominant in the literature of the
16th and 17th centuries, containing portrayals describing the Arawak
of the foothills of the Andes, these were replaced by Amage in the 18th
century, followed by Amuesha in the 19th and 20th centuries. The cur-
rent ethnonym, Yánesha, only appeared around 1980, coinciding with
the establishment of a new political federation (Santos-Granero 2004:
Yánesha people, today, are found in rural settlements and small town
settings. Spread out in some 65 settlements across the Central Jun-
gle region, the Yánesha have been described as being situated at the
crossroads of highland and lowland Amazonia. Yet, both linguistic and
ecological labels as per Steward, who defined the Yánesha as a mon-
taña people, are not unproblematic. Rather than rooting the Yánesha
as Amazonian, a reading of their Central Andean history is warranted
(Smith 2004). This is not only significant from an ethno-linguistic
28 Post-frontier Resource Governance

perspective, but equally so from the perspective of their territorial occu-

pation patterns, which are intimately tied to changing geopolitics and
resource pressures whether from Incaic, colonial or postcolonial devel-
opments (see Chapter 3). Nineteenth- and 20th-century settler pressures
were instrumental in driving many Yánesha to leave earlier settle-
ments in higher-lying areas and to settle in the lower-lying Palcazú and
Pachitea areas (Santos-Granero 2004). The varying size of indigenous
land titles and access to forest resources are largely a reflection of this
historical process. Despite such movements and a fragmented territo-
rial basis, ethnic identity is firmly grounded in customary land, kinship
patterns and cultural practices of identification reaffirming continuity
through and despite rupture (Smith 2004).
Most Yánesha today live within titled communities (see Chapter 4),
which vary considerably in terms of size and nature. Diverse livelihood
practices reflect a variety of conditions such as land availability and
quality, altitudes, rainfall patterns, access to forest resources and his-
tories of market engagement. Swidden subsistence agriculture, in the
lower-lying parts, is increasingly mixed with cash crops in a complex
set of cropping patterns, buffers and levels of diversity (Hamlin and
Salick 2003). Common crops include manioc and other tubers, maize
and beans, as well as other vegetables and fruits, coca and tobacco.
Upper-lying communities, such as those neighbouring Oxapampa
or Villa Rica, generally have much smaller titles and longer histo-
ries of engagement with, as well as conditions for, producing cof-
fee. Lower-lying Yánesha communities generally have larger titles and
longer involvement with timber and cattle-raising economies in addi-
tion to experimentation with new cash crops. Hunting, whether near
the chacras (fields) or in more distant forest areas, is a favoured male
practice, particularly in the lower-lying (protected) areas where game
is more abundant. The gathering of fruits, plants and insects, along-
side fishing as well, play central roles in Yánesha livelihoods systems
(Santos-Granero 2004: 221–41). Finally, labour migration, whether of
a seasonal or semi-permanent nature, is of long-standing significance,
further enhanced by growing populations, economic integration and
land pressures. During the summer of 2013, I even met Yánesha house-
holds preparing to resettle in border areas near Brazil. Just as their
homelands had become the targets of the agricultural frontier develop-
ment, they were taking advantage of new frontier openings in contested
Still, for the vast majority remaining in the Oxapampa area, dealing
with post-frontier realities of titled lands, overlapping oil concessions
The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 29

and neighbouring protected areas raised a series of governance chal-

lenges. Attending annual congresses of the indigenous federation were
particularly revelatory of the questions and governance challenges
involved. “We can’t afford to protect the forest any longer. Forests on
our lands have been emptied by timber barons. How can we secure tim-
ber extraction permits? What is the nature of negotiations with the oil
company and how is the money being spent? Are indigenous leaders
representing the federation or the company in community consulta-
tions? What does the co-management contract with the protected area
agency mean in practice for communities?” Jefes, the leaders of indige-
nous communities, present in the congress meetings faced competing
demands for participation in protected area processes, oil company con-
sultations and timber deals as part of their everyday politics. From one
perspective, questions echoed global debates about sustainability. From
another perspective, they reflected a distinct anatomy of governance
embedded in long-standing social practices. Yánesha interrogations were
not only about growing resource pressures, but were also about the very
nature of post-frontier institutions and practices. Still, as the research
advanced it became clear that the analysis of such practices could not
limit itself to indigenous perceptions alone. It was not enough to merely
assert indigenous experiences with new institutions, but became impor-
tant to explicate how a broader assemblage of intertwined practices
intersected to form distinct arenas.

Towards post-frontier ethnography

Studying the fields of post-frontier practice entails multiple choices

of scale and focus, straddling the very local to international gover-
nance modalities. Whereas I have explored municipal, national and
international dimensions elsewhere (Larsen 2010, 2011b, 2013), my
emphasis here is on addressing a series of post-frontier assemblages
and intersections from a grounded ethnographic perspective. Applying
this approach meant that, instead of representing an ethnography of
Yánesha political culture per se (Santos-Granero 1991; Smith 1977), the
book attempts to portray intersecting fields of conservation, indigeneity
and wider governance processes in Oxapampa. The ethnography is
equally local and grounded, yet not in the classic sense of describing
a bounded human ecology setting, indigenous perspective or cosmol-
ogy, but rather through thick descriptions of social practice, grounded
knowledge about state–society relationships, natural resource manage-
ment and local politics. My hope is thereby to generate ethnography,
30 Post-frontier Resource Governance

which connects rather than separates the social complexity of post-

frontier theories and practice. What this ethnography describes are
specific relational transformations of a very different nature compared
with the levelling of playing fields and harmonizing of environmental
and social relations implied by post-frontier rhetoric.
Key sources of inspiration, in this respect, were early ethnographies
of the region offering a critique of state developmentalism (Chirif
1979; Varese 1974 (1970, 1979)), big development projects (Hvalkof
1989; Narby 1989; Smith 1982), extractive industries (Smith 2005),
regional development (Santos-Granero and Barclay 1995) and conser-
vation (Smith 2003). Such studies located tenure, policies and other
governance practices in wider historical, political economy and world
system contexts with distinct ethnographic contributions. These stud-
ies, often grounded in a strong critique of internal colonialism, pio-
neered approaches which today form part of the political ecology
repertoire. Smith, for example, offered an early critique of state devel-
opment discourse (Smith 1982). Hvalkof, in his political ecology of
the Amazon, sought to reinstate indigenous agency arguing that the
Ashéninka, catalysed by a land titling project, “became active political
agents of social change and democratization” (Hvalkof 2006).
Fieldwork involved following a range of actors and processes related
to oil, protected area conservation and timber extraction. The protag-
onists in this book are not only the Yánesha, but also the government
officials, NGO activists and civil servants, who, over several decades,
have shaped indigenous rights and environmental protection measures.
Bringing these people and themes together was not merely an academic
construct, but part of the post-frontier governance complexity faced by
local actors on the ground.

Returning to Oxapampa

I began fieldwork in Oxapampa during the fiestas patronales in the

provincial capital, on 30 August 2007, 116 years after the town had
been founded by Austrian and German immigrants. A day of celebra-
tion, feasting and processions to honour the patron saint Santa Rosa
de Lima, it was also promoted as a tourism week with cockfights, food
fairs and the election of Miss Oxapampa. Just as Lévi-Strauss had found
German colonists in the outskirts of Sao Paulo exotic (Lévi-Strauss 1973
(1955): 109), so were the German names, banana strudel and wooden
houses of Pozuzo and Oxapampa curiosa in the national imagination.
The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 31

Whereas Westerners would flock to the Peruvian Amazon in search of

indigenous peoples, national tourists came to see its far more exotic
German descendants. As the figure of the patron saint was carried into
the so-called Tyrolian-style wooden church, built by Otto Müller in
1939, attention turned to the temporary scene where local authorities,
the regional president, a congress member and Miss Oxapampa were
lined up for speeches. Bledhi, a Yánesha regidor, took part in carrying
the patron saint. Months later, he told me how proud he had been to do
it wearing his cushma (indigenous cotton gown). Apparently it was the
first time a Yánesha had done this in public during the fiestas.
The provincial mayor at the time, himself a chemical engineer from
Arequipa, thanked and recognized the Austrian and German colonos,
“having come from so far to found and develop Oxapampa”. Another
representative spoke of “three cultures, three feelings and one heart” in
a “province with a multi-ethnic culture”. “That’s our culture,” a lady in
the audience told me as local school pupils dressed in jungle-like, and
German, attire performed a local blend of indigenous and German-style
dances for the wider public. Folks sang along with the Oxapampa hymn
about overcoming the jungle, faced with the towering challenge of the
montaña, of hard work to clear and work the land. Another speaker
praised the “rich nature” of the province, its protected areas, not least
the Yanachaga Chemillen National Park. Frontier themes of hybrid-
ity, fusion and melting pot mestisaje harmony were being celebrated,
although local histories were equally full of failed colonization initia-
tives, decimated natural resources and conflicts between indigenous
communities, local elites and missionaries. The contemporary frontier
area was displayed as harmonious, a reconciled space of indigenous and
colono leaders walking side by side, frontier agriculture next to protected
areas, all united by a shared history, patron saints and the church.
Yet, beyond the local politics and cultural performance, the fiestas
were first and foremost a series of social events of small circles reuniting
families and friends, with cockfights and cumbia rhythms carrying on
till late in the night. Many Oxapampinos had moved to Lima, to other
parts of the Amazon and return events were very much about reviving
old networks, friendships and bonds. The house I found, known as “casa
Müller”, was more than just a big wooden house with a nicely kept gar-
den. The vast majority of the population knew the house owned by the
family, which had boosted timber extraction and introduced electric-
ity to Oxapampa. While those days were now gone, they had played a
crucial role in constructing Oxapampa as a frontier space.
32 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Methodological notes

I initially presented my research plans and asked for permission from

the indigenous federations and organizations of the area (FECONAYA,
ANAP, UNAY and AMARCY).1 While no written agreements were pro-
vided by the indigenous organizations, they were informed in both
writing and orally about the research and the leadership was sup-
portive of my work. Many leaders had already experienced or knew
of anthropologists. “It’s good and useful,” one former leader replied
when I explained my research topics. “We need an observer,” he said
where after he showed papers about territorial disputes and bound-
ary questions they were facing. In my day-to-day dealings, I would
ask permission from the jefe when working in specific communities.
Research permit wise, I was associated with the forestry department of
La Molina University, most kindly facilitated by Professor Carlos Llerena
and Richard Chase Smith. Although I mainly worked in the buffer zone
of the protected areas, a permit was also requested from the protected
area authority. The Lima coordinator did not seem particularly happy
about my interest in oil processes, at a time when the agency was under
fire for tolerating the entrance of oil companies.
Given my focus on institutional practices, multi-sited fieldwork in
order to follow consultation meetings with oil representatives, pro-
tected area planning processes and interactions was a clear necessity.
Open-ended qualitative methodologies nonetheless face limitations
when dealing with rapidly changing policy agendas, yet also offer
an alternative temporality, grounded not in the policy cycle, but in
the ethnographic present. Large parts of the data were gathered in
Oxapampa Province, in particular the Palcazú Valley through interviews
with NGO representatives, local officials, indigenous representatives and
Yánesha comuneros. I moved regularly throughout the province, mainly
concentrating my interviews and participant observation activities in
the Palcazú Valley following how indigenous peoples engaged with
external actors and provincial governance processes. Most discussions
were informal and were followed by note taking complemented by a
series of recorded interviews.
My affiliation with IBC was a golden opportunity to access local envi-
ronmental processes, in which they were actively taking part. Access
was easiest in relation to conservation professionals, government offi-
cials and indigenous leaders. While it was practical and provided easy
access to have some level of recognition, the ambiguity of my role was
particularly challenging during the first months. Among NGOs I was
The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography 33

a colleague, friend and professional with NGO experience, but also

someone potentially “monitoring what we are doing”, as one ingeniero
put it. My interaction with oil officials was limited to local-level staff.
I did not have access to boardrooms and higher echelons except from
public documents. Notes and transcribed interviews were coded using
Tamsanalyzer, a freeware for Mac.
Speaking and writing about political processes, organization and
governance is not simple (Warren and Jackson 2002). In a political envi-
ronment marked by suspicion, fear and even criminalization of social
protest, visualizing the anatomy of governance has profound ethical
implications which required constant consideration. As it concerns pub-
lic fields of action, power and resources, a continuous issue relates to the
dilemma of engaged anthropology seeking to generate new knowledge
and theory as well as contributing in applied ways to the needs and con-
cerns on the ground. I struggled with how to reconcile the dilemma of
observing, while at the same time wishing to engage.
For many researchers, there is no other choice than to engage in
governance experimentation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006). Such dilem-
mas relate to the continuous challenge of dealing with what Hale
described as “dual loyalties” of politically engaged, and culturally crit-
ical, research (Hale 2006: 105). In practice, my research oscillated
between activist research and cultural critique (Hale 2006: 101). This
included debates with indigenous representatives about planning pro-
cedures and participatory processes, just as I had argued so many times
before in my work as an applied anthropologist. It took me several
months to accept the necessity of maintaining some ethnographic
distance from this normative stance. Methodological distance meant
moving away from my personal comfort zone of international cate-
gories, solutions and discourse. This was epistemologically challenging
not only because the analytical categories employed in socially oriented
conservation approximate anthropological categories and analysis, but
also given my long-term involvement as a practitioner. It is thus easy,
as Riles argues, to simply replicate indigenous representations and con-
versely necessary, yet difficult, to “get outside” (Riles 2000). I also
realized that the sharing of intermediary observations and data (e.g.
regarding levels of indigenous participation in governance processes,
extractive industry behaviour and NGO processes) was one immediate
way of bridging the two concerns. Secondly, I also realized the major
difference between learning as an individual process and learning as a
social process, which generates knowledge and shared understanding.
This was particularly clear in my work on extractive industries. Initial
34 Post-frontier Resource Governance

hopes to finance complementary indigenous research were to material-

ize only in 2009 when we established a research partnership between
our university, IBC and the three indigenous federations to set up an
action research initiative on monitoring extractive industry activity in
the area (Larsen and Gaspar 2012).

A note on terminology, names and language

Addressing the rights of indigenous peoples, and environmental conser-

vation, involves highly codified language and categories in both a legal
and cultural sense. The category of indigenous peoples has gone through
explosions and implosions depending on historical epoch, language and
region. When I speak about native or indigenous communities, here
I specifically refer to the legal category, comunidad nativa, which for more
than three decades has been used by indigenous peoples in the Amazon
to “register” themselves and apply for land titles. Both current and
past ethnonyms appear throughout the book. Thus literature, including
indigenous statements, ethnography and government documents prior
to the 1980s, employ the ethnonym Amuesha and Campa, only later to
be replaced by Yánesha. I employ pseudonyms or anonymity through-
out the text except where identification of public figures is easy, or
statements were made in public settings, in which case I use their proper
names. I conducted interviews in Spanish. Despite a late attempt to learn
some Yánesha, I only managed to learn very basic notions.2 Wherever
I employ indigenous categories, these are taken from well-recognized
ethnographic works.
Frontier Narratives


the frontiers of civilization seldom present an attractive face,

even to the unprejudiced eye. All over the planet a very
real frontier conflict is being played out in these barely civ-
ilized places . . . the frontlines are invariably a desolate sight.
Settled amid the anarchy of everything provisional and, in
many cases, beyond the reach of national law . . . their mongrel
nature is perhaps more distinct in Amazonia than anywhere
else . . . thousands of identical little towns mushroom endlessly,
each day putting out new tentacles, each day increasingly
ramshackle and still without the power to swallow up the great
hybrid to elicit sympathy, these towns of corrugated iron con-
vey a degenerate image of all the worlds that they bring into
confrontation. It is in one of these gloomy observation posts
that ethnographic research usually begins.
(Descola 1986: 1)

In the above quote, one can almost hear anthropologist Philippe

Descola sigh impatiently in Puyo, Ecuador, “a world”, he added, “with-
out any real past”, before departing for his well-known study of the
Jivaros. Ideas of frontier “boom” societies as half-cooked, deficient, tem-
porary and unappealing are common in the anthropological trope to
counter centuries of frontier optimism. While such counter-narratives
challenge dominant tropes, they do little justice to the specific histori-
cal dynamics and narratives underscoring frontier expansion. As Tsing
herself asks, “How does nature at the frontier become a set of resources?
How are landscapes made empty and wild so that anyone can come

36 Post-frontier Resource Governance

to use and claim them?” (Tsing 2005: 30). This chapter suggests careful
attention to the cultural production involved in creating frontiers and
legitimating particular forms of frontier agency and intervention. This
is particularly relevant in the Amazon, where resource abundance is
frequently listed as an obvious or naturalized property despite decades
of critique. Careful attention is, in other words, needed to address the
specific processes reconfiguring certain places in terms of both resource
abundancy and frontier permeability. Frontier creation is not simply the
result of labour, capital and resources adding up in economic terms,
but relies on narrative configurations of people and places that per-
mit, attract and incite. Frontier narratives “open” up areas, whereas
post-frontier narratives nominally close them. Such frontier narratives,
particularly when presented in a state expansion context, involve lin-
ear projections of social change, the mobilization of certain forms of
knowledge and the protagonism of external agency. This chapter offers
an alternative to the common anthropological critique of frontiers as
spaces of social, cultural and environmental disorder. Building on histor-
ical and ethnographic material spanning the 18th to the 20th century,
the chapter zooms in on different moments in the history of Oxapampa
Province in the Peruvian Amazon to explore the nature and significance
of frontier narratives. Particular focus is on the intertwined roles of sci-
entific description, entrepreneurialism and state expansion in carving
out distinct frontier places and forms of action. In contrast with nar-
ratives emphasizing frontiers as spaces of disorder and the absence of
regulation, the chapter underlines the significance of ordering devices
in both environmental and social terms. The chapter also serves as a
historical introduction for the book as a whole.

Frontier narratives in the Amazon

Repeated waves of resource frontiers across the centuries have in multi-

ple ways shaped the landscapes, demography and politics of the Amazon
(Hemming 1985; Little 2001; Nepstad et al. 2002; Schmink and Wood
1992). As Little notes:

The existence of frontiers in the region is not a one-time occurrence,

a definitive arrival of modernity, but rather a perennial phenomenon
spurred by the constant arrival of ever-new social groups seeking ever-
new resources and their subsequent reterritorialization based upon
different ways of appropriating geographical space.
(Little 2001: 3)
Frontier Narratives 37

Conceptualizing the frontier as a recurring phenomenon is equally rel-

evant in Oxapampa. Due to its proximity to Lima, it has throughout
its postcolonial history been an agricultural frontier (sugarcane, coffee,
coca), an extractive frontier (rubber, timber, oil), a transportation fron-
tier (railway, road, boat) as well as a migration and settlement frontier.
It has also, in the footsteps of internal colonization literature, featured
degradation, dispossession and exclusion.
Century-old frontier dynamics in the Amazon are particularly illus-
trative of the dynamics involved. National narratives relegating certain
areas as frontiers, borderlands and wilderness have a long pedigree in
Latin America profoundly informed by colonial and missionary histori-
ography. This illustrated a central feature of frontier narratives, namely
that of reframing an area as in need of further conquest, technology
and external agency to be opened up (see e.g. Belaunde-Terry 1965).
Whereas the veracity of such narratives has been dismantled by more
recent historiography, their significance in terms of informing and legit-
imizing frontier creation is evident. Santos-Granero has stressed how
the Amazon–Andes divide resulted from expansion of Andean-anchored
state formations and the “imposition of boundaries of differentiation as
justification for state integration, expressed in the commodification and
symbolic consumption of the Amazonian Other” (Santos-Granero 2002:
545). Whether expressed by state officials, private entrepreneurs or mis-
sionaries, Santos-Granero identifies a continuity of alterizing Amazonia
in terms of wilderness or abundant environments inhabited by primitive
and disorganized peoples. Such differentiation obscured long-standing
connections between Andean and Amazon realms, yet offered conve-
nient justifications for missionary or entrepreneurial frontier projects.
Smith, along similar lines, emphasizes the founding role of Franciscan
missionary portrayals in shaping subsequent narratives of the Central
Jungle as impenetrable, inhabited by savages and in need of missionary
support (Smith 2004).
After initial Spanish contacts in the 16th century, and a first wave of
missionary activity by Franciscans in the 17th century, an indigenous
uprising in 1,742 kept large parts of Yánesha territory sealed off from
colonial presence for roughly a century. Upon independence in 1821,
the newly formed Peruvian government sought to reopen the Central
Jungle area, first by military force from 1847 and onwards, eventually
crushing indigenous resistance by 1873 (Santos-Granero 2004: 213–14).
By then, new administrative units and missions were set up in the recon-
quered territories and an active settlement policy triggered the arrival of
settlers increasing land pressures from both the North and the South.
38 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Towards the end of the 19th century such pressures intensified with
the grant of a 500,000 ha concession to the British-controlled Peruvian
Corporation Company (Barclay 1989). As a result, the Yánesha were
gradually enrolled in the burgeoning market economies of coffee and
timber production, on the one hand, while further settlements, on the
other hand, reduced their settlements to small enclaves within increas-
ingly colonized landscapes. By the second half of the 20th century, the
majority of the Yánesha had moved to the lower-lying valleys of Palcazú
and Pachitea. The dramatic process of dispossession, however, is not
the prime object of concern here. Rather, I seek to illustrate how such
a process was made possible by a series of frontier gazes. An 18th cen-
tury scientific mission to the province, led by Hipólito Ruiz, offers a
good starting point for exploring the kinds of narrative reconfigurations
appearing in the Central Jungle area in the footsteps of earlier mission-
ary accounts. As the chapter gradually moves up through history, I also
seek to demonstrate the changing nature and types of frontier narratives

Frontier knowledge in the 18th century

Ruiz described some 403 plants, gathered seeds and “odd native things”
while staying in the tropical warmth of Pozuzo, today part of Oxapampa
Province, in July 1784. The advance of a year’s salary from the Spanish
Crown financed a final travel of the first Spanish-led scientific inves-
tigation into the plants of the New World. Whereas the remaining
parts of the Selva Central were closed off from the viceroyalty due
to indigenous revolts, and would remain so till the mid-19th century,
Pozuzo had remained accessible for the scientific mission. Ruiz, from
the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid, headed the expedition made
up of botanists, artists and helpers from 1777 to 1785. Having spent
days walking, observing and felling trees in the forest, Ruiz commented
how “We botanists worked so hard here that we left Pozuzo practically
naked and with our legs and thighs flayed.” Pozuzo was described as
“the last Spanish pueblo . . . reduced to fifteen small huts, one church,
the house of the missionary father which they called the convent, and
a hut for the traders that are in the habit of coming to this miser-
able town” (Ruiz et al. 1998: 171). Ruiz portrayed lazy Indians and a
variety of plants “so great that all of them could scarcely be exam-
ined in one hundred years by a whole succession of botanists” (ibid.:
183). The diaries of Ruiz illustrated the New World frontier of botani-
cal investigation into plant utility within the American dominions. The
Frontier Narratives 39

expedition would by 1798 eventuate in the first volume of the Flora

Peruviana et Chilensis. While framed as discovery, much of the knowl-
edge from these first steps of 18th -century botanists towards modern
ethnobotany,1 depended on local knowledge and guidance. Ruiz’s team,
and subsequent visitors, followed the routes of Inca trails, Spanish set-
tlers and missionaries, learning equally from indigenous uses. He noted
how coca was the main exchange item while pursuing detailed plant
descriptions, observing indigenous uses and properties. He described the
virtues of quinine and a “white resin”, which became grey and had elas-
ticity when exposed to air. “This resin is excellent for water-proofing,
and the Indians cover their blow-pipes with it”, Ruiz noted (Ruiz et al.
1998: 176). His description of rubber showed a pre-frontier glimpse
of a resource quality, which roughly a century later would trigger a
global commodity demand dramatically transforming large parts of the
Amazon. The description illustrated the intertwined fields of scientific
investigation and value creation. It was about simultaneously “discover-
ing” and mastering nature, the very heart of colonial frontier narratives.
Ruiz ended the trip by having two trees cut to make boxes, mentioning
“that there are many more trees in Pozuzo, valuable for their color, grain
and other qualities” (ibid.: 183). Such values were to become significant
in the different cycles of frontier creation and rediscovery of the Selva
Central from the mid-19th century onwards.

19th-century frontier agency

Whereas the 18th-century snapshot pointed to the discursive

reformulation of indigenous knowledge and practices into scientific cat-
egories as frontier knowledge, the 19th century involved intensified gov-
ernment efforts to incorporate the Selva Central (Santos-Granero and
Barclay 1995). The drama of moving European immigrants to Amazonia
is particularly revelatory in terms of the nature – and limitations – of
frontier ideologies of the time. Pozuzo, today mostly known as a quiet
settler town in the lower part of Oxapampa Province, in 2009 cele-
brated its 150th anniversary. A century and half earlier, it had been
set up by the Peruvian state to further consolidate its presence in the
Amazon. Through its Bureau of Immigration and Colonization, it con-
tracted hundreds of Austrian and German farmers in order to import
their work ethic and have them settle down. Frontier agency necessarily
came from the outside. Yet, not only did it take the European settlers
two years to actually reach the area, many fell sick and died on the
way despite lofty promises of easy access and good conditions. When
40 Post-frontier Resource Governance

the geographer Raimondi visited the area in 1867 his account portrayed
images of peaceful colonos, picturesque houses and agricultural activity
rather than the profound difficulties the people encountered (Raimondi
1874: 278).
Linear frontier projects, transforming observation of things, places
and people into new lines of action, economic opportunities and project
geographies, would continuously shape the very foundation and gover-
nance dynamics of the Central Jungle area. Take Father Gabriel Sala,
prefect for the Ucayali Franciscan mission, requested by the govern-
ment to undertake explorations and draw up geographical maps of the
area. The end of the 19th century saw the quest for the quickest road
to reach a navigable port for the Amazon. A member of the Sociedad
Geográfica de Lima, Sala not only described environments but equally
prescribed road construction. He first explored the path to Palcazú, and
is considered the initiator of the “Via Pichis” and the roads linking
Chanchamayo with Oxapampa (Dionisio Ortiz 1967; Santos-Granero
1991). He was not alone. As indigenous rebellions, keeping the Selva
Central sealed off from the rest of Peru, ended, land in Huancabamba
south of Pozuzo was gradually reappropriated for missionary activity
and the production of sugarcane and other commodities for upper-lying
mining centres (Dionisio Ortiz 1967).

Colonizing Oxapampa

Among those attracted to Huancabamba were the parents of Enrique

Böttger. The Böttgers had arrived from Lübeck to work in a beer factory
in Arequipa, later co-founding a brewery in Cerro de Pasco before set-
tling down in the Huancabamba area to produce aguardiente (sugarcane
alcohol). Enrique Böttger, other settlers and Franciscan missionaries
started exploring further south what is currently Oxapampa.2 As he
recounted the events some 50 years later:

In the year of 1876, I by chance entered a hunting post, named

“Puriz” by the infidels, where they went to hunt animals in the sul-
phurous waters of “San Daniel”. I left spices as presents for them,
which they picked up some days later, reciprocating by leaving in
the hut some lovely bands ornamented with beautiful bird feathers
and two small jugs of honey together with small packs of peanuts
packed in palm leaves. This barter continued, without seeing or
meeting them, till March 1877. Because of this exchange, I judged
that they wanted to enter into friendly relations, so I convinced
Frontier Narratives 41

my brother Pablo, señor Ernesto Mühlenbruck, Don Tomas Sehaus,

Don Francisco Ruffner to penetrate to their whereabouts, joined by
Don Eliseo Schrader of the “Carolina” farm. To provide a proper
description of our expedition to conquer the infidels would be very
extensive . . . I’ll only say that we passed from one house to another,
that they lived far from each other, we surprised some and scared oth-
ers by our unexpected visit, that we with good judgments, responding
to meetings with kindness without sourness, with presents we gained
their friendship, towards the centre of what is today “Oxapampa”,
returning successfully after 4 days, accompanied by a small boy the
chief (Cacique) “Illupiu” had confided us, to our families who were
anxiously waiting for us; continuously maintaining the established
friendship through gifts and good behavior when they came to visit
us, that always with other infidels, whom we didn’t know, from the
interior of the region, till the year 1881, when Father Fray Bernandino
Gonzales visited Oxapampa with the wish to establish a mission in
the region.
(Böttger 1941)

Such friendship narratives were contrasted by Yánesha accounts of

armed colonist incursions, houses being burnt, women raped and chil-
dren “carried off to work on the haciendas” (Smith 1974: 7). A child
confided in one narrative was a child carried off to work in another. Dif-
ferent frontier narratives are told of friendship and conquest. Carlos,
a Yánesha elder whom I interviewed in Tsachopen near the town of
Oxapampa, offered a different perspective:

What my grandparents told is that when the colonos started coming

this way, to Huancabamba, there’s a place called Carolina, a narrow
stretch right next to the river, where Yáneshas would be watching
out that colonos did not cross. But then it happened that the colonos
came to the other side of the river and attempted to become friends.
They . . . threw over gifts, mirrors, chocolate, candy . . . making signs to
the Yánesha to open them and eat, they understood and the Yánesha
started eating. As they didn’t die, they began slowly to establish a
friendship at a distance . . . the Yánesha had their bows and arrows
to ensure no one crossed the river, the colonos were afraid of that, so
they in turn began bringing weapon, shooting in the air. The Yánesha
got afraid, “they’re going to kill us!”, so they hid and only returned
the next day where they were given biscuits, bread and other things.
Till one day, when the person who had betrayed his people made the
42 Post-frontier Resource Governance

decision to have a feast, it’s custom to have a feast, but then the peo-
ple came with their arms, not to kill them, only to scare them, just
to shoot. When the Yánesha wanted to grab their bows and arrows,
this person whose name I don’t remember, had hidden away all their
weapon, the Yánesha arms. As it was a feast they didn’t think any-
thing would happen. When they looked for their arms to defend
themselves, there weren’t any. The others showed that they didn’t
want to kill. They sat down, started conversations, convincing the
Yánesha that they were a group of people who wanted to enter pacif-
ically, but what they really wanted was to colonize, the whole valley,
little by little. They began making friends, building houses. Now the
Yáneshas weren’t going to prevent them.
(Personal communication, Carlos, a Yánesha elder)3

The events leading to the colonization of Oxapampa were told in differ-

ent ways. By late 1881, the mission and church of Señora de la Asuncion
de Quillazu started baptizing the children of the infidels (“of the Campa
tribe called Amuechas”). Three years later, it requested legal protection
for the mission post and “all land occupied by the infidels”. In 1905 it
was recognized as “joint property” of the missions and the residents
(Smith 1974: 9). In parallel, by the turn of the century, Böttger and
Franciscan missionaries had convinced a group of settlers from the fail-
ing colonization initiative in Pozuzo to help found the initial population
nucleus of Oxapampa (Dionisio Ortiz 1967). Permits were secured in
Cerro de Pasco, the regional capital, and land was measured up for each
family. The lists of names grew, and Böttger went all the way to Lima
to request permission for the movement of the entire Pozuzo colony to
Oxapampa for “its better position and climate”. Huánuco authorities, to
which Pozuzo belonged, protested, eventually halting the entire move.
Many Pozuzinos later died of malaria (Böttger 1941), whereas Oxapampa
would continue to grow, consolidating the internal colonial space with
Yánesha relegated as co-owners under the tutelage of the church.

Rubber in the Palcazú

Colonization dynamics differed in the lower-lying Palcazú areas, on the

other side of the Yanachaga range. Take the late 19th-century descrip-
tion of Alexandre Ordinaire, a French consul, who upon finishing his
term in Lima sought to reach the Atlantic by land. As he reached the
Palcazú area, after crossing the Yanachaga range, he provides a vivid por-
trayal of a rubber baron, Don Guillermo, living with Campa4 indigenous
families in what made up the western outskirts of the Amazon-wide
Frontier Narratives 43

rubber boom (Ordinaire 1892: 138). Don Guillermo, called “El Capitan”,
told of encountering 12 Campa families when arriving seven to eight
years earlier. He had “succeeded in attracting and attaching them by
real kind deeds” and there were “now more than 60 disseminated in
a circle of several places . . . in constant relationship with the Capitan
[author’s emphasis]”. He offered them rifles, sold gunpowder, procured
cloth for their cushmas and helped them cure eye infections in return
for rubber. He also protected them against slave raids taking place in
the Amazon (ibid.: 139–40). Several rubber companies would operate
in the basin in the following years with large concessions, prevent-
ing further settlements up till the agrarian reform in the late 1960s
when the last concessions were annulled (Miller and Martinez 1981).
Both the Huancabamba agricultural frontier and the rubber dynam-
ics in the Palcazú were connected to global commodity chains and
frontier policies. Huancabamba was connected to Andean mining cen-
tres, demand for agricultural output and a revived settler economy.
The Palcazú, in turn, involved an extractivist economy with rubber
being transported downstream to Iquitos every two years, while incor-
porating indigenous inhabitants as labour in the Amazon-wide rubber

Instrumental geographies

The dynamics experienced by Yánesha further south in the

Chanchamayo area were different, yet equally evocative of frontier nar-
ratives. National debt generated in the second half of the 19th century
for railway construction and the war against Chile (1879–1883) had
led the Peruvian government to cede 2 million ha in the Oriente to
the British-controlled Peruvian Corporation. Of four areas, the Perené
colony overlapping with the heart of Yánesha territory in the Selva Cen-
tral was the only one that materialized in 1891, covering some 500,000
ha (Barclay 1989: 44). Narratives images were central to the frontier
project. Alexander Ross, an agricultural engineer with experience in
Ceylon, was contracted to identify appropriate locations for coffee cul-
tivation in the “trackless and unexplored forest” of the Montaña. As he
recounts his arrival in the valley:

About 4 p.m. the next day, we came in full view of the lovely Perené –
a birds [sic] eye view, as it were, from an altitude of 5300 feet, looking
down almost perpendicularly upon the lonely domicile of an Indian
(Ross 1892: 386)
44 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Ross would conclude that “immense tracts await only the introduc-
tion of Chinese or the Indian coolie to turn what is now magnificent
forest into a rich and thriving province” (ibid.: 392). The narrative dis-
played a void ready for intervention, and frontier agency necessarily
came from the outside requiring investments and masses of labour.
It was instrumental frontier geography, Ross making the presentation
to the Royal Geographical Society in England upon his return. Not
surprisingly, the Peruvian Consul in London, F.A. Pezet, responded by
mentioning government exploration of the interior and the recently
inaugurated Geographical Society in Lima. Pezet described the efforts
to build roads, connect San Luis de Shuaro to Pichis, and eventually
shorten the distance to Liverpool, “bringing Lima within twenty days to
London” (ibid.: 392). He was on a sales trip, but as he also said to the
British geographers:

[ . . . ] geographical science is undoubtedly the principal lever to com-

merce, they (the government) now give all their attention to this
important question, for what would commerce be without geogra-
phy? The island has been explored so thoroughly that you do not
want geography for England, but for these other countries it is impor-
tant. When these roads are opened you will have cheaper sugar,
cheaper coffee etc.
(ibid.: 393)

Pezet continued his frontier investment tour, mentioning the possibili-

ties of draining Lake Junin (now a protected area) for wheat production.
The images of Ruiz, Ross and Pezet are just a few among a longer list
of constantly reworked frontier narratives leading to the initiation of
major coffee plantations already spearheaded by French and Italian
settlers. This in turn triggered the arrival of further settlers gradually
pushing indigenous Yánesha into the lower-lying valleys. Geography
and production were intimately connected in the frontier conquest of
environments. Barclay provides an eloquent account of the ups and
downs of the colony until President Belaunde annulled the conces-
sion in 1965 (Barclay 1989: 210). Throughout its existence, frontier
linearities – whether through employment of topography, technol-
ogy or plans – affected both people and environments. Environmental
and social concepts were framed in frontier terms. The environment
appeared as a (re)source and a potential threat to the flow and trans-
plant of frontier plans, just as indigenous inhabitants became a resource
in the broader calculation of coffee production and land politics.
Frontier Narratives 45

Providing both a source of cheap labour and a buffer against out-

side claims to the colony, a series of land arrangements were made
by the Peruvian Corporation with Yánesha in places like Metraro,
Maime, Palomar and Yurinaki (Barclay 1989: 220 pp.). One of the
governance principles cemented by the Peruvian Corporation and the
government was the categorical separation between forest and field
to install private property. Land occupation and titling required cul-
tivation, whereas traditional tenure involved a continuum of forest,
fields and fallows. Yánesha learned the hard way about the principle
of land clearance and property as colono settlements increased in the
area. A hierarchy of land rights privileged paper rights and clearance
over customary settlements and presence. Additional moves by settlers
into the customary lands of the Yánesha in the upper-lying areas would,
by 1925, lead to the establishment of Villa Rica, further intensifying
pressures. Boundary making and demarcation became a Yánesha issue
and concern faced with the massive influx of colonos. Gradual indige-
nous withdrawal from colonization areas in Oxapampa, Paucartambo
or Chanchamayo became common. By the early 1950s, Yánesha who
had not left for “safer” zones in the lower-lying valleys were busy mak-
ing trails and boundaries to prove occupancy like other settlers (Barclay
1989: 227, 230).
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, road connections and
expanding coffee, timber and agricultural frontiers arguably made it
increasingly relevant to speak of the Central Jungle area as a new
regional space (Santos-Granero and Barclay 1995) displacing indige-
nous socio-cultural forms of regional integration (Varese 2002 (1968)).
It involved interconnected processes of claiming virgin territory, extrac-
tion of resources and installation of property rights. The consolidation
of a new territorial regime intensified from the 1940s onwards with
increasing settler pressures through logging, the expansion of coffee cul-
tivation as well as early oil exploration. Oxapampa became the major
source of timber for the Lima markets. Railway plans, which were later
abandoned, also generated waves of settlers soliciting land titles (Yoza

Frontier indigeneity

Indigeneity was not absent from such frontier narratives, but was rather
framed as question of social transformation and conversion (Santos-
Granero 1991). As indigeneity became a pan-American matter in the
20th century, Peruvian experiences played a central role in debates
46 Post-frontier Resource Governance

around what was commonly defined as the “Indian problem”, as

summarized in one of the first International Labour Organization (ILO)
reports on the topic:

the big majority of this population lives in conditions of poverty and

ignorance, producing little and consuming less and not taking active
part in the life of the country, that is an almost negative element in
the national economy.
(Troncoso 1938)

The solution, Troncoso argued, was “to incorporate the indio into civi-
lization and the economic and social structure, making him an effective
element of progress and, a conscious and productive citizen, an effec-
tive production and consumption asset” (ibid.: 8, my translation).
Specifically, related to the jungle area, the author noted how “various
indigenous tribes live there in a state of semi-savageness; the govern-
ment, in collaboration with some private institutions, is working on
a slow effort to penetrate and civilize” (ibid.: 11, my translation). The
frontier notion of indigeneity was unmistakable. This was the occasion
when the Eighth International Conference of American States, held in
Lima, recommended the creation of the Inter-American Indigenist Insti-
tute, triggering decades of assimilation and integration thinking. I make
this brief detour, not to repeat well-rehearsed critique of early 20th-
century assimilationist thinking, but to underline the appearance of
core linear aspects, that of indigeneity becoming a topic of increasingly
institutionalized debate and even topic of concern by international
organizations. It was not merely an internal political concern, but was
analysed as a shared problem, involving new knowledge holders project-
ing change and debating how to do things right framed in frontier logics
of the day. Linearity in the 1950s was about penetration, conversion and
social change being replaced by protectionist measures. In Peru, this
was manifest in the protective measures established for the “Montaña
region” established by a supreme decree (DS 03 AG) in 1957. Respond-
ing to a rapidly expanding national frontier, the instrument established
some use and possession rights through “communal reserves” whose
size was calculated as 10 ha per individual older than five years of
age. The reserve model was a protective mechanism, however weak,
employed in the context of oil exploration, railway development and
heavy in-migration. The process to obtain a resolución directorial involved
a population census and the fixing of boundaries according to natural
features – all in areas “that colonization, already underway, had left
Frontier Narratives 47

20th-century frontier ideas for the sake of people

Today, in the midst of national and racial unity wrought by the com-
mon denominator of mestisaje – the fusion of two cultures – it may
now be asked if we Peruvians have managed to fully conquer our own
territory. The answer is negative.
(Belaunde 1965: italics inserted)

The post-independence conquest of the jungle promoted by Belaunde

above was not merely about incorporating new resources, but in the
20th century became a question about how to resolve Andean land prob-
lems, apparent in the internationally supported integration programmes
taking off in the early 1950s (Beaglehole 1953). Such fundamentally
modernistic ideas would have a continent-wide time of glory as “inte-
gration” developmentalism blossomed in the 1950s and 1960s. By the
early 1960s, an ILO official would affirm:

The aim of integration, which thousands of scientists, social work-

ers, officials, teachers, trade unionists, politicians and statesmen are
pursuing patiently in Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and
Brazil, is not to drill men into opposing camps. It is to unite them,
whatever their origin, in a common struggle against nature for the con-
quest of the continent’s potential riches in the interests of all the
American peoples and every one of their citizens.
(Rens 1963: 563)

The question was not whether or not to conquer the internal frontier,
but how. Modern frontier governance involved a struggle against nature
in order to exploit its potential, support people and liberate individual
agency. Foreign migrants in Pozuzo, President Belaunde reckoned, had
been abandoned (1965: 217). Belaunde’s vision of a more paternal state
sought to conquer upper jungle areas for the sake of a needy population
characterized by food and land shortages. More comprehensive colo-
nization programs were needed. Incorporation of new agricultural lands
in the Ceja de Montaña was “the fastest and most economic solution
to problems of food-shortage and population growth”. Modern agrar-
ian reform would replace previous conquest failures for the few armed
with a more democratic frontier, technical support and road building.
It was a modernist architecture with maps drawn up of population and
resources for large-scale societal constructions to house a needy people.
Territorial conquest was a matter of satisfying basic needs of the nation.
It was conquest for the sake of the people, in “a region full of promise for
48 Post-frontier Resource Governance

youth” (ibid.: 197). This period marked the appearance of increasingly

detailed resource inventories, demographic data and the proliferation
of planning processes. The establishment of the National Office for the
Assessment of Natural Resources (ONERN), with United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) support in 1962, illustrated
the growing preoccupation with resources through a systematic geo-
graphical gaze. Oficina Nacional de Evaluacion de Recursos Naturales
(ONERN: Office of National Assessment of Natural Resources) stud-
ies initiated a land classification process, inventoried valuable timber
resources and classified forests according to seven categories of timber
quality. The rational gaze was about where, how and what to extract
rather than addressing ecological problems per se. As an illustration,
the ONERN study from the Selva Central recommended road construc-
tion in two steps in accordance with the “progressive exploitation of
natural resources” in the valleys (ONERN 1970). Doctors, engineers
and anthropologists were mobilized for such national construction pur-
poses, as distant colonial regimes had mobilized geographers, botanists
and explorers for frontier projects in previous centuries. Belaunde was
perhaps the prototype of frontier linearism, himself an architect and
driver of a redesigned Peru. It marked a major shift in frontier gov-
ernance logics incorporating elements of governmentality; governing
through the well-being of populations. This “conquest”, he summa-
rized, was the “great battle yet to be waged”. While it would have to
wait as Belaunde was woken up by a military coup in 1968, frontier
expansion was pursued under subsequent military governments (see
Chapter 4). Soon after re-election as President in 1980, Belaunde revived
the mega-project to transform the jungle of the Pichis, Palcazú and
Pachitea valleys of the province into Lima’s breadbasket (Smith 1982).
As he told a newspaper, “it is incredible that we have to ration the sale of
meat in Lima, when we have these immense areas (of the jungle) which,
thanks to their resources, could feed all of Peru” (quoted in Smith 1982:
100). It was launched as a high-profile solution to Peruvian problems
of food imports and land scarcity. The Proyecto Especial Pichis Palcazú
(PEPP)5 project, supported by USAID, initially aimed at supporting major
road construction and “special projects” adapted to the needs and
requirements of settlers. Once again, nation state plans fuelled major
frontier transformations, this time also affecting the Palcazú, which till
then had served as refuge for many Yánesha. The media soon listed
150,000 settlers, 500,000 ha for agricultural expansion and the presi-
dent’s choice of a new future city called “Constitución” (Smith 1982:
100 pp.).
Frontier Narratives 49

Concluding remarks

What do three centuries of frontier dynamics in Oxapampa tell us

about the nature and properties of frontiers? For one, we need to de-
essentialize the notion of frontier as a given locus or temporal phase
with attached properties (resource abundance and emptiness) and defi-
ciencies (no settlements, no regulation, no development, no order), and
pay far more attention to the underlying narrative production of such
qualities. Whereas economists may describe the inevitable inclusion
of frontiers as resource supply areas, this chapter suggests more atten-
tion is needed to specific historical processes (de)structuring frontiers.
Colonial as well as postcolonial frontier spaces thus involved a set of
narrative, legislative and regulatory interventions situating legitimate
agency with external actors. Such narratives have evolved and shifted
over time. They typically rely on linear constructions of territoriality,
knowledge and external agency involving the study and domestication
of “wild” obstacles, whether of people or plants, in order to unlock
frontier potentials. As areas of political, economic experimentation and
religious conversion, frontiers entail intensive governance crafting that
installs permeability and extractability. Legal concepts of terra nullius
are a good illustration of such frontier reformulations. Frontiers rely on
the alterization and creation of symbolic distance and the creation of
permeable voids in both social and environmental terms. Frontier nar-
ratives “open” up areas, whereas – on paper – post-frontier narratives
close them.
The frontier projects of the 1950s and beyond increasingly empha-
sized rational extraction, public good or welfare projects to justify
frontier intervention. From that period on, environmental and social
governance modalities were central to frontier enterprise “for the sake
of the people”. This development frontier responded to the absence
of certain attributes (science, order, protection regimes, public good
and long-term planning), while deepening frontier penetration. This, in
many respects, served as a preamble to later post-frontier projects. From
this perspective, order is not a post-frontier property in opposition to
disorderly frontiers. Rather than seeing the two in opposition, a more
useful framework of analysis would identify post-frontiers and frontiers
as part of the same continuum involving specific constellations of state
incorporation, sovereignty and modern regulation. As a consequence,
careful analytical attention should be paid to the diverse ways in which
frontier openings and post-frontier closures intersect. Such intersections
are explored in the following chapters.
Decolonizing Indigenous


The recognition of indigenous peoples and their collective rights forms

a central pillar of many post-frontier landscapes, signalling a shift from
discrimination to inclusion. Across the continent, indigenous peoples
have gone from being objects of frontier intervention and conversion to
becoming subjects with rights and agency. From Tierras Comunitarias de
Orígen in Bolivia to resguardos in Colombia, and Comunidades Nativas
in the Peruvian Amazon, the emergence of legal recognition, distinct
rights spaces and new forms of indigenous agency are key markers of the
post-frontier state in the late 20th century. This shift is at once normal-
ized and deeply contested across the Amazon. On the one hand, com-
munity organizations, federations and collective rights legislation are
today central to most decision making. On the other hand, the eman-
cipatory potentials of state recognition, multiculturalism and inclusive
policies have been questioned (Hale 2002). This prompts the need
for careful investigation into the specific genealogies of post-frontier
How and under which circumstances did the shift from colonization
to the recognition of communities take place in the Peruvian Amazon?
Whereas the previous chapter described the historical process of fram-
ing Oxapampa as a site of frontier intervention, this chapter turns to
the post-frontier history of recognizing indigenous rights. It explores
the emergence of indigenous rights through historical and ethnographic
data about the emergence of the comunidad nativa category in the 1960s.
What were the people, ideas and trajectories behind community becom-
ing a particular and shared basis for the “art of government” in the

Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 51

Peruvian Amazon? What were the underlying political rationalities,

modes of representation and intervention (Lemke 2001)? How do we
make sense of the contradictions, yet functionality, of the category? This
chapter is not about the political theory and principles of indigenous
rights. General statements and diffusionist theories about the gradual
spread of indigenous rights and policy language from either global or
national levels easily “flatten” the particular history of ideas, nego-
tiations and social dynamics involved. Instead, the chapter offers a
historical ethnography of one of the first systematic efforts to recog-
nize and organize “communities” in the decade spanning the mid-1960s
to the mid-1970s. Within a short period, individual land conflicts and
organizing among the Yánesha (then known as the Amuesha) in the
Oxapampa area helped shape the birth of community titling in the
Peruvian Amazon. The efforts of Yánesha school teachers, anthropol-
ogists and many others would gain prominence in the re-articulation of
what I propose to call linear indigeneity.
In a message to the nation on 28 July 1973, Peru’s Independence Day,
President Juan Velasco Alvarado announced that a new law for “our
jungle” formed part of the planned revolutionary steps (Velasco 1973).
The following year, “native community” legislation was adopted as one
of the first continental efforts to recognize the collective land rights
of indigenous peoples in the Amazon. According to some observers,
the legislation introduced a culturally alien social category, erroneously
constructed around Andean concepts. For critics, it furthermore only
recognized islands of settlements while disregarding wider indigenous
territories (Santos-Granero 1991: 30). Nevertheless, four decades later,
more than 10 million ha across the Peruvian Amazon had been titled to
some 1,270 native communities (SICNA 2012).

The emergence of native communities and the birth

of collective titles: The Peace Corps link

I was witnessing the second conquest of Peru – but this time it is

the Peruvians who are moving into new lands, taking what they can
without respecting the native rights, and exploiting the natives in
every possible way . . . I see in the jungle the chance for Peace Corps to
do preventive work – preparation and development of people so that
they can enter a foreign society as equals, rather than the difficult
task of rehabilitation and curing a diseased people as we are presently
doing in the sierra.
(Letter from Smith to Chiappini, 5 May 1968)
52 Post-frontier Resource Governance

In 1966, Richard Chase Smith1 was positioned as a Peace Corps vol-

unteer with the Oxapampa Agrarian Reform office to work on a
vegetable garden project. Established by President John F. Kennedy
to counter notions of the “Ugly American”, by the mid-1960s more
than 15,000 Peace Corps volunteers were working across the world.
Smith soon began to work with the Amuesha settlements in the
outskirts of the town. In March 1967, Smith accompanied a dele-
gation of Amuesha from Miraflores to Huancayo “to present a peti-
tion for the creation of a school”. Smith also notes “fomenting”
the idea “to begin the fight again for their land titles” while learn-
ing about the longstanding land conflicts (personal communication
Like other upper-lying Amuesha settlements, Miraflores was partly a
colonial consequence. Long-standing interaction and conflicts with the
church and colonos were at the heart of indigenous settlement practice
and “community” structure. Since the late 19th century, the Franciscan
Quillazu mission had administered land held in joint property with
the Amuesha under a protectionist “condominium” scheme.2 Yet, there
were continuous attempts by the Franciscans to settle colonists and to
sell off land and timber resources. By 1962, an agreement was reached
with Miraflores whereby the left bank of the Chorobamba river was to
be reserved for indigenous households, while the convent would retain
land on the right bank. Upon the entrance of the Belaunde govern-
ment, the mission overrode the agreement and sought control over
the entire property. Upon further protests, the Quillazu area became
a priority area for the 1968/1969 Belaunde agrarian reform,3 includ-
ing plans to expropriate church lands. Throughout 1968, cultivated
areas were being surveyed and data were sent to Lima (Smith 1974:
15). The experience with individual land conflicts and the ability to
resolve them, at least partially, through agrarian reform mechanisms
also led to further thinking about the more general situation of the

Much must be done in organizing the tribe before they can effectively
confront the Reforma Agraria. The tribe is extremely divided and for
that reason weak. They must regain the sense of community, realize
that all groups are suffering the same problems and abuses, and go
to the reform as one united tribe. As a small group of 10 or 20 fam-
ilies, they cannot possibly defend themselves. As one tribe of 8,000
they can.
(Letter by Smith to Chiappini, 5 May 1968)
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 53

Smith was to pursue such ideas ten days later with two young Yánesha,
Tomas Colina and Domingo Ballesteros, while crossing the Yanachaga
range by foot to visit Amuesha settlements in the lower-lying Palcazú
valley. In letters to his supervisor, he speaks of three meetings where he,
with the help of teachers, tried to “implant the following ideas”:

1. That, even without land titles, they must continue and work the
land in an orderly fashion without any doubt that it is theirs;
2. that they must not move from place to place as it only will make
it that much more difficult to get their claims recognized;
3. that if they are threatened by the advance of outsiders, they must
not give in and move elsewhere, but rather stand firm and defend
their lands, preferably acting as a unified group;
4. that rather than promote separatism and competition among the
groups, they must understand that their needs are common and
act accordingly;
5. that the three groups as one present a new solicitude denouncing
one large tract of land and ask for a single title in the name of
the Amuesha tribe (reservation) for the following reasons:

(a) Belonging to all Amueshas and in itself being a unifying fac-

tor, the tract will be easier to defend against outsiders as
opposed to individual lots.
(b) The denuncios already presented were small and did not take
into account future needs and landless Amueshas in other
(c) Asking for only one title in a unified way, it should be much
easier and quicker to obtain results from the Agraria Reforma.
(d) Many Amueshas are still not accustomed to staying in one
place and their natural instincts make them hunters. A large
tract will allow them to roam freely while at the same time
they are learning to settle down.

6. That afterwards, they can parcel the land among themselves

according to their needs and criteria as they are now doing.
(Letter from Richard Chase Smith to William
Chiappini, 10 June 1968)

I have chosen to quote the above in extenso as it signalled core ideas as

“one title” for the sake of unity and efficiency. It also importantly sig-
nalled the growing use of agrarian reform instruments to address tenure
security in the Amazon. The emphasis on settling down and opting for
54 Post-frontier Resource Governance

collective titles was not a given. Although protective measures, allowing

for the establishment of reserves, had been in place since 1957, many
reserves suffered from invasions and unclear boundaries (Yoza 1971).
Most Amuesha had either opted for individual titles in the higher-lying
areas or would move to ever more remote areas when settler pressures
arose. Individual efforts to title lands were not simply a last resort,
but partially reflected actual individual family plots and tenure prac-
tice. Individual titling, although today often portrayed as a negative
consequence or anomaly compared with collective territories, reflected
the local norm at the time. Collective titling, in contrast, emerged as a
pragmatic choice and legal necessity. Smith’s recommendation was to
rearrange individual parcels and practices of possession once collective
titles had been obtained. He then reported how the ideas were “received
with great enthusiasm” while “promising them nothing more than to
talk with both the Instituto (Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL) and the
Reforma (Agrarian Reform Office) to find out how best to go about it”.
As they reached Yarinacocha near Pucallpa, the SIL offered the ser-
vices of an officially recognized surveyor along with high-level contacts.
Smith, in turn, offered his “services to organize the groups to present
the new solicitude and in general coordinate the efforts of the tribe, the
Instituto, and the Reforma on the zonal level” (ibid.). Smith would, in
short, do the footwork, while SIL would work with the higher echelons.
Whereas reserves had already been attributed to the Amuesha in the
lower-lying Palcazú (Smith 1982: 27), the trip signalled the birth of the
collective titling project of the Amuesha as a whole, both as an aim and
as a systematic effort. A conversation, dating from 1968, between Chase
Smith and Del Aguila, the head of the Agrarian Reform office, illustrates
the steps being taken:

(Del Aguila) agrees that titles should be given to groups of natives,

also that reserves could be established, but wants to start with 10 ha.
per person older than 5. This seems like very little to me and maybe
later I can convince him so. As for Omais, he at first thought it bet-
ter to do the 2 groups separate, but I convinced him that we should
avoid creating anymore division among the groups than was neces-
sary. He said that they needn’t present another solicitude but that a
census was needed of the groups. I told him that I was going to Omais
soon and would take a census. He said fine, that using it as a base,
he would decide how much land to mark off and the topog. could begin at
once . . . If it works than I’ll continue with the other groups . . . I think
it much more advisable in Omais to create one single large land tract
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 55

rather than divide it in two – there won’t be any political problems

among the jefes as the land afterwards can be divided into village
(Letter to Jerry Elder from Richard Smith,
June 20, 1968, italics inserted)

The letter reveals the interest of the Agrarian Reform office in collec-
tive titles, but also points to the constraint of granting 10 ha of land
per person above the age of five, in 1968. Land claims entailed census
calculations of land needs per inhabitant rather than the identifica-
tion of ancestral lands per se. Numbers had already been employed by
the Franciscans who, since the 18th century, had kept registries of the
mission posts at regular intervals, and conducted censuses to generate
for support (Santos-Granero 1987: 43). The instrumentality of numbers
would now be employed to secure land titling. This involved work-
ing officially for the Agrarian Reform office and making contacts to
Amuesha settlements, conducting censuses and planning land reserves.
Smith concentrated his census work on the Palcazú Amuesha, and later
secured further involvement by another Peace Corps couple (Jeff and
Kathy Spiegel) to help undertake similar work in the higher-lying areas
through the Villa Rica Agrarian Reform office. Smith lists 25 Amuesha
settlements (13 in Oxapampa Villa Rica and 12 in the Palcazú) petition-
ing for communal reserve recognition in that period, for 11 of which
it was granted.4 The events in Oxapampa were soon to gain national

Telling the truth about the Amazon

In 1968, after having established the Centro de Investigaciones de

Selva, anthropologist Stefano Varese queried as to why, if the particu-
lar situation of peasant communities had been recognized, the distinct
socio-cultural and geographical realities of the jungle had not. He had
himself undertaken research among the Campa (Ashaninka) of the Selva
Central (Varese 1973 (1968)). Kiaro, meaning “truth” in Ashaninka, was
the title of the Centre’s first bulletin (1969) and clearly illustrated his
quest. His intention was to “tell the truth” about the realities of what
he then labelled “ethnic minorities” in the jungle. He argued that the
state “manifested a clear lack of anthropological understanding of prob-
lems in the jungle”. Not only did the agrarian law not mention “jungle
societies”, but reports about soil, flora and fauna did not take into
account social and cultural conditions – a gap the centre would seek to
56 Post-frontier Resource Governance

fill. It was an epistemological quest illustrating the birth of a Peruvian-

based Amazonian anthropology whose objective was to both document
truth and change society. Richard Smith had already left files for Stefano
Varese in October 1968 about a “land reserve” proposal for the Amuesha
in the Palcazú Valley. Eventually, they would meet and discuss the larger

We came up with two concrete ideas: Stefano agreed to help develop

a set of reglamentos in detail to define the Reforma’s position . . . the
other idea was to have a summit meeting among all those groups
interested (the Reforma, Army, Instituto and missionary groups)
which at least can open communications and instigate cooper-
ation and perhaps develop some definition of the role of each
group . . . It seems that with so many individual efforts made on indi-
vidual problems, the problem in a larger sense (what is to be the
future of the jungle Indian?) is somehow lost.
(Letter from Smith to Chiappini, 14 January 1969)

Such ideas would soon be pursued. As one of its first activities, Varese’s
centre reviewed agrarian reform legislation and initiated a regulatory
project with regards to the territorial possessions of “ethnic groups in
the jungle” (Varese 1969b: 19–20).

The Congress

On the other side of the Andes, by mid-1969 the organization of a

“Congress” of Amuesha leaders would mark the initiation of a political
practice of collective voice, now common across indigenous Amazonia.
The idea emerged in discussions between Richard Smith and Pedro
Lopez, a bilingual teacher in Tsopis:

We were talking about how we could strengthen these claims and

get people to work more together in communities and the idea came
up, well can we get these communities together to present a single
claim . . . By the end of “68 there was a small group of us working on
this [the Amuesha congress] plus all the bi-lingual school teachers,
who thought it was a great idea . . . we set the date for the begin-
ning of July in Tsachopen and I remember that . . . two nights before
we had no idea whether people would come because there was no
communication . . . And groups began appearing, you know . . . many
of them walking, up over the Yanachaga Chemillen range, and . . . in
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 57

the end there were probably 60 or 70 people there . . . and we had

invited Stefano [Varese] to come, Alberto [Chirif] came in his place.
(Richard Chase Smith, personal interview 2009)

The meeting held between 1 and 3 July 1969 became the first Congress
of Amuesha leaders, paving the way for one of the first Amazonian fed-
erations on a continental scale. The resulting memorial was a collective
demand from the “Amuesha tribe to the Peruvian government”, signed
by 20 communities raising tenure insecurity and precarious economies.
Moreover, it highlighted the “total lack of laws referring to jungle
tribes”. Land was demanded in “communal reserves and not in indi-
vidual plots”. Closely tailored to agrarian reform logics of the new
revolutionary government in place since October 1968, it claimed land
“we are currently working”, cooperative creation and “incorporating
ourselves into the national system of production” (Líderes Amuesha
1969). The first issue of Stefano Varese’s journal was virtually dedicated
to the Amuesha Congress and the memorial (Varese 1969). Alberto Chirif
described it as the first “global Amuesha attempt” to confront land and
invasion problems (Chirif 1969). Similar problems, he noted, were also
found among the Aguaruna, Huambasi, Campa, Yaminagua, Culina and
The participatory agenda of the Velasco government needed inter-
locutors in the lowlands. The Amuesha memorial provided social legit-
imacy for state support in the area, and congresses were suggested as
efficient for state agencies engaging with indigenous voices (R. Smith
1969: 6). The Amuesha Congress had gone from being a local encounter
to becoming a political event, with linear consequences. As Smith noted
later, the “majority of these nations do not have mechanisms of central
government” (Richard C. Smith 1979). Congresses became a “necessary”
next step in the emerging linearity of political organization of lowland
Peru. Chirif mentions how a result of the Amuesha congress was:

a bundle of regulations elaborated on the initiative of the Amuesha

natives which stipulate: how to organize congresses, how to elect
authorities, how to organize native communities and what the
responsibilities of fathers are.
(Chirif 1974: 38)

“Native community congresses”, he noted “appear as a necessity of

ethno-linguistic groups” (ibid.). Paradoxically, as the community model
and collective voice through congresses gained foothold as a new
58 Post-frontier Resource Governance

national model, it was falling apart in Miraflores where it, in some

respects, had originated. Land was being subdivided in some areas, with
preference given to outside settlers, overriding and ignoring “the exis-
tence of a community of people”, as Smith later observed (Richard
C. Smith 1974: 20). “From that time until my arrival in the commu-
nity in January 1973, there had been no community meetings, no
new community leader names and no further communication with the
Agrarian Reform office” (ibid.: 20–21). Despite the precarious nature of
“community”, its significance as a political reorientation had been initi-
ated. Indigenous community organization and congresses were initially
supported by the government and today constitute the mainstay of
Amazonian indigenous political agency, thus in part at least with origins
in the Selva Central. It was the beginning of a new form of indigenous
Amazonian politics.

Amazonian governmentalities

Shortly after the Congress, Varese was contacted by anthropologists

Carlos Delgado and Mario Vásquez to set up the “Division for Native
Communities in the Jungle”. Carlos Delgado was one of the highest-
ranking civilian advisors to Velasco, and was considered his ghostwriter
from 1969 to 1975 (Kruijt 1994). Delgado became the director of
SINAMOS, the National System of Support for Social Mobilisation, and
was a key ideologue behind the participation mantra of the revolution.
Mario Vásquez, in turn, was the Director General of the Campesina divi-
sion to which Varese would later be connected. When approached due
to his “jungle expertise”, Stefano Varese laughingly noted, “I only knew
a little bit of the jungle, and a couple of families and now they were ask-
ing me to think about the entire jungle . . . so that was a challenge, but,
you know, when you are young and optimistic you take the challenge”
(personal interview 2008).
While a recent volume of Varese is entitled “Witness to sovereignty”
(Varese 2006, italics added), Varese at that point went from being a crit-
ical outside observer of jungle affairs at San Marcos university to active
engagement from within.5 Anthropologists were brought into govern-
ment as knowledge-holders of the social field. This had a history, as
anthropologists had been intimately involved in several indigenista inte-
gration projects for more than a decade. Vasquez himself came from the
Cornell applied anthropology “Vico” project, an emblematic antecedent
in terms of promoting “social change” through social science.
Military officers were not immune to anthropological influence and
the revalorization of community perspectives. Hildebrando Castro Pozo,
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 59

who emphasized the potential of Andean communal structures to

evolve into modern cooperatives, had, for example, taught at the mili-
tary academy and was republished in the Revista Militar del Perú in 1966
(Kruijt 1994: 41–53). Technocratic discourse and models were actively
employed as development instruments in the Velasco agrarian reform
(Mayer 2009: 4) in continuity with long-standing Peruvian approaches
to resolve the “Indian problem”. As a result, the newly created division
soon confronted a data gap, an impediment to fulfilling their expert
role and translating ideological critique into practice. Staffed by a few
former anthropology students, a lawyer, an agronomist and a sociolo-
gist, the division had no “reliable demographic data nor information
as to territorial occupation, land tenure and resource management”
(Varese 2006: 62). There was not much help to be found in the cen-
sus office. “Actually the census office sent me a questionnaire; how
many Campas are there? . . . They were asking me!”, Varese noted laugh-
ingly (personal communication 2008). Despite the availability of maps
and inventories from centuries of colonization and missionary activity,
the normative shift within the Velasco context entailed a new “data”
gaze in terms of numbers and socio-economic description. Ethnographic
state crafting, rendering Amazonia intelligible, soon became a priority.
Initial maps of settlements were either absent or inadequate for this
The nature of the knowledge challenge was evident in one of the
new department’s first activities (Varese 1970). The department was
requested by the military colonization programme (OCEOCOLMIL) in
the Alto Marañon to investigate inter-ethnic relations and facilitate the
design of special assistance programmes. In practice, logistical arrange-
ments revealed the ad hoc nature and low priority of the study. The mili-
tary colonization division hosted the study team, while the department
of anthropology financed five students to accompany Varese (Varese
1970: 2). In the report, Varese noted their “obligation as anthropolo-
gists and civil servants of an anthropological unit of the State to show
the facts, the possible causes and potential alternatives”. It was a first of
its kind, leading to “classical social science questions; what to look for?
How to find it? The first answer was to have a research plan and a ques-
tionnaire” (ibid.: 1). The anthropologists, split up in pairs, spent roughly
ten days in two communities each, employing what today would be
labelled “rapid” ethnographic methods. The resulting document con-
tained a critique of colonization through demographic data and statis-
tics. It recommended planned rather than spontaneous colonization,
improved land tenure arrangements and community organization for
60 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Many of the anthropology students later became involved in the

documentation of communities across the country. Census data and
inventories filled in the blanks. Such documentation efforts did not
appear out of the blue, but were informed by ongoing work elsewhere.
On the one hand, the necessity of numbers reflected standard agrar-
ian reform practice. On the other hand, the new department found
systematic counting of indigenous individuals and detailed informa-
tion on land in the Selva Central. The groundwork undertaken among
the Amuesha offered censuses, maps and interlocutors for the young
government agency to support. The readily prepared titling propos-
als among the Amuesha offered an immediate opportunity for action.
The Selva Central was, in any case, chosen as a priority area for action
given “the numerous campas”, the “situation of inter-ethnic conflict
due to the ideological shock” and “cultural differences and opposition”
(Yoza 1971). Many land claims made five or ten years earlier were only
then being processed (Yoza 1971: 5–6), yet without taking into account
either current or future necessities. The recently established Selva Cen-
tral section thus prioritized delimiting the reserve areas, “comprising the
whole land extension in immemorial possession of the natives and in
accordance with future needs of the community” (ibid.). The Palcazú
Valley was prioritized due to the development programmes and the
upcoming road building (Yoza 1971), paving the way for some of the
first communities to be titled in the Peruvian Amazon.

Decolonizing governance

New Amazonian governmentalities around the welfare and rights of

indigenous peoples were in the making, and one of the central ques-
tions involved determining the most appropriate organizational form
that this would take. Among the Aguaruna in the Alto Marañon, Varese
had sought to determine “the most appropriate model” for “forms of
government and local representativity”:

our hypothetical working framework suggests structuring each

“modern aguaruna community” in a self-sufficient community-
cooperative-type production unit in which traditional mutual collab-
oration institutions would be consolidated and reinforced.
(Varese 1970: 92)

The report also noted how African examples of “tropical forest horticul-
turalists being transformed into farmers should be used for the aguaruna
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 61

case” (Varese 1970: 92). Modern entities as cooperatives and “federa-

tive units with stable economic and social bases” were to receive state
assistance for “their attainment of their rights” (Varese 1972: 21).
Eventually, comunidades nativas (native communities), the term codi-
fied in the 1974 law, would replace tribus selvicolas (jungle tribes). This
shift mirrored the emancipatory recognition of campesinos (peasants)
as a governance category in the highlands to replace the use of indios
(Indian) or indigenas considered racist at the time. The new category was
modern and, as such, considered less “ethnically loaded” (Varese quoted
in Montoya et al. 2001), referring to native communities as “originat-
ing from tribal groups”, illustrating the social evolution they aspired
towards. This mirrored Mariátegui’s questioning of the emancipatory
potential of race four decades earlier (Mariátegui 1929), further fuelled
by socialist discourse.
China was showcased for its “well-known” examples of frontier policy
and protection regimes, particularly when it came to ethnic minori-
ties (Varese 1974a). The departure from ethnicity was not accidental.
Varese argued that speaking of “the Campa tribe” would give in to false
interpretations of “cultural and social homogeneity and a continuity of
territorial occupation” (Varese 1974 [1972]). Rather than create tribal
territories, considered an “isolationist artifice”, community settlements
were considered modern socio-economic entities enabling national
integration and competition. The new category, however, received a
lukewarm reception.

I got a lot of bad reputation for inventing the term “comunidad

nativa”. We had to give the bureaucrats and state administrators some
concrete social unit to which would correspond a territorial unit. You
cannot argue that the tribe as jurisdiction of a piece of land unless you
define what is a community or you invent what is a community. And that
is what we did. We decided that the term that was less damaging was
nativo. The comunidades, they liked it. We defined it with a lawyer,
a very good constitutional lawyer, Mr. Landeo, who helped fit my
ideas into legal terminology that would not upset the 1933 Peruvian
constitution. We were creating ex novo a new entity. Even for Landeo
and others it was difficult to accept the idea that scattered people
like the Yánesha could have dispersed settlement and claim jurisdic-
tion over disconnected settlements. They were really opposed to that.
[who?] All the agrarian reform . . . because it was going against the via
campesina, where the peasant are allotted a piece of land and stuck
to that the rest of their lives . . . that was the most complicated thing.
62 Post-frontier Resource Governance

The other more complicated problem, where there were clusters of

colonos creating a mosaic of expropriation, mejoras. That was the fight
between two poor. The native poor vs. the landless poor.
(Personal interview Stefano Varese 2008, italic
in first five lines inserted)

At stake was a careful balancing act attempting to fit into a modern

transformative complex, and to settle “the right disposition of things”
(Foucault 1991 [1978]: 93). Varese argued for a modern solution through
small communities allowing for collective property, rational use, agri-
cultural production and population increases (Varese 1974a). It was a
modern communitas so to speak. A revolutionized jungle would include
unities of forestry production around social property connected by
regional organizations, intermediate technologies and production plan-
ning. It would require the rationalization of settlements and use, a
state system of property, commercialization and transportation (ibid.).
In political terms, this was a:

pluralist, humanist and socialist perspective through which marginal-

ized, discriminated ethnic minorities exploited by the capitalist sys-
tem acquire their right dimension of new and old opportunities, new
and old models of organization of human life.
(Varese 1974b)

The (linear) community category was both orientational and represen-

tational (Santos 1987). The particular construction was also constitu-
tionally and ideologically convenient. Indigenous subjectivity involved
popular participation in a top-down-driven socio-economic revolution.
The instrument rolled out a series of steps for agricultural promotion,
market access, the organization of rural settlements and the provision of
credit. Article 1 established the objective of “creating an agrarian struc-
ture contributing to the integral development of the jungle”. Article 2
consolidated the rural project as a field of state agency around the
notion of “rural settlements”. It was no coincidence that indigenous
leaders elected in the initial titling processes were often considered
local representatives of the state (not simply indigenous representatives)
(Surallés 2009). SINAMOS was the short-lived state vehicle to put the
social revolution into practice across the country. Between 1973 and
1975, 2,000 peasant communities (500,000 peasants), 500 cooperatives
(65,000 members), 20 macro-cooperatives and 4,500 unions were orga-
nized (Kruijt 1994: 121).
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 63

A 1975 governmental “diagnosis” of the comunidades nativas in the

Central Jungle area in this spirit “recorded” communities in the national
register to facilitate titling of communal lands (Chirif et al. 1975: 7). The
diagnosis contained censuses and socio-economic reports. Numbers
were put on communities, forests, domestic animals, teachers, monetary
incomes and settlements. Even elements as detailed as different means
of obtaining salt were included (ibid.: 172). Yet, the very diagnosis itself
involved constructing new entities and spoke of “families fusioning to
conform bigger units today known as Communities” (ibid.: 278). It was
a demographic and statistical vision projecting native comuneros as cit-
izens of a broader state-driven social economy. Results were to form
part of the expedientes used to inform about their existence and title
community lands.
By February 1975, civil registers had begun in Native Communi-
ties, granting citizenship and identity cards to the proportion of the
population lacking this (approximately two-thirds). Communities were
becoming a naturalized part of the governance topography. Traditional
territoriality was redefined into small settlement patterns, drawn accord-
ing to population numbers with limited reference to wider questions
of territoriality (1975: 35). Numerical logics, framing ethnicity along-
side ecological subsystems, were used to show that the size of human
settlements were “small and in very rare cases exceeded 200 inhab-
itants allowing for equilibrium with the surrounding environment”
(Chirif et al. 1975: 33). State-driven titling was however soon abandoned
and many cooperative-type organizations failed, followed by reforms
dismantling the social revolution.
Indigenous representatives and supporters were coming to terms with
the reality that state colonization of the jungle had never been aban-
doned (Chirif and Hierro 2007). In hindsight, despite the radical change
in discourse, new measures remained embedded in the wider coloniza-
tion goals of the military government. It could even be argued that
the department was created for the purpose of deepening rather than
stopping frontier settlements. One objective of the new department was
“to prepare the natives to assume and confront the changes caused by
the increasing incorporation of the jungle areas in the national eco-
nomic system” (Yoza 1971). This seemed clear in its first activity to
mitigate problems encountered by the colonization program among
the Aguaruna. The reworking of Amazonian governance thus appeared
through the back door of a process of to resolve problems, and make the
wider social revolution acceptable. This did not hinder a techno-political
effort to promote indigenous empowerment from within the system.
64 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Critics however noted that the first years of titling resulted in only
some 315 community titles, largely reflecting previous reserves without
expanding landholdings. It was argued that the law resolved the imme-
diate material reproduction problems of the communities, without ques-
tioning the legitimacy of colonization and mono-ethnic orders (Barclay
and Santos 1980: 44). Furthermore, while maintaining indigenous
rights as its core principles, it was mainly a development instrument
promoting agriculture and livestock alongside property rights, use and
land in accordance with wider agrarian reform principles. Property was
limited to renewable resources, while sub-surface resources remained
safely in the hands of the state. The decree specified how oil pipelines,
gas, installations for exploration and mining, and oil extraction could
pass freely without the need for compensation.
While community language emerged to undo centuries of inequal-
ity, in other respects it reproduced existing frontier relations. Indige-
nous agency thus emerged in dialectic, without necessarily replacing
previous frontier rationalities. It could, in a Foucauldian sense, be inter-
preted as the state maintaining and deepening relations with Amazonia
and its subjects merely regulating, rather than fundamentally contest-
ing, colonization of the Amazonian region (Barclay and Santos 1980).
As soon as the heat of the Velasco revolution had cooled off, state sup-
port for titling, upon the revised Native Communities Law in 1978,
was gradually dismantled revealing the relatively shallow strength of
Amazonian policy reform. Nevertheless, critique that the category only
served to normalize internal colonization of the Amazon is contradicted
by the decade-long use and re-articulation of communities to cement
indigenous territorial claims in the Peruvian Amazon.

Rethinking post-frontier political subjectivity

The genealogy of the Peruvian community category involved a distinct

post-frontier assemblage harbouring Andean, socialist and “commu-
nity organizing” genealogies united through modernist language. Seeing
all of these aspects together in one assemblage is far from a trivial
exercise, but reveals the socially embedded and contested nature of
(post-)frontier subjectivities. Community recognition was initially not
a collective identity project per se, but a modern citizenship project with
the provision of identity papers, development services and the estab-
lishment of interlocutors for state activity. While new legislation spoke
of rights, it entailed a re-rationalization of frontier colonization rather
than actual transformation of the political geography of the Amazon.
Decolonizing Indigenous Governance 65

It reworked existing reserve models in accordance with the political

tendencies of the time. Native community legislation offered a mod-
ern ordering device to fit the Amazon into the bigger “nation-building
project”, requiring distinct data and convenient politics.
Nonetheless, such governmentalities, in some ways, failed and offer
little explanation for the vitality of the community category to this very
date. State support was short-lived, and only a fraction of communities
were recognized and titled in the initial years. The arrival and continu-
ation of indigenous community agency was not a singular legislative
move, nor simply a process of governmentalization. It involved a
renegotiated political, bureaucratic and social process. Re-rationalizing
indigeneity entailed a process of recognition, and the elaboration of
systemic, if unsystematic, processes put in place to identify, document,
register and map out communities and their resources.
This community claim space offered a foot in the door, maintained
open and alive by NGOs and new indigenous organizations, reiterating
its meaning and significance. Hvalkof has, for example, emphasized how
Ashéninka reappropriated the community category for their own terri-
torial usage as a “working misunderstanding” (Hvalkof 2006: 226). State
support was replaced by the puzzle-making support of a range of differ-
ent groups across the Peruvian Amazon seeking to continue titling work
with international support. CIPA (Centro de Investigación y Promoción
Amazónica), an NGO established by people active in previous titling
work, became active in supporting titling in Napo, Pichis, Ene, Tambo,
Urubamba and Madre de Dios. CEDIA (Centro para el Desarrollo del
Indígena Amazónico), made up of former CIPA staff, was later active
in Urubamba. Indigenous federations and national organizations would
also gradually emerge as drivers and owners of titling programmes. Fur-
thermore, human rights organizations and players started making use
of development financing for indigenous titling and wider development
projects. The work of Instituto del Bien Común (IBC, Institute of Com-
mon Good), which supported my fieldwork, largely followed this trend.
Individuals, groups and later, NGOs, replaced defunct or newly created
dysfunctional state machinery by recasting indigeneity as an object for
project development, as well as political subjectivity outside the con-
fines of shifting government priorities. It is impossible to go in-depth
with all these processes here.
For our purpose, however, the recycling of community outreach by
indigenous federations and NGOs is significant in terms of redefining
“community” outside state confines. Whereas the comunidad nativa as
an emancipatory rural development unit and economic agent in the
66 Post-frontier Resource Governance

national integration project allowed for the genesis of an indigenous

claim space, what remains today is the use of community as a spatial cat-
egory and locus of political agency and social mobilization. Legislation
created space for the articulation of new political subjectivities, which
had previously remained dispersed among objects of outside-driven
Contemporary native communities are, as such, not anachronistic,
foreign or merely residual categories of state crafting. Insistence on com-
munity as an alien category, while historically correct, is misplaced in
anthropological terms. In practice, the role of communities as loci of
political subjectivity and titling has flourished. What appeared as a vehi-
cle for state-implemented development has today been recuperated as a
vehicle for affirmation and resistance. What was adopted as economic
emancipation laid the groundwork for the ethno-political mobilization
of indigenous Amazonia throughout the following decades. Legislation
specified the role of technical personnel of the agricultural department
in demarcation activities through a series of steps: inspections, land clas-
sification, a written description and a resolution. Such dispositifs were
malleable to more ambitious finalities of claiming territorial and col-
lective rights. As state-driven governance crafting waned, procedures
and practices of recognition and titling remained. The assembled and
convenient nature of the initial category, under a distinct political ratio-
nality, did not impede continuous re-articulation. While consecutive
presidents have sought to reshuffle the nature of community legislation,
the necessary legal channels for post-frontier claims around collective
rights and territory had taken root.
Greening the Frontier


How, and under what conditions, are frontier landscapes of extraction

transformed into green post-frontier landscapes? Amazonian environ-
ments are not simply peripheral sites succumbing to the central appetite
for resources, but are equally emblematic sites of unevenly spread
environmental governance crafting. Where frontier maps inventory
potential resources, green post-frontier maps display biodiversity pri-
orities, ecological zones and protected areas. The shift from extraction
to green protection, and environmental sustainability, is at the heart
of post-frontier narratives and institution building. This chapter is an
attempt to decrypt the significance of environmental governance craft-
ing at the frontier, or what I name “green linearity”, illustrated with
examples from the protected area field. To disentangle this matter in
both empirical and conceptual terms, this chapter explores the specific
greening of the Amazonian frontier illustrated with ethnographic detail
from the Peruvian Amazon.
Often framed by the language of ecological modernization (Hajer
1995), the green managerial post-frontier involves the environment
and specific themes such as forests, fauna and flora becoming formal
governance fields with distinct legal regimes, the extension of verti-
cal administrative hierarchies and spatial planning measures. The first
element of green linearity is increasingly stabilized systems of classifica-
tion linked to zoning and regulation. Much like scientific nomenclature,
expanding description and classification, linearizing environments is
about cutting reality into discrete entities. Yet, where science remains
a descriptive exercise, linear discourse normatively suggests “a correct

68 Post-frontier Resource Governance

state of affairs” fixing ecological priorities through maps and inventories

recognizable for swift state action. However, such language and the
sanitized organograms accompanying it do little justice to the com-
plexity of post-frontier arrangements. Arguably, there is more at stake
than a simple self-explanatory extension of Weberian rationality to the
resource frontier.
Critical analysis, in response, displays how the green post-frontier
is concerned not just with stated intentions and redrawn maps, but
also with what these conceal in terms of their historical constructions.
Managerial greening is not neutral, but may vehicle new forms of power
and control through redefined forms of territorialization (Vandergeest
and Peluso 1995). As Luke notes: “to environ a site or subject is to beset,
beleaguer, or besiege that place or person” (Luke 1995: 64), a theme
amply rehearsed in the anthropology of conservation, stressing disci-
plinary regimes and the creation of environmental subjects. Yet, neither
managerial analysis underlining green institutions as markers of order
nor critical analysis decrying lip service and hegemony captures the
complexity at stake.
In the national imagination, Oxapampa Province is today, more
than ever, a green place of protected areas, lush forest and agricul-
tural production. Protected area coverage is among the highest in
the country. Furthermore, during initial fieldwork, regional planners
were busy mapping out ecological and economic zones of the whole
province. Studies, participatory meetings and the production of maps
were among the tools mobilized. The recognition of the province in
2010 as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve was the jewel in the crown in
a long history of greening. Yet, the limitations of managerial panacea
were never far away. Where green policies and management struc-
tures signalled progress, deforestation and oil exploration, overlapping
with paper parks, pointed in a different direction. By 2010, ecological
zoning had been temporarily shelved. Three years later, the regional
government was planning to completely redo the exercise. Environ-
mental management systems were being put in place yet appeared as
continuous projects under (de)construction. How did an emblematic
frontier site in the Peruvian Amazon go from being “wilderness”, ripe
for colonization and resource extraction, towards becoming a “green”
place and space in need of ordering and protection? How are we to
make sense of the emergence of environmental governance crafting
and its seeming volatility? This chapter argues for careful attention to
the genealogies and the role of managerial language in greening the
institutional landscape.
Greening the Frontier 69

Towards protected area managerialism

The first protected areas in Peru reflected a preservationist ethos present

since the 1940s. In 1968, Salomon Vilchez Murga thus presented
Peruvian national parks as “works of God that the state reserves and
protects for posterity” (Murga 1968). Murga had authored a sexual edu-
cation guide in 1936, and was credited for the establishment of the
national birth control service. Virginity, whether of women or nature,
was to be protected by the paternal and responsible state. By the 1960s
the preservationist ideas were in decline, increasingly replaced by a
managerial conservation paradigm.
By 1960, Tosi, then a forestry advisor at the Inter-American Insti-
tute for Agricultural Sciences, published a study on ecological diversity
in Peru, spearheading work on “tropical life zones” (1960). His work
illustrated how the environment was no longer merely a constraint or
locus of frontier projects, but a constellation of distinct species and
life forms and ecological settings. Tosi would later play an instrumen-
tal role in crafting soil classification methodologies and in shaping
forestry management approaches among the Yánesha (see Chapter 7).
From its very initiation in 1964, the Faculty of Forestry at La Molina
has offered an obligatory course in forest fauna and national parks.
A new prism where people went into the field with a professional gaze as
foresters, agronomists and planners was taking hold. These were times of
rapid advance in applied natural sciences, establishment of faculties and
increasingly vocal scientific voices being heard on public affairs. Spatial
representations of emptiness and resources were being complemented
first with inventories of its resources and ultimately notions of fragility
and ecology. Nevertheless, there was still a considerable gap between the
recognition of life zones and the establishment of institutions crafted for
their conservation.
Established in the 1960s, the Peruvian conservation service consisted
of “no more than an office in Lima”, as Ian Grimwood, one of the
first foreign conservation advisors, noted (1967: Part II). His support,
between 1965 and 1967, included setting up a system of recording data,
a register of 155 mammalian species and pragmatically proposing to “set
aside uninhabited areas as inviolable refuges in the form of national
parks and reserves”. He considered it more realistic than “trying to con-
trol the killing of animals”. This led to a proposal for a “system of
national parks and reserves”, incidentally with no rights, total prohi-
bition of use and perpetual conservation under the highest authority
in the country for national parks. Three national parks were proposed,
70 Post-frontier Resource Governance

to represent coastal desert, the Andes and the Amazon environments

(1967: para. 15). The Ceja de Selva was recommended for the latter
category, yet Grimwood also recognized that it was tough to find “undis-
turbed forest”. In the end, he recommended the area now encompassing
the Manu Biosphere and National Park (ibid.: para. 24).
Marc Dourojeanni, then chief of the Conservation and Protection
section, spoke of a “national movement” for the better use of renew-
able resources (Dourojeanni 1968). He criticized the irrational extraction
and destruction caused by agriculture, cattle raising and colonization.
In response, technical criteria, mapping and inventories were needed.
Dourojeanni, among other things, established a preliminary list of
fauna and flora threatened by extinction. He furthermore considered
existing protected areas “extremely incipient”, and neither of the two
parks met “the minimum conditions to merit the name” (ibid.). Both
Grimwood and Dourojeanni were scientific experts-cum-conservation
entrepreneurs talking post-frontier rationality in a perceived field of
disorder. Maps, surveys and censuses of flora and fauna increasingly
became constitutive features of protected area governance. This tech-
nical gaze consolidated the legitimacy agency of modern scientists,
providing overview and direction for a rational state intervention at
both national and local levels. Linearization of conservation in Peru had
taken off.
The legitimacy of expert knowledge and technical procedures had
both global and Latin American origins. By 1968, at the global level,
the UN biosphere conference had called for an inventorying of all liv-
ing resources (UNESCO 1970: 242). The same year, at the International
Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference in Bariloche,
Argentina congratulated Peru for the creation of Manu National Park
and recommended “Latin American governments to continue to pro-
mote appropriate areas to the category of national park” (IUCN 1968:
456). An IUCN resolution called for a coordinated system of parks in
the Western hemisphere unifying nomenclature, zoning criteria and
norms (ibid.: 455). By 1972, the Stockholm conference and its declara-
tion emphasized “careful planning and management” (Schrijver 2007),
initiating the collection of environmental statistics in the same year.
During the same period, tropical deforestation increasingly appeared on
the conservationist agenda replacing previous wording on habitat pro-
tection. Later in the year, the presidents of IUCN and the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF) together sent a letter to Brazil’s president calling for the
“need for careful consideration of the environmental problems involved
in Amazon development” (Keck and Sikkink 1998: 134).
Greening the Frontier 71

The managerial shift went beyond protected areas. In Peru, the build-
ing blocks of a timid environmental agenda also appeared in the same
period. ONERN, Peru’s National Office for Natural Resource Evalua-
tions, till then largely extraction oriented, developed guidelines for the
conservation of renewable resources (ONERN 1974). A forest law was
adopted, consolidating a system of conservation units, the basis for the
subsequent national protected area system. Yet, it was far from a blan-
ket commitment to greening. As an Organization of American States
(OAS) consultant, hired at the time to develop “a functional strategy”,

a simplistic frontal attack on pollution would be political sui-

cide . . . Rather than through aroused popular sentiment epitomized
by Earth Day, environmental concern came into being in Peru as a
decree of the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces. Within
this context, we determined that effective action in the environmen-
tal field could only be sustained through a positive approach linked
with national development planning.
(Dickinson 1977: 233)

The framing of environmental language in positive development terms

revealed how naturally the two could be intertwined. It was not a
paradigm shift away from frontier aspirations but, more precisely,
involved the consolidation of managerial positive win-win discourse.
Furthermore, such green linearities and decrees did not naturally diffuse
from Lima to the rest of the country. A central feature of the post-
frontier, indeed, concerns its uneven nature and distribution. Green
institutional topographies are far from a rational layer reflecting ecolog-
ical processes but are, instead, highly negotiated outcomes. To illustrate
this further, I now turn to the specific process of protected area creation
in Oxapampa.

Greening Oxapampa

Biosphere people create national parks. Ecosystem peoples have

always lived in the equivalent of a national park.
(Dasmann 1988 (1976): 306)

How then was Oxapampa greened in terms of protected area? Initial

ideas emerged in conjunction with those that proposed a consolida-
tion of indigenous land titles. Early descriptions of the Yánesha and
72 Post-frontier Resource Governance

their environmental relations (R. Smith 1969) shared traits with what
Dasmann in the above quote called “ecosystem people”. Alberto Chirif
contrasted native sciences valuing complementarity with colonization
projects seeking to reap profits from the jungle (Chirif 1979). By 1973,
Smith had developed a proposal suggesting the creation “of a large
territorial unit” combining the lands of 16 titled communities, com-
munal reserves and a national park covering the Yanachaga-Chemillen
Mountain range (R. C. Smith 1977a). As Smith described it:

The idea of Manu was already in the works . . . so I circulated the

idea . . . what about if this gets set up as a park to protect it so at least
loggers can’t go in, colonists can’t go in and invade it and people
said “yeah, the important thing is to protect that”. Ricardo Frey was
Cornesha (President of indigenous federation) at that time and there
was a big threat . . . both Muller who was going in from the south end
of the Cordillera and Koch who had a big huge project to go in from
the North. And the two of them fought.
(Richard C. Smith, personal interview)

The proposal was published by Survival International, which described

it as a “holistic approach to the issue of environmental deterioration
and to the human rights of native people” (R. C. Smith 1977a). Such
plans remained on the drawing table for several years. Steps towards
their realization would come, unexpectedly, in the aftermath of the
large-scale agricultural colonization plans. These were launched by Pres-
ident Belaunde upon his re-election in 1980 backed by USAID funding
commitments. The Proyecto Especial Pichis Palcazú, as it was called, pro-
posed to transform the valleys through road construction and further
A major national and international campaign was launched by indige-
nous leaders and support organizations (R. C. Smith 1982). The Achilles
heel of the government was the nature of the Project state, suggested as a
form of governance no longer governed by state politics alone, yet rely-
ing upon USAID project funding to realize its frontier ambitions. As a
consequence, US politics and legislation became just as important as
Peruvian legislation, if not more so, in shaping managerial responses.
Although the US had passed the National Environmental Policy Act
in 1970, it did not regulate US-funded activities abroad. In Pakistan, a
USAID malaria project caused the death of five workers overexposed to
insecticides (USAID 2011: 24). This led to a lawsuit by a consortium of
NGOs and USAID-developed environmental procedures as part of the
Greening the Frontier 73

out-of-court settlement. In 1977, USAID established an Environment

and Natural Resource Sector. By 1980, the United States Congress had
hearings on tropical deforestation, even pressuring the UN to act.
Greening project plans did not flow naturally from such policy envi-
ronments. Nor did conservationists and indigenous organizations in
Oxapampa simply “win the argument”. It was not a simple evolution of
replacing disorder with post-frontier order, but one of intense techno-
political battles and negotiations. Emerging environmental safeguard
measures created the institutional ammunition for well-orchestrated
campaigns, dialogues with USAID and a good deal of arm twisting.
Campaigning against the road project eventually led to a series of assess-
ments and project reformulations, recasting political difference and
struggle in neutralized technical language. Palcazú became one of the
first areas abroad where USAID undertook an integrated environmen-
tal assessment. In the social assessment, two anthropologists argued
that ethnic conflicts, land title disputes and social stratification pre-
sented development “constraints”, and planned land use ran the risk
of dangerous impacts on the ecosystem (Miller and Martinez 1981: iv).
Given that both governmental frontier plans and its critiques argued
for the common good and development, the question that remained
was how to make social and environmental phenomena numerically
significant. It soon became clear that maps and numbers were not
merely about what was there, but were also knowledge-based negotia-
tions about what should be there. Technical consultancy reports became
instrumental in the articulation of rights and environmental priorities.
They were used to argue against expanding cattle pastures and to pro-
pose where and how sustained yields and forest protection could be
made possible. Surveys and data appeared as a “development panop-
ticon”, displaying conflicting parameters about the convenient order
of things. The formulation and counter-formulation of what consti-
tuted sound management – underscored by USAID conditionalities –
was at the heart of linearizing the shades of green in Oxapampa.
Resource managerialism, the dominant approach in the US, was being
replayed in the Peruvian Amazon to mitigate development impacts. The
studies would eventually recommend replacing agricultural promotion
by land classification, sustained yield forestry and the establishment
of protected areas. In the end, the frontier project was renamed the
“Central Selva Resource Management Project”, a revealing post-frontier
decision after a lengthy review process. Throughout its 12-year exis-
tence, the project led to the construction of roads into the valleys
as well as strengthened titling and protected area creation in the
74 Post-frontier Resource Governance

area – theYanachaga-Chemillén National Park, the San Matías-

San Carlos Protection Forest and the Yánesha Communal Reserve.
Oxapampa had become a laboratory for green governance crafting.

The effects of managerialism

While alternative reserve and protection plans were regarded as a vic-

tory by indigenous leaders and environmentalists, their creation also
marked a governance shift from protests to managerialism. Engaging
with project development entailed a power shift from indigenous mobi-
lization to one of green techno-politics favouring expertise. The final
design of protected areas in the region illustrated the effects involved.
Whereas the initial social soundness study had reiterated recommenda-
tions to establish communal reserves, forestry consultants, such as Marc
Doroujeanni, favoured more conventional management models.
This was particularly evident in the case of the San Matías and San
Carlos mountain ranges. The national system lacked “representative
samples” of the Ceja de Selva and the “establishment of a protection
forest in San Matías is an evident need and its untouchable nature must
be enforced starting from 500 m above sea level on both sides”, accord-
ing to Dourojeanni (1981: E-50). Communal reserves, created for the
benefit of communities, “even though fully justified by the ancestral
rights . . . have a low probability of acceptance due to the considerable
area which would be involved under the heading of native community
territories”, he argued. The San Matías should be declared “intangible”
(ibid.: E-3). Technical logic overrode ancestral rights. Doroujeanni con-
cluded that “the possibility of establishing communal reserves in the
Palcazú valley are [sic] rather remote” (ibid.: E-3). Reserves would restrict
the possibilities of the park being accepted, and were discarded from
the proposal (ibid.: E-52). Technical assumptions, in sum, informed the
design of the San Matías San Carlos protection forest.
While boundaries were designed carefully to avoid overlap with
existing settlements and titles, there was limited knowledge about set-
tlements and customary use within the area. In the words of a Proyecto
Especial Pichis Palcazú (PEPP, Pichis Palcazú Special Project) officer at
the time:

Look, when the proposal was developed . . . there was very little
fieldwork in the zone of San Carlos. People like Antonio Brack said
there were no people, but no one knew if there were people . . . there
were many estimates in San Carlos . . . yet it was all protection land,
Greening the Frontier 75

because it was a mountainous zone . . . but from a scientific point of

view it wasn’t known who was in there, so afterwards communi-
ties appeared saying they had been there, but could have been there
before or after . . . no one had gone there.
(Former PEPP official, personal interview)

Protected areas were linear creations linked to managerial expertise

and convictions of the time. Upper-lying areas were classified as pro-
tection lands per se, justifying protected area creation. Initial plans to
integrate indigenous territories and protection were modified to reflect
managerial conservation priorities.

NGO governance and staying green

Reformulation of the project and the release of funds did not termi-
nate negotiation. Instead, they recast battlefields within the realm of
techno-politics, data production and project implementation. While
the immediate victory was the inclusion of social and environmental
components in project reformulation (its linear post-frontier manifes-
tation), non-linear forms of contestation soon appeared. There were
efforts by state officials to dilute or change imposed environmental pri-
orities. Funds assigned for protection were diverted to other purposes,
and implementation of social and environmental safeguard measures
was particularly slow (Moore 1989). Nevertheless, USAID conditionali-
ties and the new project framework installed a new legitimacy structure
for greening Oxapampa, at least on paper. This reoriented project space,
with only nominal state support, carved out a distinct managerial vac-
uum ready for NGO support. Just as international project support had
been instrumental in the creation of protected areas in the province,
NGO support became essential to maintaining Oxapampa as a green
The Fundación Peruana para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (FPCN),
later recognized as ProNaturaleza (created in 1984), was the first
national conservation NGO founded by key Peruvian conservationists
in response to the limitations of state action (Husock 1997). Protected
area financing was not a public finance priority, and conservation-
ists established the foundation to receive international donor support.
Although no formal mandate was given, FPCN initially had a “gen-
tleman’s agreement” and later, through donor pressure, obtained a
“compact of cooperation” (1986–1989) to spend money on protected
area management activities becoming like a de facto state-protected area
76 Post-frontier Resource Governance

authority (ibid.: 4–5). One of its first major operations, with USAID and
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) support, was the direct management of
the Yanachaga National Park in 1987. By 1990, the NGO was adminis-
tering all the protected areas in the province. Like many other NGOs,
expansion relied heavily on a project economy. Fuelled by international
funds, the valley became a site of green experimentation whose nature
and intensity would evolve over the years. In the Selva Central, this
went from park-oriented support in the period between 1991 and 1997
to a second phase (2003–2007) supporting other protected areas in the
province (the San Matías-San Carlos Protection Forest and the Yánesha
Communal Reserve).
In subsequent years, a series of projects on biological diversity, forests
and fauna nurtured a “green vision” of Oxapampa and its manage-
ment needs. This led to an emphasis on natural forest management
and protected areas, and less on agricultural production, soil conserva-
tion and contamination issues. The fuelling of green managerial power
had social effects. The previous interlinking of conservation and social
rights, which had mobilized protests and enabled protected area cre-
ation in the first place, was being undone. Indigenous communities,
who had fought against logging and road expansion, were becoming
more and more distanced from protected area management.

Concluding remarks

In the quest to write environmental history, we need to address the

inequities in the distribution of extraction, waste and degradation
(Hornborg 2007: 1), but also to sharpen our ability to understand the
uneven and highly variable distribution of green policy and projects.
A number of preliminary lessons may be drawn in this respect.
First, The Oxapampa microcosm of post-frontier protection was not
a rational post-script where frontier projects were simply abandoned.
The green post-frontier did not involve public policy makers coming
to their environmental senses or responding to a grassroots call alone.
It was intimately tied to long-standing politics of frontier struggle and
contestation, and a historically specific context that enabled greening
to be established on paper through “boomerang politics” and intensely
negotiated USAID project conditionalities.
Second, the practice of greening revealed the politics of “packaging”
environmental imperatives in managerial development language. Con-
tentious politics were translated into do-able post-frontier compromises.
It was, in a Foucauldian vein, about incorporating green imperatives
Greening the Frontier 77

into the “right disposition of things” rather than a paradigm shift

as such.
Third, while post-frontier institutions signalled change through san-
itized managerial language, long-term frontier pressures remained in
place. Road penetration was pursued and there were bureaucratic
attempts to circumvent newly established safeguard measures. Greening
devices may, in this sense, not only be captured by, but potentially also
deepen, frontier penetration by displacing overt development conflict
to the status quo under new bureaucratic procedures and control.
Fourth, post-frontier greening, rather than harbouring a preset bundle
of closed properties, is permeable and flexible representing “uncertain
authority” (Mathews 2011). There are negotiated and often incremen-
tal outcomes building on, rather than fundamentally challenging, the
status quo.
Finally, the greening of the institutional topography through
managerial interventions suggests a shift in the foundation of power and
influence. Whereas social protest and international pressure enabled
post-frontier governance crafting to become possible in Oxapampa, new
institutions were increasingly shaped by an expert authority. Ultimately,
expert recommendations and epistemic dominance contributed towards
dissociating environments from people, largely through managerial
models that ranked state-driven conservation and watershed manage-
ment above indigenous priorities (such as communal reserves). The
seeds were sown for a new conservation elite and linear dominance.
This suggests the need for careful attention to how power and techni-
cality are intertwined in terms of what “post-frontier” institutions are,
and what they do. Such working modalities, which became central to
post-Rio sustainability practice in large parts of the world, are further
explored in the following chapters.
The Double-bind of Community

Introduction: Interrogating community conservation

For the last few decades, protected areas have formed part of the arsenal
of tools promoted by conservationists to close frontiers. Protected areas
epitomize the notion of the post-frontier through the nominal isolation
of a zone within a larger span of “non-protected” areas. They involve dis-
tinct ways of seeing, understanding and producing the world (West et al.
2006). Much literature has emphasized the imposition of systems based
on a Western worldview, managerial logics and top-down-driven solu-
tions. Relying on Cartesian divisions between nature and culture, state
incorporation and dispossession, the dramatic consequences of their
establishment have repeatedly been noted (Colchester 2003). This has
led to massive calls for change, from both conservationists and social
In response to the critique of top-down fortress approaches to conser-
vation, the last decade has witnessed a major transition in protected
area policy and discourse (Phillips 2003) towards socially inclusive
language framed around participation, social benefits and sustainable
development (Larsen and Oviedo 2005). Much effort is being invested
in reinstating conservation in a local context and levelling the playing
field between state actors, conservation organizations and local com-
munities. Community-conserved areas, in particular, are seen as the
solution to long-standing protected area legacies combining culture,
conservation and social equity. This chapter interrogates the significance
of the recent shift to participatory and community conservation pro-
tected area discourse. In particular, it offers an ethnographic portrayal
of the Reserva Comunal Yánesha, one of the first global experiments
in community-based protected area management. It addresses the role

The Double-bind of Community Conservation 79

of state recognition, co-management and community empowerment,

specifically within the context of a collaborative management planning
process between a local representative organization and the Peruvian
state. Where I had hoped to witness the reinvention of protected
area governance, epistemological rupture soon became necessary in
coming to terms with the symbolic violence and contradictory con-
sequences of planning “for the benefit of the people”. Far from the
panacea expected therefore, this chapter explores new forms of dispos-
session and dominance, appearing under the guise of collaboration and

Towards community-conserved areas

“Community-Conserved Areas (CCAs) have burst upon the global con-

servation scene in the first few years of the new millennium, and are the
most exciting development since the concept of ‘protected areas’ came
into vogue, over a century back.” (Kothari 2006: 1). In response to the
critique of top-down fortress approaches to conservation, community-
based and participatory models have flourished in the search of more
effective and equitable conservation. Community conservation captures
the idea of untapped social potential that could be used to tame the
frontier. “Rather than having fifteen forest guardians controlling an
immense region, you would have thousands of tribesmen patrolling
it,” as one observer noted in the 1980s at the first encounter between
environmentalists and indigenous organizations of the Amazon (quoted
in Narby 1991: 80). Such approaches have become increasingly solidi-
fied and supported at the international level under a common discourse
framed around “Indigenous peoples and Local Community-Conserved
Areas and Territories” (ICCAs), with a group of experts, organizations
and social actors forming activities and sites based on the concept.
ICCAs are grounded on the principle of recognizing protected areas
run by indigenous and local communities as a distinct “governance”
modality, distinguishing them from state-, co-management- and pri-
vately run areas. They are considered to harbour three features (Kothari
et al. 2013: 4) which have been institutionalized and widely circulated in
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) policy guidance
(Dudley 2008). These include close and profound relations embedded
in local culture, with “people or community” being the “major player
in decision-making and implementation”, alongside the “community’s
management decisions and efforts” leading to conservation (Borrini-
Feyerabend et al. 2010: 3). ICCAs are perceived as smaller, simpler and
80 Post-frontier Resource Governance

better than heavy management bureaucracies, a part of living land-

scapes and a source of tenure security (Oviedo 2006). They are seen to
hold potential for “achieving the integration of several desired objec-
tives” such as “conservation of ecosystems, wildlife, and agricultural
biodiversity, enhancement of food and livelihood security, sustaining
diverse cultures, and achieving equity within and across generations”
(Kothari et al. 2013: 3).
Nevertheless, the narrative suggests that such areas have commonly
been neglected by official policies. Stevens, for example, speaks of “thou-
sands, possibly tens of thousands, of ICCAs” maintained by indigenous
and local communities in Nepal, which remain poorly recognized by the
state (Stevens 2010: 190). Kothari et al. note how ICCAs face “multiple
threats, which are compounded by the lack of recognition and support
from wider society” (2013: 6). “Were all community conserved areas
to be recognized, conservation and rights would fare much better,” we
might summarize the dictum. This has led to policy formulations as the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) decision wording to “Recog-
nize the role of indigenous and local community conserved areas and
conserved areas . . . ” (CBD COP 10 Decision X/31, Article 31). The ques-
tion now is how the new processes of recognition, and the creation of
new conservation topographies framed as community-conserved areas,
affect distinct places and people (West et al. 2006: 264). The Reserva
Comunal Yánesha offers some lessons.

A prime case of community conservation?

The Reserva Comunal Yánesha, covering more than 34,000 ha with

exclusive user rights attributed to the Yánesha, was the first of its kind
when it was established in Peru in 1987. Whereas reserves had long
served to secure long-term access to non-titled forest areas, the new
category was aimed at conservation of forest fauna for neighbouring
populations as a traditional source of nutrition1 (D. L. 21147 1975).
The reserve would conserve fauna for the benefit of ten neighbour-
ing Yánesha communities, using it as a resource for hunting and food.
In addition, the very first objective of the reserve was to “avoid the total
dispersion and weakening of the territorial stability of native communi-
ties as a consequence of losing the ancient territories”. Other objectives
included the protection of high parts of the valley to guarantee the sta-
bility of the water system, securing the use of fauna as a traditional
food source, as well as serving as a buffer zone for the neighbour-
ing Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park (Rada 1987). The communities,
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 81

constrained by the limitations of their titled comunidades, would find in

the reserva “a harmonious relationship with the environment” (ibid.).
Established for the benefit of communities, it even bore the ethnonym
“Yánesha”. As a former leader from the 1980s noted: “It was about set-
ting up a reserve, where we could live in 50 years . . . the state even gave
it our name. Yánesha” (personal communication, 2008). Its boundaries
were drawn by the cadastral office and the forestry unit, dividing it
between settlers, communities and the national park, essentially reflect-
ing remaining “available”, non-titled protection lands. Field visits were
made to ensure that non-titled settlements and agricultural lands were
excluded, creating the rugged boundaries known today.
Little mention was made of biodiversity values in the initial proposal.
Instead, lists of different fauna species focused on those of nutritional
value, just as initial zonification plans aimed to divide the reserve into
“community influence” areas. Use areas were to be determined in accor-
dance with traditional customs. Given the importance of hunting and
fishing as traditional food sources, the proposal discouraged commu-
nities hunting for commercial purposes. Furthermore, it argued that
communities should make use of “traditional hunting means when pos-
sible”, and “Use would be rational as long as control and vigilance
is carefully organized” (ibid.: 67). Control and vigilance committees
would maintain hunting calendars, statistics and regular patrolling. The
reserve would also serve for the “maintenance and development of
cultural values” while simultaneously complementing the two neigh-
bouring protected areas, Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park and the
San Matías-San Carlos Protection Forest. Its approval was considered
one of the quickest in Peruvian history, largely explained by donor
pressure (see Chapter 5). Observers noted how the reserve “nearly dou-
bled the land area available for indigenous communities” (Yallico and
Rose 1998).
The reserve was internationally showcased as a success story in
community engagement, interculturality and participation by Peruvian
protected area authorities, even though it remained low on the priority
list of conservation finance. For years, the reserve had all the symp-
toms of the “paper park syndrome”: a tiny budget, no staff or office,
and unclear boundaries. There were problems with settlers within the
reserve, as well as encroachment and illegal logging at several sites.
It was remotely controlled by national park authorities on the other side
of the Yanachaga cordillera, where the only paid forest guard was also to
be found. In 2007, after two decades of existence, there was not much
“management” to show on the ground. The NGO Fundación Peruana
82 Post-frontier Resource Governance

para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (later renamed Pro-Naturaleza)

had, over the years, conducted management planning and training
of “voluntary eco-guards”. These volunteers were trained in ecology,
taught how to read maps and instructed in protected area legislation
and patrolling. Training material included texts about “the philosoph-
ical basis of human relations”, an introduction to the animal kingdom
and general explanations about the environment. Rather than a cus-
tomary use space, the reserve appeared as a managerial void in need of
rational content.
By 1998, Pro-Naturaleza ran a workshop leading to the establish-
ment of a community organization dedicated to the management of
the reserve. The resulting Asociación para la Conservación y Manejo de
la Reserva Comunal Yánesha (AMARCY) initially consisted of the eight
indigenous communities surrounding the reserve.2 For the conserva-
tion organization, it was an attempt to group communities bordering
the reserve and to create project implementation structures. For many
indigenous representatives it was a critical turning point, where com-
munities organized themselves and started recapturing decision-making
space. Armando, the President of AMARCY at the time of my fieldwork,
and the junta directiva of the organization, were critical interlocutors.
Frustrated by the lack of support to the reserve, Armando would often
compare the state to a father having a son without taking care of him.
Not only is fatherhood central to Yánesha moralities, Armando’s own
family story was one of growing up without a father, making do against
the social odds. “We were like baby birds in a nest waiting for my mother
to come home and share leftovers after finishing her domestic work,”
he told me. State support for the reserva was not much different. Most
state resources were concentrated in the provincial capital, targeting
the national park, whereas the reserve fed off leftovers from techni-
cal cooperation resources. Still, there were notes of optimism. After a
long process, the communal reserves were granted a separate regula-
tory framework, a regimen especial, in 2005, consolidating the idea of
co-management between the state and community-based organizations.
This created a new space and anchor point for AMARCY to augment
its engagement. Finally, in 2006, AMARCY signed a contract for the
co-administration of the reserve with the national protected area agency.

Ambiguities of contractualization

For many Yánesha, the signing of a contract with AMARCY was a

milestone victory 19 years after the reserve had been created. It was
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 83

interpreted as a sign of recognition. Yet, though the recognition and

promises of resources were celebrated, the contract also epitomized a
changing relationship. Contractualization was more than a neutral act
signalling official recognition. Rather, it made evident how a political
and societal question of indigenous rights to customary forest areas
was being transformed into a technocratic and administrative matter.
Whereas the reserva was initially established for the Yánesha, AMARCY
had, under pressure, been expanded to include five neighbouring colono
settlements as constituents. “It wasn’t our decision”, the President
lamented, “the norm requires us to do so”. Contractualization further
cemented the departure from indigeneity by using language such as
“neighbouring populations”, supplanting the original objectives of terri-
torial consolidation. Furthermore, initial objectives of securing hunting
resources had been replaced by general protection objectives, indicating
how the reserve was being integrated into the national protected area
Contractualization further cemented the on-going transformation by
emphasizing contractual responsibilities rather than rights. AMARCY
became a “contract implementer” (ejecutor). As one ingeniero explained
to villagers during a discussion of the future of the protected area, “Don’t
forget that you have signed a contract! The reserve is also your responsi-
bility as AMARCY” (personal communication). The contract relied on a
skewed Durkheimian logic of “organic solidarity” in a naturalized divi-
sion of labour where AMARCY had taken on responsibilities for the
bigger state as a whole. The specific contract only spoke of AMARCY
regulating “the administration and participatory management”, but not
being in charge. The administrative nature of the contract de facto
dismantled the community–state relationship grounded in citizenship,
rights and territoriality, transforming it into a question of contractual
obligations and services.
It spoke of the ejecutor of the contract, an implementing entity
which could be fired, sanctioned and supervised. In practice, the state
agency maintained control over rights to management and enforce-
ment, leaving communities with the responsibility of implementation
with without the support of a budget. A heavy set of obligations, proce-
dures and requirements for the community organization were stipulated
without the conditions enabling their realization. The contract required
regular reporting, as well as devolving implementation responsibilities
to the voluntary association of elected representatives, all without addi-
tional resources from the state. The co-management organization was
not seen as a rights holder, but rather as a kind of service provider to
84 Post-frontier Resource Governance

be supervised by the state. The state could even “undertake inspections”

retaining the potential to claim compensation for damage done to the
protected area for non-compliance or “poor implementation”. As with
any other contract, there was the inherent possibility of it being sus-
pended. This was not merely a matter of the small print, but a reflection
of a wider process of convenient state incorporation. The potential of
dismissal of the community organization went against the contractual
obligations, and was reminiscent of 16th-century racial propositions
legitimizing colonial rule. State intervention was legitimate if Indians
were “behaving inappropriately” (Cirkovic 2006).
The contract not only turned communities into service providers,
but also served to normalize state orders of inequitable contractual
relationships, and distribution of property rights. The partly overlap-
ping oil concession illustrated this hierarchy of contracts. In theory,
direct use areas allowed for resource extraction and prioritized local pop-
ulations. However, this legislative possibility had been more applied
and formalized in the sense of tolerating oil exploration within the
reserve. Whereas the oil company ultimately gained property rights
over oil extracted, the contract with AMARCY clearly specified it had
no property implications whatsoever. Resource extraction by comuneros
for commercial purposes (implying a sense of property) could only take
place under management plans and supervision. There was no contrac-
tual right for the Yánesha per se other than to live up to obligations
agreed upon. The problematic nature of contracts was not unique to
the Yánesha. During fieldwork, many indigenous federations were criti-
cal of the contractual model. One regional organization argued that the
Ejecutor de Contrato de Administración (ECA, contract implementer)
“functioned as a government agency”, while others stressed their NGO-
like attributes (personal communication). While some emphasized their
divisive nature of multiple organizations, others maintained that the
technical role of organizations like AMARCY was critical in putting
co-management into practice. Contractualization illustrated the double-
bind of state recognition, creating a tension between codified empower-
ment and domestication within a hierarchical state order. Such tensions
were not accidental, and appeared with clarity in the management
planning process.

Ambiguities of planning

Since the 1980s, management plans have become an increasingly uni-

versalized device to measure the relative “order” of protected areas.
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 85

Having a plan is today considered a sine qua non condition to demon-

strate effective management. As Tim Ingold notes:“ . . . the modern
maker or author envisions himself as though he were confronting a
blank surface, like an empty page or wasteland, upon which he intends
to impose an assembly of his own design”. (Ingold 2007: 155). Planning
represents the obvious linear step from designation and paper parks, to
real protection. At the time of my fieldwork, crafting a plan maestro was
perceived by many as the logical answer to many ills. Whereas previous
NGO attempts to establish a viable plan had failed, funding was avail-
able for a new proposal to be made in collaboration with the AMARCY.
The process of developing the plan was itself revelatory, unveiling a
highly expert-driven exercise with a deepening divide with local prac-
tice. From the very beginning, the protected area agency envisioned the
procedure being run by an expert team.
The first person hired for the planning process was a “communica-
tor”, a former NGO employee whose task was to explain to local people
“what protected areas are about”, as the desk officer in Lima desk offi-
cer told me. In a later interview she spoke of “the need for a strategy
to make people begin to realize that if they ‘eat’ everything, they won’t
have anything left in the end” (personal interview, 2008). The external
clairvoyance to see through the forest of local ignorance and explain
the benefits of conservation was striking. Tropes rehearsed by govern-
ment officials and NGO representatives were not merely concerned with
strengthening reserve management, but also referred to conservation as
a moral responsibility poorly understood by the locals. From this per-
spective, the grand plan was never about recognizing a customary space,
but entailed instead the conveyance of a new conservation space, and
the extension of the reach of state management. Planning dynamics
did not involve the valorization of existing knowledge and practices,
but were fundamentally shaped by mainstream conservation and expert
knowledge discourse.
The first (informal) preparatory meetings for the planning process
took place in the provincial capital, several hours by car from the
reserve. At the table were two former NGO employees, hired as consul-
tants: Armando, the President of AMARCY, and myself. As the discussion
turned to the question of management zones, Armando asked who
would decide about the management zones. “The specialists will”,
the coordinator replied. The possibility of indigenous priorities being
pushed aside once again seemed evident as yet another expert-driven
process appeared to be in the making. I took the occasion to overstep
my role as an observer and suggested the feasibility and relevance of
86 Post-frontier Resource Governance

a more participatory design process. Specifically, I recommended con-

sultations with the specific communities to discuss current use forms,
identify challenges and generate ideas for future management. I fur-
ther suggested that the team engage communities in developing zoning
arrangements. From a logistical perspective, a participatory process
was feasible. Compared with many other protected areas, the Reserva
Comunal Yánesha is relatively small, accessible and with fairly well-
established communication channels. Moreover, they had a reasonable
Shortly thereafter, I joined Armando and the consultant coordinator
of the plan in a meeting with protected area officials in Lima. It was
agreed to have a more participatory process. “Why do you want meet-
ings with the communities?”, the operations director asked. “You need
to be clear about what results you expect. This is not a development
plan. That’s why we’ve hired a communicator for the team,” she added.
“You need to establish what the big threats are and your strategies so
you can start to have your proper management, because right now it
does not exist,” she continued. Yardsticks for expertise were defined cen-
trally; the major problem was to identify consultants who qualified for
national protected areas standards. It became a question of introduc-
ing solid linear competencies and techniques into messy local realities.
In the end, the core team for the process consisted of the coordinator, a
communicator, a social scientist without prior experience in the area, a
biologist and a GIS expert to prepare the maps.
“Is there money for our expenses?”, Armando then asked, referring
to the community-based organization he represented. “It hasn’t been
budgeted”, the director replied, “but maybe we can find a solution”.
Indigenous participation and expenses were not a given. Budgets were
being managed between Lima and the provincial capital, while the pres-
ident of AMARCY was working with neither a salary nor a travel budget.
A computer, a motorbike and equipment had been bought in the name
of the reserve, but remained in the provincial park headquarters. Fur-
ther questions arose as to whether Armando, as a President, should form
part of the planning team and could actually be paid for the work. That
indigenous representatives would work for free was taken for granted –
in the end it was their plan, officials argued. In the end, Lima author-
ities agreed not only to finance three community promotores, but also
to directly involve the leadership of AMARCY in the technical team
and pay two vigilantes comunitarios to do some initial survey work.
While only a fraction of the total budget, mainly spent on consultancy
fees, they were felt by the community organization as small victories.
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 87

Finally, officials also agreed to release the equipment stored in the park
headquarters, allowing AMARCY staff to use it for the planning pro-
cess. The idea to do participatory planning was also taken over by the
planning team, who began to schedule meetings in the respective com-
munities. Despite donors pushing for indigenous involvement, actual
involvement remained a highly negotiated outcome in a field charac-
terized by power asymmetries. The question now was to what extent
the process itself and the proposed planning contents could reverse this
trend. If properly implemented, could planning processes empower the
Yánesha to get a tool which would fit their needs despite long-standing
institutional constraints?

Participatory shortcomings and the magic

of managerialism

The plan maestro for us is like a bible for our protected area. The jefes
will elaborate it themselves

. . . We are going to have our own plan maestro – it will tell us

what to do
Armando in a public consultation meeting for the master plan.
(personal communication)

In most of the communities neighbouring the reserve, participatory

events were organized to generate inputs for the planning process.
Where I expected the process to result in local ownership and higher
relevance, initial excitement with the acceptance of a participatory pro-
cess dampened as meetings took place. While these were important
learning exercises and moments of exchange, they also produced mis-
understandings and questionable data. Underneath the rational surface
of participatory analysis, they largely failed to capture a more specific
sense of current resource use, a differentiated picture of users and use
conflicts. Nor did they capture the reality of jefes involved in logging
operations, intra-community equity issues regarding land distribution
or corruption. This was not merely a consequence of the short time allo-
cated to participatory discussions, but reflected the distinct practice of
The consultant team’s efforts to conduct planning were not simply
grounded in legal specifications, nor driven by a bottom-up process.
Ultimately, what mattered was not actual forest dynamics, but rather
ensuring representational coherence. Survey findings, compiled lists and
88 Post-frontier Resource Governance

dubious statistics mattered more than actual practice and first-hand

knowledge built up over generations. The planning team went to great
lengths to produce lists and provide numbers. The importance of form,
elaborate lists and Latin names of species stood in contrast with the very
limited field presence, hands-on mapping and the absence of first-hand
data. Yánesha were relegated to an informant and beneficiary status,
ready for professional assessment by the expert team. Local knowledge
about fauna and flora was useful, indeed required (for a biologist not
entering the field), yet was reconfigured in Latinized lists.
This seemed a form of mimicry of modernistic conservation, employ-
ing managerial language judged credible and hierarchically superior
compared with the everyday language of the Yánesha leaders. Such
mimesis confirmed planning as a professionalized domain, where
ingenerios were presumed to know more than the other participants.
Although scientific language appeared without scientific criteria, it
placed the team on moral high ground and offered them legitimacy of
technicality. It essentially involved the a posteriori injection of science-
like justifications and language, building credibility yet also reproducing
“environmental orthodoxies” (Forsyth 2003; Leach and Mearns 1996).
These orthodoxies involved lack of implementation, paper parks and
relegating local use as a threat, but ignored more complex interactions
between loggers and communities. While it referenced meta-narratives
of logos over mythos, in practice it resulted in the primacy of mythos
over logos. What appeared as Weberian rationalization, disenchantment
and the retreat of magic in practice amounted to the exact oppo-
site. Managerialism, as practiced above, functioned around the fixed
rules of managerial magic and beliefs, whereas Yánesha, it might be
argued, in relation to their environment operated in a more reality-
driven, open and free system of meaning. This may undoubtedly have
been an effective way of convincing distant technocrats, yet was down-
right problematic in terms of how local socio-ecological realities were

Managerial zoning

The proposed zoning arrangements illustrated the contradictions.

Although the special regime for reservas allowed for flexibility in terms
of zoning, the consultants opted for applying standard protected areas
categories. “Forest zones” and “direct use zones” made up the bulk of
the area, complemented by smaller spaces carved out for strict protec-
tion, tourism, rehabilitation and special use. “The only one missing is
the historical cultural zone because the indigenous consultant had not
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 89

identified cultural areas of importance within the reserve,” the GIS con-
sultant noted during a public consultation meeting. Cultural matters,
having been first objectified to sites, objects and archaeology, were ulti-
mately left out all together due to a lack of consultant data. Less than
2% was classified as under strict protection. Forest zones, defined as rel-
atively intact areas where only scientific activities and education could
take place, made up slightly more than half of the protected area,
whereas 43% of the protected area was classified as a direct use zone
(SERNANP 2012). It was a highly virtual exercise with arbitrary lines
drawn to reflect standard “good practice” rather than local realities. The
closing of half of the reserve was truly remarkable for an area initially
created to protect customary hunting.
How had such a shift in thinking to “no-use” been reached despite
the adoption of a special regime, a participatory process and a broad
orientation towards local benefits? Clearly, the reconfiguration of the
reserve as a standard protected area and a consultant team made up
of former NGO professionals was central to this. Major gaps in under-
standing local practices within the reserve undoubtedly contributed to
the confusion. For one, the sociologist in the team had initially only
prepared zoning ideas for areas outside the reserva. She could say noth-
ing about areas inside the reserve as she had not collected information
about actual use of the area and knew little about its social, economic
and cultural significance as a result. This was compounded by the fact
that the biologist hired for the management plan did not enter the
actual reserve either. Lists of species and descriptions were purely based
on second-hand information. The biologist had, I was told, even called
for key hunting areas, known as the colpas, to be classified under strict
protection. Other members in the team had declared this unfeasible,
in part because the colpas, sites of high animal densities, neighboured
many communities. Fundamentally, management decisions were ema-
nating from consultant team perceptions of conservation with very little
empirical basis.
Public consultation meetings about the zoning plans did not change
this fact. The proposed zoning maps seemed awfully abstract and far
from immediate user considerations. The contrast between the maps,
zones and regulations, on the one hand, and the lives, uses and spa-
tial practices, on the other, was astounding. Towards the end of the
planning process, I asked the team leader about local reactions and was
informed that people were generally accepting of the zonation except
for one private (non-indigenous) landowner, who had previously been
resettled. Planning was not a neutral process about what was at stake and
what was needed, but became fundamentally about reordering Yánesha
90 Post-frontier Resource Governance

people and the reserve along standard protection categories. The result-
ing management plan largely aligned local realities to central language
and power maintenance, rather than reflecting local socio-ecological
Similar contradictions appeared in the identification of conservation
priorities. The consultant team sought to identify eight “conservation
objects”, borrowing language from a priority-setting method developed
by the Nature Conservancy. The biologist, without entering the reserve,
had identified seven so-called conservation objects including bears,
jaguars and salt-lick ponds for birds (colpas). It appeared as a random
selection of species and attributes, yet from another perspective, in part,
it reflected perceptions of high-profile species and standard conserva-
tion priorities. Where the initial proposal emphasized hunting practices
and species to be sustained for the Yánesha, such priorities were being
replaced by a human-free biodiversity gaze listing species as intrinsic
values. Hunting was no longer the justification per se, but had become
a potential threat to the area. While a notion of local benefits was
retained, it was watered down and framed in standard protected area
language. The last conservation object identified was “Yánesha knowl-
edges and traditional practices”, as the coordinator explained to me, “to
also cover the human importance of the protected area”. Not only did
the conservation objects reduce complex ecological processes to a few
key species and habitats, the process equally reified Yánesha culture as
knowledge and traditional objects worthy of preservation. While the
draft management plan spoke of conservation priorities being identified
“by participants in workshops and participatory planning meetings”
(INRENA and AMARCY 2008), what had finally determined conserva-
tion planning were mainstream notions of biodiversity conservation.
As we shared a soft drink a year later, I asked Armando what he thought
about the zoning plans. “I don’t understand anything of it – not even
the strategies”, he replied, then busy with other activities. The mas-
ter plan, which was only to be officially approved two years later, had
become a stepping stone for other action. Yet what had taken place had
consolidated a series of local uses and practices as acceptable, and others
as unacceptable and illegal.

Dual management and the double-bind

of community conservation

As I shared my observations with AMARCY, they were equally preoccu-

pied by immediate challenges. “They are cutting our electricity, and on
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 91

the 22nd we’re thrown out of the office,” Armando complained. The
plan was being finalized and most consultants were already on other
assignments. Soon thereafter, I met the team coordinator on his way to
the district to recuperate the computer equipment AMARCY had used
during the planning process. Their participatory time was up. It was
normal, even a trivial fact, that Yánesha representatives were responsi-
ble for the project, and yet had no budgets, poor working conditions
and were expected to volunteer their time. The whole process was, after
all, in their “interest”. Shortly thereafter, the rent for their office space
was being paid by Petrolifera, the oil company working in the area.
Important shifts appeared in 2008 with the creation of a Ministry of
Environment and a better-financed protected area agency (SERNANP).
This reinforced a shift towards governmental management and only
indirectly supported the community organization. In practice, a pro-
tected area chief was hired along with the nomination of official forest
guards, leaving AMARCY as a residual institution there to somehow
facilitate contacts with communities and develop separate projects.
As I met up with Armando of AMARCY in the main district town in
2010, I found him badly hurt following a motorbike accident. He was
suffering from a high fever and a serious leg infection. He had pawned
his watch for a first treatment, yet the infection had worsened, as he
couldn’t afford a second round of antibiotics. Though his position was
heavily contested, he was nevertheless the only democratically elected
protected area representative of the area, and had neither a salary nor
health protection, despite a recent funding boost for conservation in
the area.
It was a two-tier system of haves and have-nots. Many of the AMARCY
board members were hired as formal forest guards, now housed in a
newly built government agency building.3 They were occupied with
cleaning the garden, and painting the buildings in advance of a visit
from Lima from the head of the agency and the German donors. Where
staff had been absent in 2007, the state had now hired a chief, three
specialists and nine forest guards. The new jefe at the time, the for-
mer GIS specialist for the management plan, argued that illegal logging
within the reserve had been successfully stopped. Even the long-awaited
master plan seemed to be ready for approval only after some three
years of gestation. Two staff members had also been hired by the state
to “support” AMARCY. Still without a regular budget, Armando and
AMARCY were occasionally contracted by the jefatura for specific tasks.
Here was the essence of being a contract ejecutor. As I arrived he was wait-
ing for a new “terms of reference”. Armando and vigilantes depended
92 Post-frontier Resource Governance

on state recognition, yet stood without state protection in a two-way

bind of participatory conservation of heavy obligations, and few bene-
fits. As Esteban, a seasoned indigenous leader, commented in a public
meeting in the district town Iscozacin in 2010:

Where is our power? They are taking away our power . . . my jefes don’t
say anything. What I say is that we need to put our organizations
in the centre. It should be one force. Where is the Yánesha force?
It was our idea. Now I don’t see anything. I don’t hear anything. It’s
like what happened to Yanachaga park. Now there is not even one
Yánesha . . . There are so many jefaturas . . . and the Reserva is still being

In practice, a two-tier management system was being consolidated

whereby the state agency retained core protection competencies, offi-
cial park guards and budgets, while AMARCY as the co-management
institution ran a parallel structure dependent on project funding. Legal
provisions, which had left control of financial resources in the hands
of the community organization, had been conveniently “overlooked”.
Where the original contract entitled AMARCY to approve plans elab-
orated with the state, the process of authorization had been reversed.
Even community vigilance plans had become a project component
needing approval by the state. A new management committee for
the reserve involving all other local stakeholders also seemed to have
become more powerful and influential than AMARCY, despite its co-
management mandate. The double-bind of representing communities,
and co-managing the reserve without adequate means to fulfil their
mandate, remained intact. Over the years, addressing the real manage-
ment challenges of illegal settlements and logging operations continued
to challenge the new management set-up. “The state has come, taken
a couple of photos and done nothing”, one Yánesha youth thundered
against the lack of intervention about illegal settlers within the reserva
comunal. It was not entirely true. Legal processes had been under way
for years, and the individuals were known and registered. Yet, the lim-
ited manoeuvrability of state officials to challenge social power on the
ground remained.

Concluding remarks

While the reserve was originally destined to benefit communities,

actual practice pointed to a double-bind, with a reserve carrying their
The Double-bind of Community Conservation 93

name, yet becoming increasingly governmentalized much like any other

protected area. It was a sad irony that indigenous leaders initially crit-
icized the “absence of the state” in their initial engagements with
protected area authorities. The analysis suggests how the managerial
trinity of recognition, planning and contracts in practice disempow-
ered community institutions and influence. We might label this as
“double-bind governance” since it constrained communities in a sit-
uation of simultaneous inclusion and exclusion. Arrangements were
made allegedly for their benefit, but the processes of contractualization,
planning and institution building marginalized their agency to residual
inputs. This demonstrates how institutions that intend to empower may
end up doing the exact opposite. As with other post-frontier institutions,
the shadow of state power and reproduction of elite control are never far
away. The case harbours important lessons of broader relevance to the
study and practice of post-frontier institution building.
First, current claims of community neglect and the call for recogni-
tion are important at the international level, yet not unproblematic.
Anthropologists have long pointed to the risks of misrepresentation of
the indigenous conservation interface (Conklin and Graham 1995) and
the problems associated with the generic use of community concepts
(Brosius et al. 1998: 159). Tying together “communities”, “territory”
and “community-conserved areas” risks reproducing essentialisms and
conflating highly diverse conditions, socio-political dimensions and
environmental relations. Primordialist and essentialist concepts of cul-
ture may “deny communities agency and make the extension of rights
contingent on adherence to externally mandated standards” (Brosius
and Hitchner 2010: 146). Cherry-picking of community-conserved areas
may have been useful to challenge counter-narratives of local incom-
petence, yet is analytically misleading in its effort to “prove” the
effectiveness and benefits of ever more “community”.
Second, we need to escape from a sterile debate about whether com-
munity conservation is more or less “good” or effective, and move
towards qualifying and contextualizing practices of recognition and sup-
port. Rather than analysis aiming to “document” the united colours
of community conservation, less normatively biased analysis is needed
for the interplay between heterogeneous community realities and the
power dynamics emerging through official recognition and manage-
ment support. The Yánesha did not experience physical displacement
from productive lands and forests, so commonly experienced in pro-
tected areas, but instead suffered subtle combinations of removal of
tenure, access, and specific hunting rights through managerial means.
94 Post-frontier Resource Governance

The contract conveniently dealt with potentially unruly subjects by

reducing agency to circumscribed pathways and procedures. It even tied
communities into a complex system of obligations and responsibilities
without devolving actual power and resources. Power, knowledge and
resources were epitomized by the transient consultant team and chang-
ing management, whereas responsibilities, social effects and blame
remained with the communities.
Third, there is a need to interrogate relevant support modalities and
practices. Redford and co-workers have noted how “to place on the
shoulders of relatively powerless forest dwellers the burden of stopping
economically, politically, and socially powerful forces driving deforesta-
tion is at best unfair and at worst dangerous” (Redford and Sanderson
2001: 1363). While the critique of state-dominated regimes is warranted,
solid answers are equally unlikely to be found in blanket statements call-
ing for more community governance. One problematic aspect, in this
respect, concerns the addition of community-conserved areas as a sin-
gular governance type, distinct from state, private or co-management
rather than recognizing the need for both vertical and horizontal types
of integration. Such critique need not be used as an argument against
community conservation, but should serve as a reminder of the com-
plexity involved in truly empowering “communities” to effectively
engage with conservation initiatives.
The discourse and practice of promoting community-conserved areas
is no longer marginal but has, through extensive lobbying, taken on a
more central role in conservation circles and in multiple projects across
the globe. Whereas the debate has, at times, been reduced to battles
about the effectiveness of new community conservation or what con-
servation biologists saw initiatives not doing, we, as social scientists,
need to focus more attention on what such measures as emerging post-
frontier arrangements do. Community-conserved areas, and protected
areas more generally, are not “closed” ends, but rather transformative
practices to be taken seriously in emergent terms.
Community Forestry and
Post-frontier Deforestation


Tropical forestry is renowned for not bringing in tax revenues, not

being managed according to regulations, not hindering deforestation
and not leading to local benefits. “Forests are one of developing coun-
tries’ most mismanaged resources,” the World Bank concluded (World
Bank 2008: 1). State absence, weak governance, illegality, corruption,
informality and other “negative” qualifiers have been raised as explana-
tions of tropical forest loss for four decades, ever since it was declared
the “problem of the decade” by the International Union for Conser-
vation of Nature (IUCN) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1974.
In response, forest management approaches of various kinds have pro-
liferated, constituting a major field of investment in deforestation hot
“Forests for People”, the theme of the World Forestry Congress in
1978, marked the global emergence of the social forestry paradigm.
Challenging deforestation was not merely about hindering forest con-
version and loss, but catering to the needs of people living in and
around forests. Community forestry operations in particular were con-
ceived as socially, environmentally and economically viable alternatives
to land clearing and timber extraction by outsiders. As such, the
paradigm harboured key post-frontier qualities grounded in a shift from
predatory extraction to sustainable management with local benefits.
In many parts of the world, such models have moved from the exper-
imental stage to the mainstream of forest management. On the one
hand, according to the Resources and Rights Initiative some 12.6%

96 Post-frontier Resource Governance

of global forest cover is today owned, managed by or reserved for

indigenous peoples and local communities. On the other hand, com-
munity forestry operations and other approaches building on social
criteria have moved from being isolated pilot cases to becoming a
mainstream policy area. By October 2014, for example, the Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC) had globally certified 184 million ha of forest
(FSC 2014).
Nevertheless, the shift from big concessions and commercial forestry
enterprises to community tenure and locally run operations is uneven,
fraught with difficulties and covers highly diverse practices. Whereas
community forestry in places like the Bolivian Amazon is concerned
with timber extraction within large indigenous territories, in South
Asia it mainly concerns smaller forest areas and non-timber forest
products. Despite regional differences, a central concern involves how,
and under what conditions, forest power and authority is linked to
local communities (Agrawal and Ostrom 2001; Colfer and Capistrano
2005). Community forestry literature consequently involves intense
debates about appropriate ways to devolve authority, design man-
agement institutions and secure benefits (Charnley and Poe 2007;
Glasmeier and Farrigan 2005). Finally, community forestry may also
be viewed as a distinct assemblage emerging in the “space of strug-
gle between villagers and forest bureaucracies on the forest edge”
(Li 2007: 267).
This chapter interrogates post-frontier forestry in the Palcazú, which
has been the locus of substantial funding for community forestry
for three decades. “Ask a tropical forester for an example of a suc-
cessful sustainable forestry project, and you’ll likely hear about strip
clear-cutting in the Palcazú Valley of Peru’s eastern Andes.” (Jukofsky
1991). The Yánesha in Palcazú were protagonists in one of the first
continental and highly acclaimed attempts to manage tropical forests
with social objectives. Since then, the Yánesha have been involved
in a range of other community forestry initiatives. While the com-
munity experiments illustrate the failure and challenges of crafting
equitable relations from one perspective, this chapter looks beneath
the apparent (dys)functionality of community institutions. The case
demonstrates the limitations of managerial models and the necessity
of paying analytical attention to the structuring role of social practice.
Where the previous chapter revealed how state bureaucracies maintain
effective control within socially empowered protection landscapes, this
chapter points to the ability of timber traders to resist and make use of
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 97

community forestry mechanisms to meet extraction ends through what

I call “reverse governance”.

Closing the forest frontier in the Peruvian Amazon

Peru has the eighth largest forest cover in the world, stretching out over
some 69 million ha of natural forest of which 91% lies in the Amazon
(Suárez de Freitas 2009). For decades, Amazonian forests have been the
target of commercial timber operations. “The timber used here came
from our forest,” a Yánesha friend commented upon visiting the wooden
house my family and I rented in Oxapampa. Forestry extraction had
played a foundational role in the history of the province and the col-
onization of Yánesha territory. Still, the deforested upper-lying parts
of the province are better known today for agriculture than for their
forestry history, and the whole region produces less than 3% of national
timber outputs (CIF 2008). Today, it is difficult to imagine Oxapampa
half a century earlier as the second largest producer of timber in the
country. Timber concessions overlapping with indigenous lands com-
mon in the 1960s and 1970s had, with a few exceptions, ceased to exist.
The majority of remaining forestlands were located either within titled
communities through long-term user rights or within protected areas.
Major timber operations had long moved elsewhere, leaving behind
small-scale extraction in the lower-lying districts of Palcazú and Pichis.
Nevertheless, three decades-worth of establishing forestry offices,
management plans and building forest management capacity of indige-
nous communities do not seem to have closed the timber frontier.
Extraction dynamics in the lower-lying districts appeared to contradict
conclusions that protected areas and indigenous land titles provided
effective protection against forest damage (Oliveira et al. 2007). It was
estimated that the Pichis and Palcazú valleys have lost some 30% of
their forest cover within the last 30 years (UNODC and MINAM 2011).
During fieldwork, timber was being felled from community lands, pri-
vate forests and even protected areas in the Palcazú Valley at shockingly
low prices. Comuneros interviewed argued that their forest reserves had
either been reduced substantially or converted into agricultural fields.
How are we to understand this paradox of degradation coexisting with
closed frontiers and massive investment in management? What does it
tell us about the nature of post-frontier institutions? In order to shed
light on the dynamics at stake, the chapter focuses on the fate and role
of community forestry schemes in the area.
98 Post-frontier Resource Governance

The rise and fall of the first indigenous forest cooperative

Reports in the late 1980s emphasized the Yánesha Forestry Cooperative

in Palcazú as the first indigenous forest cooperative (D. Gow et al. 1988),
through a case study in ethno-development (Davis 1988) and an “inno-
vative approach to forest management” (Landis 1990). As Moore noted
at the time:

Once the Yánesha Forestry Cooperative is demonstrated to be

successful – if it is – it will provide a model for ecologically sound and
sustainable forest management which could create a revolution in
tropical forest management in the world and eventually spare many
millions of hectares of primary tropical forest.
(Moore 1989: 51)

It seemed to have all the post-frontier ingredients missing from preda-

tory frontier forestry operations: science, social development promise
and ecological sustainability. For a few years, the Yánesha cooperative
would appear as a case study in international training efforts and inform
the early stages of forest certification thinking. How did the continent’s
first indigenous forestry cooperative emerge and what can we learn from
its fate?
As we saw with protected area creation, sustainable forestry first
appeared as a project component in the reworked USAID PEPP project,
which was considered the only viable development option for the valley.
The Costa Rica-based Tropical Science Centre (TSC) was hired to bring
in state-of-the-art expertise and develop a forestry model based on the
idea of sustained yields. Yánesha communities became the prime target
for these forestry activities for one simple reason:

When . . . advisors arrived on the scene with a proposal to develop

sustained-yield wood production . . . little of original natural forest
cover remained on lands belonging to the colonos. Conversely, nearly
all the forest was intact on the lands titled to the 12 native commu-
nities in the southern half of the valley. The only opportunity for
application of the sustained-yield forestry system was . . . obviously,
with the native Amuesha.
(Tosi 1988: 22)

Only indigenous forestlands remained. Project support would even-

tually lead to the formation of the Cooperativa Forestal Yánesha
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 99

Limitada (COFYAL). Four Yánesha communities1 each ceded parts

of their forestlands to what became Peru’s first forestry cooperative.
Starting operations in 1987, the cooperative had around 12 techni-
cians and advisors. As the first elected president of the cooperative

In the beginning, no one knew what a cooperative was. So the project

trained 5 extension workers to raise awareness among people, among
comuneros, about how a cooperative works. They elected me and
others to be trained by the engineers. Then a committee was set
up in a general assembly. President. Vice President . . . so, when the
committee was formed they hired an accountant. The project had
everything, they brought us to the registry, Huancayo, San Ramon.
everything . . . we managed everything. At the same time, the project
had machines, budgets, everything, they installed machinery, there
were engineers for extraction, in industrial matters.
(Personal interview)

Between 1984 and 1988, the Costa Rican centre provided some 205
person-months of advice on forest research, wood conversion, coop-
erative administration and sawmill and lumberyard supervision. The
flagship technique, introduced to reflect ecological conditions, was the
“strip shelterbelt system”. This involved the clear-cutting of narrow
strips of forest, followed by 40 years of natural regeneration. The model
aimed to make optimal use of the totality of harvested products. Trees
with small diameter would be used for fences, larger ones for poles
and only the biggest trees would be used for lumber. The cooperative
received equipment: a transportable sawmill machine and a state-of-the-
art “press-cap preservation” system, using air, water and chemicals to
preserve processed timber.
The financial mechanism ensured a 25% return for the communities,
while 75% was retained by the cooperative. At the height of its activ-
ity 49 Yánesha individuals worked in the cooperative, which received
approximately 1.5 million USD in support between 1984 and 1988.
Local people bought lumber for building houses, and utility poles were
sold off in the region. The shipment of six containers of “sustain-
ably” harvested tropical timber to the US and the UK were among
the first to link indigenous forest producers with Western consumers
on a global scale. The final technical report from Costa Rica noted
how, by the end of 1987, “the native staff of the forest management”
were “doing work normally requiring graduate foresters . . . they were
100 Post-frontier Resource Governance

able to do this work without further assistance or supervision in the

woodlands” (Tosi 1988: 21).
Nevertheless, soon after operations were initiated things went down-
hill. International advisors left abruptly in September 1988 following
left-wing guerrilla activity. While some project activities continued in
subsequent years, most were gradually abandoned. Oxen were sold off,
equipment rented out and the cooperative was eventually dissolved.
What had happened to the trailblazing forest post-frontier experi-
ment? In the words of a former cooperative president “[the cooperative]
was left in the air without a budget . . . to use the machines we need
capital . . . so the members stopped working” (personal interview 2008).
The cooperative breakdown has been discussed in a number of pub-
lications, suggesting technological overkill, externally driven organiza-
tion, underestimated capacity needs, complex politics and challenging
market realities (Benavides and Pariona 2002; Elgegren 1993; Gram
2000; Gram et al. 1994; Morrow and Hull 1996; Southgate and Elgegren
1995). For many, the lack of sound economics was the final death knell.
As a former cooperative member noted:

The subversion made the professionals leave. It all ended in noth-

ing. There wasn’t a stable market, we mainly extracted posts . . . the
problem was we couldn’t sell them . . . there were two sales of tim-
ber to England. What happened? Pronaturaleza supported all the
paper work, transportation, storage . . . it was all very expensive. So the
cooperative owed money to Pronaturaleza! So all the earnings, from
the country, from England, they recovered, having invested their
capital . . . almost nothing came back here, just a little.
(Personal interview 2008)

The cooperative model relied on flows of resources, people and sup-

port, very difficult to maintain within the changing political economy
of insecurity and disappearing project funding. While the models of
sustainability sought to reflect the ecosystem needs, they failed to
respond to the particular socio-economic reality. Guerrilla activity alone
should be blamed for this. Early on, comuneros expressed concern about
ceding scarce land resources to the cooperative, preferring to have
more land for future generations. While the cooperative operated with
ideas of local ownership, decision and control, the predominant local
logic involved a gift economy and local levels of distrust in coop-
erative control (Smith and Wray 1995). It was the family unit and
wider social obligations, rather than the elusive notion of cooperation,
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 101

which made up the nucleus of economic action and vision. Nor did
the cooperative replace other forms of timber trade; individual traders
continued to purchase timber. Price levels were the same, but work-
ing with lumber dealers required less labour and the likelihood of
immediate payments. Nevertheless, illegal extraction became negligible
for a certain period during the 1990s. Yet, rather than being con-
strained by mature post-frontier forest management for the sake of
sustainability, it resulted from growing guerrilla activity and a thriving
coca economy.

Reviving community forestry

By the mid-1990s guerrilla and coca (dis)orders withered in the region.

NGOs grew in importance, and the project economy of sustainable
forestry returned. Community forestry associations blossomed again in
the institutional landscape, although they were more modest in terms
of funding and scale. There were attempts to commercialize timber and
non-timber forest products such as Uña de gato (Uncaria tomentosa and
Uncaria guianensis) and “Sangre de grado” (Croton lechleri). A number of
reforestation and handicraft projects also appeared. Communities were
once again occupied with developing forest inventories and manage-
ment plans. Legal community forestry operations involved carefully
designed annual harvest plans, specifying the trees and quantities to
be harvested.
Community forests as a whole included both individually held forest-
lands and parcels (held in possession within the overall community
title), as well as collectively held community forest reserves. In the for-
mer case, it was a natural part of the household economy to sell off
timber when clearing fields. In principle, decisions to log required the
acceptance of the jefe, generally charging the individual comunero a mod-
est communal tax (varying between fixed rates and a percentage). In the
case of communally held forestlands, at times set aside as forest reserves
(to be distinguished from the communal reserve protected area cate-
gory), the choice to harvest timber required decisions to be made by the
jefe based on consultation with the general assembly in accordance with
the management plan. Such decisions required agreement on where
and what to harvest, but equally on how income gained from its sale
should be spent. Community was, in this sense, not merely a locus of
identity and tenure, but a public office. Depending on individual gen-
eral assemblies and jefes, this public office was managed more or less
102 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Nonetheless, despite more than two decades of experimentation, legal

community forestry operations during fieldwork remained the excep-
tion. By 2010, only 26 communities in the Selva Central had “active
permits” compared with 55 in Pucallpa and 44 in Loreto (Defensoría
del Pueblo 2010: 154). Even the few Yánesha communities with active
permits in Palcazú experienced issues. Many were fined and problems
were numerous: extraction from protected areas, quantities surpassing
planned limits, planned extraction areas not being respected and so on,
to name a few.
In 2008 the previously booming cooperative facilities located in the
community of Shiringamazu had long been abandoned and were only
a shadow of their former self. Children used the facilities to play foot-
ball, occasionally hitting the rusty equipment before it was eventually
torn down. Sounds of saw machines were nevertheless common in
Shiringamazu that year. The community had earlier obtained a logging
permit, yet logging was of a different nature as the permit had been
suspended. As one official explained it to me: “They didn’t live up to
the 10-year management plan.” The jefe noted how the madedero hired
to undertake the extraction had already taken timber out of the area
allocated for the tenth year (“PoA 10”). “We also discovered that 90 per
cent of the forest allocated for the 6th year is pure pasture . . . and we now
need to redo an inventory,” he sighed. The management plan had been
financed by the madedero and community leadership was faced with the
headache of making do with flawed papers.
“No one [in the valley] is living up to the management plans . . . no
community has a valid plan,” the district forestry officer in Iscozacin
complained. Permits were being suspended, shelved or reworked. This
did not seem to prevent a flurry of extraction of remaining valu-
able species, such as tornillo (Cedrelinga catanaeformis). As one comunero
told me bluntly, “with or without permits, we’re taking out tim-
ber”. Benavides and Pariona, a decade previously, estimated required
annual income at around 1,500 USD for a household (Benavides and
Pariona 2002). Such needs had not diminished.
Yánesha in the valley were paid 8 centavos (2.5 USD cents) per board
foot (pie) for common species, 10 centavos if they brought the timber to
the road themselves. Felling trees by themselves could increase the price
to 20 centavos per board foot. Tornillo timber was bringing in between
1.3 and 2 soles (0.4–0.6 USD) per board foot, average trees numbering
between 2,000 and 5,000 pie. Harvesting was clearly neither sustainable
nor providing substantial benefits. Jefes or large indigenous forestland
holders benefited individually in the short term, while communities and
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 103

youth at large lost out in terms of degraded forest resources. Communal

forest holdings had been reduced sharply and were being allocated to
growing populations. Was it a wake-up call about the real-life limitations
and illusory nature of post-frontier forestry, grounded in community
control? “Families exist, communities don’t, other than on paper,” as
one forestry consultant told me. One Yánesha interviewed was equally
pessimistic about the future:

They will extract everything. There are no other sources of income in

times of education . . . people have many commitments. People have
more necessities now, more is being sold. Peter, believe me in 20 or
30 years the reserve (RCY) will be invaded.
(Personal interview 2008)

Between 2007 and 2010, hardly any communities in the Palcazú Valley
had functioning permits, yet timber continuously went out of the area,
blocked only for short periods of time. Control posts and government
agencies, however, reported few confiscations.
Forest administrators were, at the district level, one-man shops in a
sea of illegal forest operations, intended to check permits, control trucks
and undertake field inspections. Among other things, they issued the
“guías de transporte forestal” certifying the origin of transported timber.
“In difficult environments, I can’t work alone, only with you,” a forest
official expressed once during a meeting with Yánesha in 2008 (“and
with the madederos”, someone in the audience whispered). “I will offer
a way out this time,” the official continued. Registering timber for self-
consumption was a legal way out. The experience of one community,
which in 2009 decided to close down all timber extraction in an attempt
to legalize operations, was telling. A special three-month exception to
extract timber was allowed for households with special needs, notably
health-related reasons. Within days, individual requests, with more than
100 sickness certificates, arrived at the jefe’s house. The social pressure to
give in and pursue illegal extraction was enormous. In another commu-
nity, pressure to continue illegal extraction came from highly indebted
villagers having used up their “timber account”. No one was happy
about debt or low prices, yet money was needed for school materials,
health, foodstuffs, mobile phones and so on. Timber dealers, in effect,
offered market access and alternative services in return for rock-bottom
Such extraction and trade, it seemed, escaped and circumvented for-
mal rules and regulations. As one forestry specialist noted: “it is much
104 Post-frontier Resource Governance

easier to commercialize illegal timber than to do it following the rules”

(Suárez de Freitas 2009: 23). Commonly interpreted as “illegal logging”,
one official qualified it as “taking timber out without authorization,
felling trees without permits and transporting without authorization”
(personal interview 2008). Nevertheless, such assumptions easily mis-
represent the modus operandi of actual communal management taking
place. In particular, they neglect the legal nature of illegality – or the for-
mal nature of informality. Such notions took their outset in the absence
of what Peruvian forestry should look like, rather than taking actual
practice seriously in its own terms. An ethnographic perspective offers a
different angle.

It’s all about titles, papers and studies: Madedero modus


Where the common perception was that communities had simply given
in to illegal extraction, I argue for the necessity of a more detailed analy-
sis of the dynamics at stake. Specifically, I propose that a shift took place
among timber traders in the region from advocating against community
control (a battle they had lost in the valley) towards working within
and through the logics of community control and sustainability mea-
sures. The standard modus operandi for timber extraction in indigenous
communities involved timber traders striking deals with community
jefes, these being generally approved by the community assemblies.
The nature of these agreements typically involved financial contribu-
tions, road building or the opening of collective or individual credit
“accounts” in return for access to the timber. The basic logic was the
provision of advances in a highly disadvantageous economic agreement.
There were several cases of jefes being replaced due to poor deals. Despite
the glaring asymmetries, such agreements served a certain social purpose
by financing land claims, hospital bills and even satellite dishes.
Significantly, these deals were not extra-legal arrangements occurring
outside the formal framework, as one might have assumed from cursory
descriptions of illegal logging. Indeed, changing forestry policies, privi-
leging community operations over corporate concessions, had not been
ignored by the traders. As one lumber baron mentioned: “In the old
days, just one visit to the Ministry of Agriculture was enough (to get
an extraction permit), now it’s all about titles, permits and studies.”
Where the madederos had previously fought against community titles
their modus operandi now was different, working with rather than against
community decision making.
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 105

The case of the Yánesha forestry association “Yato Cooc” demon-

strated how lumber barons had changed their approach. Established in
Azulis, one of three sectors of the community of San Pedro Pichanaz,
the association had been in existence since 1997. In 2001, an NGO sup-
ported the association to carry out forest inventories and elaborate a
management plan. By 2004, there was consensus to process timber on
site so as to secure higher benefits. Yet, upon seeking formal approval of
their plan, another management plan appeared, elaborated with support
from a madedero in the two remaining sectors of the community. Given
that it was only legally possible to have one plan approved per commu-
nity, forestry officials requested that the general assembly decide upon
and prioritize one plan. As the president of Yato Cooc retold the story:

Well, in the general assembly, they approved the other one . . . as

the comuneros didn’t know what a sustainable management plan
was . . . they just thought we were going to do “sustainable manage-
ment”, and not sell timber . . . So the general assembly was in the San
Francisco sector . . . as the others were two sectors, they won the vote.
(Personal interview 2008)

One NGO worker accused the timber merchant of having paid people
to come and vote in his favour. Priority in the first nine years of the
adopted plan was given to areas needed by the madedero, and Yato Cooc
was only offered extraction rights by the tenth year. In addition, the
community permit granted was not intended for processed timber, but
only for selling trunks to third-party sawmills. “Which benefits would
remain if we only sell trunks?”, one Yánesha member asked bitterly. How
can one explain that two subsectors of the community prioritized an
agreement with a lumber dealer over far more beneficial community
Although they were titled as one community in 1975, forest dynam-
ics differed between the three sectors. One of the sectors, supporting
the timber dealer, had previously attempted to set up a forestry associa-
tion yet had in the meantime become heavily indebted. The elaboration
of the management plan, which had cost some 8,000 soles, was added
to the debt. These were not the only costs borne by communities.
Madederos charged for enabling road access to individual plots, counted
the number of hours of extraction and added rental costs for machines.
In the management plan, the company appeared as (expensive) service
providers to indigenous right-holders. Total costs for extraction in 2007,
for example, amounted to 177,860 USD for this single community.
106 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Beneath the formal language of management appeared glimpses of

the social reality underpinning the agreement. The annual plan men-
tioned how “due to extreme poverty and debt to both companies, the
comuneros have decided at the general assembly in sector X and Y to
work two parcels simultaneously”. The point was that madederos wanted
a quick return on their investments (debt created) and had identified
which parcels to work first. While framed as planned management,
in practice it facilitated expensive and high-impact extraction. As one
forestry consultant regularly advising the communities, informed me:

the problem, to begin with, is the roads no? . . . the impact of the
road . . . which only benefits the timber baron . . . the soil is very unsta-
ble. Apart from the machines sinking, no? . . . this generates high
costs . . . you pull out the timber and another landslide happens . . . in
some areas there is no longer a road. [and who pays for that?] well,
the community, that’s the irony of it, no? They pay . . . that’s why they
challenge it. Because the machines enter, take out the timber and
once they are out the road is ruined. They return to clean it up . . . who
pays? The community, yet by then there is no more timber left.

The situation was not much better in a neighbouring community in the

Palcazú valley. As the jefe commented:

So the previous jefe had made an agreement with a company . . . he

entered and took out the timber where he wanted to. That is he
looked for the special timber, the most precious . . . as tornillo. The
common species he just left, didn’t take them out . . . He left with
all the tornillo and cedro. Some is still left, and he didn’t respect the

Felling “seed providing” (semilleros) trees epitomized the short-termism

of predatory timber harvesting, taking place within “community man-
agement”. Legal timber operations were de facto carefully instrumental-
ized operations, leaving Yánesha with little control over their forest use
while continuing to bear the costs of extraction. Annual harvest plans
were systematically disregarded, leading to suspensions of community
permits. As one forestry consultant noted:

who takes the blame? The community, which gets suspended. Every-
thing falls back on the community. The trader simply does what
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 107

he wants to and nothing happens . . . the community however is

suspended . . . the weight of the law falls on the community.
(Personal communication 2008)

Permits to harvest and transport timber, provided by state agencies, were

at the centre of timber operations within indigenous communities. “The
madederos have their own permits,” a comunero explained to me. In this
shadow economy, management plans or transportation papers (Guía de
Transporte Forestal) had little to do with managed forest but reflected
“managed papers”, whitewashing illegal timber from communities with-
out permits, and neighbouring protected areas. Distribution maps, lists
of species and timber volume estimations were enumerated creations,
simulacra of post-frontier linearity corresponding to legal requirements
and immediate needs. The modus operandi of timber traders did not rely
on dominating the public sphere in linear terms, but of rewriting it
through non-linear means.
This became clear in discussions with a timber dealer in Villa Rica,
who just as any other businessman complained about expenses. He had
taken part in a general assembly of a community to reach an agreement
about timber extraction. The meeting had dragged on for more than
two hours in an attempt to reach consensus about a price for the annual
cuts. He had calculated the costs of machinery at 140 soles per hour,
amounting to a total cost of 30,000 soles (roughly 10,000 USD) for the
road required to access the harvest area. He also charged the community
for the sawing and transportation of the timber:

The community does not put in 1 sol for the permit. I guarantee
that . . . I also pay in advance, even process the permit. Based on the
timber account they will later get a rice miller machine, 5–6.000
soles . . . [when?] when the permit is approved . . . that’s my guarantee.

We continued talking about the guias, the document that allowed

legal extraction and transportation of timber. “I manage the guia”, the
trader explained: “so the community does not sell the guia to other
traders”. In order to assure a quick return, the general practice was to
go for the high-value species in the first couple of years, he continued.
In other words, the timber merchant operated with, rather than against,
community permits. As one jefe explained:

Well, the community has the permit, no? . . . then there are all the
accounting documents. They’re held by the madedero. That’s how it
108 Post-frontier Resource Governance

is. That’s why I’m telling you, it’s as if we are incapable . . . Timber is
being leaked, papers are being leaked. Everything’s being leaked.
(Personal interview 2008)

Legal documents remained in the name of communities, and were in

practice withheld by timber merchants as guarantees for the invest-
ment made. Yet, business practices did not stop there. In both the
Pichis and Palcazú valleys there were indications of agreements between
madederos in terms of price levels and areas where they worked. Tim-
ber dealers seemed to maintain somewhat of a parallel property system,
acknowledging their respective operational areas and investments. The
informal system entailed competition, but also “respect” and “man-
aging the price”. “Between madederos the price is known . . . we respect
each other, the others have their annual plans, their agreements and
contracts. We all have our costs . . . ,” a timber trader informed me.
Such splits allowed for smooth business operations. Each madedero had
“their” plans and there was a general agreement about prices to be paid
for the timber, although some variation took place. It was a parallel
system, functioning through what economists might define as buyer’s
cartel behaviour.

Reverse governance

Forest extraction dynamics were not a result of lack of management or

formal arrangements, but rather involved a reformalized space. While
implementation differed from intended goals, the formality of commu-
nity titles, plans and contracts was at the heart of the extraction system.
It relied on simulacra of “papers in order”, contractual arrangements and
traders physically holding onto community permits. As one community
leader explained:

when I became jefe in 2007, one businessman had been administer-

ing everything for the last two years. He even cheated us concerning
the quantities of board feet! The community was indebted, we owed
25.009 soles [8.300 USD] and last year all our income went to pay off
our debt.
(Community jefe from the Palcazú Valley 2009)

No madedero would offer credit without formal guarantees. The madedero

had managed everything from paperwork to the selection of areas, and
the extraction process. It worked as a kind of leasing arrangement, yet
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 109

without respecting annual harvest plans. Instead, predatory techniques

were used to empty community forests for remaining high-value species,
irrespective of planned parcels, to secure quick returns on investments.
Community forestry mechanisms were “reversed” to suit the economic
control of the remaining timber elites.
Where community forestry legislation aimed to maximize local ben-
efits, contracts “facilitated” by madederos privileged unprocessed trunks,
prohibiting the community sale of processed timber. For years, the
Yato Cooc forestry association had claimed the right to sell processed
timber but were administratively constrained by a management plan
that allowed the community to sell trunks alone. Furthermore, traders
fetched lower prices due to the illegal niche of reverse logics, debt,
immediate cash needs and high “transaction costs”. The post-frontier
forest, despite titles and community rights on paper, was a reconfigured
extractive economy where predatory practices were reproduced within
the mechanisms of community control. It entailed subversion of lin-
ear forms of empowerment; of sustainability becoming unsustainable,
of illegality becoming legal.
Take the example of a forest guard with a legal mandate to con-
fiscate timber. This was in practice an administrative, logistical and
even physically dangerous nightmare. In contrast, illegal loggers were
tacitly supported and locally accepted without any legal basis. Actual
legal timber extraction required higher investments, in some cases even
entrenching dependence on timber traders. Legality, constituted by
community control, was costly in terms of financial and social cap-
ital, both scarce among the communities. As one jefe commented,
“we are all illegal here . . . now we need to sell some more timber
in order legalize ourselves!” People complained about a cumbersome
and expensive process to legalize extraction. This rendered illegality
more socially viable. While NGO projects argue for long-term eco-
logical management, against the short-termism of madederos, from
another perspective the latter offered long-term loans to address imme-
diate social needs. It was a two-way street, with indigenous access to
credit and commodities, and trader access to indigenous lands and

Power in the forest

people are telling me that we should engage with the madedero . . .

because that’s the way it is.
(Yánesha jefe attempting to legalize production)
110 Post-frontier Resource Governance

What explains the relative ease with which madederos could maintain an
asymmetrical, and clearly non-beneficial, modus operandi within titled
areas, and with which institutional efforts could strengthen community
autonomy in the market? The pervasive presence of social inequities
in the forestry sector was not simply about elite imposition alone,
but about a series of social interdependencies which worked far bet-
ter than the presumed social benefits of sustainable forestry projects.
Reverse governance was socially embedded and structured, not hap-
hazard. It was not a resource-specific phenomenon, but a historically
grounded non-linear social practice. The power, influence and abuses of
lumber barons are long and ongoing chapters in the forest frontier cycles
of the Amazon (Bodley 1972; Hvalkof 2002: 100). While land titling in
theory shifted the balance in this respect, the Yánesha experience reveals
the continuities and the limits of titling and formal empowerment.
Forestry was not a neutral linear space of divided roles and responsibil-
ities mediated through law, but a socially embedded space with actors
positioned differentially in terms of access and influence. The Yánesha
encounter with the market economy was indirect and socially mediated.
Community forestry was embedded in long-standing frontier rela-
tions constituted by the interdependence of patron-clients, debt and
political power. Debt-based relationships, for example, were long-
standing social practices. Some 33,000 persons were estimated to be
caught up in the habilitación-enganche system of debt-based, forced
labour in the timber sector (Bedoya and Bedoya 2005). Gow describes
the habilitación system of the lumber business in Alto Ucayali, not-
ing how credit access was controlled by the owners of the sawmills.
He argues that there was no market per se (except for those in con-
trol), but rather a system of credit flows (P. Gow 1991: 97). While
the habilitación-enganche practice was not recurrent in the Palcazú Val-
ley, other forms of debt practice tied labour and resources together.
Guillermo Frantzen, a late-19th-century rubber extractor in the Palcazú
Valley, bragged to a visiting Frenchman: “tout mon secret . . . est de leur
créer besoins [my secret . . . is to create needs for them]” (quoted in
Ordinaire 1892: 139–140). Frantzen offered Yánesha and Ashaninka
medicine, products and protection in return for rubber collected.
By the end of the 1960s, 90% of Yánesha men in the Palcazú valley
were “in debt to one patron or another and spent most of their produc-
tive time and energy working off their debts” (Richard C. Smith 1982:
31). This was maintained in a cattle economy, where patrónes controlled
air transportation, slaughterhouse and marketing channels combined
with a system of debt peonage. Known as the “al partir” system, it
involved Yánesha assuming the risks and costs of raising cattle provided
Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation 111

by large landowners, in return for keeping half the offspring (Smith

1982: 50–51). Today, the system has virtually vanished. One comunero
interviewee had, a few years earlier, independently raised cattle until
his wife fell sick with cancer, forcing him to sell off his livestock. He
had then returned to the previous system, raising 40 head owned by
a big landowner on communal territory with the promise of getting
half of the offspring in return. In a similar manner, contemporary com-
munities assume the risks and management costs of timber extraction.
In both cases, asymmetries relied on trade monopolies. Cattle traders
in the 1970s relied on monopolized trade routes, just as lumber barons
today control illegal market channels.

Concluding remarks: Understanding post-frontier


Three decades of post-frontier investments in community forestry reveal

the significant challenges of transforming the forest frontier. Pierre
Clastres argued that societies without a state exist because “l’Etat y est
impossible” (1974: 174). “Primitive society”, he suggested, allowed no
room for the emergence of accumulation and private property. As an
analogy, long-standing social relations did not allow for post-frontier
community forestry to replace predatory dynamics and elite control.
Whereas tenure battles were won, the resource wars were not over. To
paraphrase Sherry Ortner (2006: 2), environmental histories seemed to
be “making people” in the Palcazú, rather than the other way round.
Whereas observers argue that land titling and indigenous mobiliza-
tion has subverted the “Amazonian patron-peon nexus” (Hvalkof 2006:
225), the Palcazú Valley revealed timber elites making “peau neuve”.
Management plans built on community titles, aimed at illustrating func-
tioning community independence and careful planning, yet were deeply
penetrated by madedero elites and social control. Such governance per-
meability and the creativity invested in recycling formal documents
are common across the country (Defensoría del Pueblo 2010). I have
called this reverse governance to describe the ability to reverse social
transformation of the post-frontier into a consolidated status quo. Such
practices are not a recent invention, nor are they limited to Peru. When
Peruvian forestry legislation in the 1970s introduced 1,000 ha con-
tracts for small loggers, a similar exploitative scheme between big timber
companies, middlemen and resource-poor small loggers soon developed
(Bedoya and Bedoya 2005; World Bank 2007). This practice is found
across the world within other post-frontier schemes, such as industrial
timber and pulp producers in Alaska making use of native claims for
112 Post-frontier Resource Governance

tactical reasons to access resources (Dombrowski 2002). Only through

grasping reverse agency and effects may we capture the real emergent
nature of post-frontier institutions and the hard-lived potent force of
reworked frontiers (Little 2001: 237).
Sustainable forest regimes involve linear transformations, rather than
total transformations, of the underlying relations historically constitu-
tive of forest governance. According to their rights, Yánesha, were de jure
managers of resources within their recognized lands and forests, and
retained de facto lost control. The experience raises the broader point
about how the social outcome of recognizing rights is neither socially or
politically stable nor given. The recognition of rights may transform the
formal topography, yet does not necessarily transform the distribution
of “socio-economic capabilities”, to use Amartya Sen’s words (1999).
Where Rudel distinguishes between periods of state-driven and
enterprise-driven deforestation (Rudel 2007), we may perhaps speak
of “post-frontier deforestation”, as the logics of unsustainable forest
management are intertwined with, rather than in opposition to, the
sustainability institutions. Whereas frontier battlefields involve sharp
divisions between big forest concessions and sustainable management,
the post-frontier battlefields are situated beneath and within empowered
institutions, established to ensure sustainable outcomes. The prob-
lem is no longer ill-defined or neglected community rights alone, but
equally reversed and undermined rights. The new power games of
the post-frontier involve maintaining domination through community
institutions rather than refusing forest rights. Does such reversibility
constrict the emancipatory potential of community-driven approaches
and rights? Arguably not, yet it does point to the limits of managerial
discourse concentrated on institutional design alone.
Vigilance is warranted against “easy” victories of rights-based projec-
tions and institutional tool tinkering. Rights are often contrasted with
soft participation measures as the necessary hard currency to shift the
tide of indigenous exclusion and secure effective control. Such contrasts,
however, ignore the reversibility of hard rights, just as they ignore how
soft participation may harden. This case study tells a different story, not
of consolidating rights, but of rights being socially consolidated. The
problem among the Yánesha was not the lack of forest rights or absence
of contracts per se, but their reversal and their socially embedded nature.
Liberating Yánesha from debt, social control and other ties of hierarchy
and obligation was the real post-frontier challenge.
Oil Exploration and the Extractive

Introduction: Beyond crude power

Extractive industries form a fundamental, and deepening, part of the

Latin American political economy, affecting ever more distant envi-
ronments across the continent. Anthropologically, how do we con-
ceptualize the governance encounter between extractive industries and
indigenous communities inhabiting the very places where the hunt for
resources is taking hold? How do we conceptualize the encounter of
the big with the small, the geopolitically important, with the socially
insignificant? How, and to what extent, do post-frontier regulations and
practices, transform the governance dynamics at stake? This chapter
explores the advent of the post-frontier in the extractive industry,
through an ethnographic portrayal of the workings of new mitigation
devices in the oil fields of the Peruvian Amazon.
Whereas there has been much analysis of mining, conflicts and
sustainability in the Peruvian Andes (Bebbington et al. 2010; Bury
2008; Campbell et al. 2011), oil developments in the Amazon have
received somewhat less attention, with notable exceptions (Finer et al.
2008; Orta-Martíneza and Finer 2010). Annual oil production from the
Peruvian Amazon has been estimated to fuel less than four hours of cur-
rent global oil consumption (Orta-Martíneza and Finer 2010: 216), yet
remains at the heart of current socio-environmental conflicts. “4 hours
of joy, 30 years of misery?”, one is tempted to ask given the high envi-
ronmental and social stakes. The rapid increase of oil concessions in the
Peruvian Amazon between 2004 and 2007, from 14% to 70% coverage,
created a highly conflictive but also fertile ground for empirically under-
standing the significance of post-frontier institution building. There
are today some 82 signed oil contracts in the Peruvian Amazon, 20 of

114 Post-frontier Resource Governance

which are for extraction and 62 for exploration involving 56 different

Indigenous peoples in the Amazon make up some 10% of its total pop-
ulation, inhabiting many of the areas where oil and gas exploration has
exploded within the last decade. By the end of 2012, it was estimated
that some 22 oil and gas projects were paralysed due to social protest.1
In contrast to prevailing interpretations of oil geographies as state impo-
sition and corporate control, this chapter explores the post-frontier
dynamics through the lens of new forms of territoriality, citizenship
and development engineering, as well as local socialities. Environmen-
tal impact assessments, consultation and agreement-building processes
stand out as markers of this extractive post-frontier.

The extractive frontier

A recent boom in energy, metals and minerals has made extractive fron-
tiers an undeniable part of contemporary world affairs. In 2011, the
total budget of some 3,500 companies for non-ferrous metal exploration
reached USD18.2 billion, with increasing exploration in so-called “high-
risk countries” (MEG 2012). While much attention is now being paid
to the geopolitics of the “shale revolution” in oil and gas, expansion
of conventional oil exploration is no less significant a story (BP 2013).
High fossil fuel prices have permitted exploration in ever more distant
and technologically complex settings. From one perspective, the mas-
sive expansion of oil, gas and mining projects involves a fundamental
conflict of interests, resulting in social frictions. As Watts notes, “Oil is
unavoidably an engagement with some of the largest and most power-
ful forces of transnational capital (who show up on the local doorstep)”
(Watts 2001).
Whether from the perspective of social discontent or academic cri-
tique, much literature stresses extractive industry expansion as an
unholy, neoliberal alliance between capital-hungry complicit govern-
ments, multilateral agencies and multinational companies. Oil compa-
nies epitomize the empowered private sector, trumping both localities
and the very states within which they operate. Images of displaced
communities, environmental contamination and social conflict abound
in public representations of extractive industry projects. Sawyer and
Gomez speak of “a particularly exploitative record of colonial and
postcolonial predation” (2008: 25). Oil companies are seen to spear-
head an omnivorous, capitalist world system creating social and envi-
ronmental havoc at the frontier. Reports like the Gaia Foundation’s
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 115

“Opening Pandora’s box” decry the “devastating impacts on pre-existing

indigenous economies” (Sibaud 2012: 15). Opening ever-more distant
resource frontiers, companies impose new orders threatening local cul-
ture (Fontaine 2005) and environmental sustainability (Orta-Martíneza
and Finer 2010). From this perspective, post-frontier institutions remain
weak or insignificant. What dominates is a relationship of crude power
and petro-violence (Watts 2001) in a nasty world of private secu-
rity, replacing state monopolies of violence with cultures crushed,
and resource extraction going “hand in hand with ruthlessness and
violence” (Sawyer and Gomez 2008: 25).
Still, such common scenarios of big industry crushing small commu-
nities and fragile environments rarely do full justice to the complexity
of the encounter. While civil society organizations are struggling to
address the multiple consequences of the ever-deeper resource bonanza
at stake, analysis of the true paradox remains limited. For one, post-
frontier institutions have arguably transformed the encounter with
extractive industries from one of direct imposition towards one medi-
ated by new political technologies and regulatory practice. It is neither
the resource hunger nor the social conflicts which are surprising, but
the fact that they can and continuously do take place in a post-
frontier landscape. Extractive frontiers are thriving and were intensified
in the same period during which post-frontier regulatory regimes were
being globally consolidated. Fontaine cautiously qualifies this as the
“strategic but not hegemonic” role of private sector actors (Fontaine
2010). Others emphasize the state taking a back-seat role and bear-
ing witness to corporate mediations (Rodriguez-Garavito 2010: 38).
It is these blurred lines between deepening resource extraction and
regulation, nominally level playing fields, between glaring inequali-
ties, and non-hegemony and power, that constitute post-frontier battle

Emerging post-frontier practice

Starting in the 1860s, Peruvian oil exploration was intimately con-

nected to foreign technology and capital. A major push arrived in 1952
with the introduction of a petroleum law that led to the approval of
around 1,200 concessions covering some 16 million ha (Moore 1996:
29). Between 1955 and 1960, the Cerro de Pasco Corporation conducted
geological studies and test drilling in parts of the Palcazú Valley (ONERN
1970; PARSEP and Wine 2000). This will be the principle focus of this
chapter. Indigenous involvement was minimal. One informant’s father,
116 Post-frontier Resource Governance

for example, was hired to hunt game for the oil camp workers. Another
commented on the company’s past practices:

No, they never did like they do now. They just came and worked
here . . . Yeah, they looked for workers and I worked there some
time . . . But I didn’t get used to it. First of all it was hot, lots of ants
during the night. I only managed fifteen days.

Although exploration was abandoned, it left constitutive traces in the

Palcazú frontier space, provoking land claims and a colono entrance
in the Palcazú (Barclay and Santos 1980). By 1958, most land had
thus been claimed by others except for one indigenous land claim by
the Adventists in Loma Linda (Richard C. Smith 1982: 27). While the
company, land claims and accompanying hopes eventually left, oil-
instigated airplane landing sites, expansion of cattle-raising and some
individual workers remained. Iscozacin, till then a small collection of
houses, was thus in part a result of oil exploration. In other parts of the
country, the impacts of oil were deeper and more dramatic.
The emergence of the oil post-frontier was not a one-off event, but
involved the contested and incremental arrival of new practices. Oil
exploration reappeared in the valleys in the 1990s through a conces-
sion operated by the French company Elf (Moore 1996). This period also
saw the consolidation of civil society networks, indigenous rights claims
and collective action around oil blocks, not least in the Selva Central
(La Torre 1998). FECONAYA, the Yánesha federation, called for the pro-
tection of territorial integrity and environmental protection in both its
territories, as well as in the neighbouring protected areas. Safeguard mea-
sures were in the making. The Camisea project, the biggest gas project
in the country, was relaunched as a state-of-the-art initiative in promot-
ing consultation procedures (Richard C. Smith 2005). Contracts were no
longer merely about crude property, taxation and state guarantees, but
increasingly about social and environmental commitments.
In the Selva Central, one of the main public demands was access to
the whole environmental impact assessment study and the environ-
mental management plan. Symptomatic of the time, it was provided
only after protests and high-level meetings. Indigenous organizations
also called for economic support to develop an independent monitor-
ing system. On the ground, the oil company produced a pamphlet
entitled “Our rights when an oil company arrives”, while obtaining
“community permits” to undertake seismic explorations combined with
a system of individual and communal compensation. While the conces-
sion was eventually aborted due to guerilla activity, the case revealed the
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 117

development of new post-frontier devices around rights and environ-

mental sustainability. A decade later, most companies would no longer
hide safeguard measures, but would rather include them in public policy
statements and initiatives.

The return of exploration

Petrolifera obtained an exploration and extraction contract for block

107 in 2005, among 30 other contracts signed by Perupetro between
2005 and 2007. The Canadian oil company formed part of a tidal wave
of FDI in Peru, tripling between 1998 and 2007, seizing opportuni-
ties generated by government deregulation and pro-business policies.
“Carpe diem. That’s one phrase that accurately sums up the success story
of Connacher Oil and Gas Limited.”2
In 2007, following the massive concession spree, President Garcia
argued vehemently against Peru leaving millions of hectares of jungle
unexplored, with oil fetching 90 USD per barrel (García 2007). The way
forward was to explore and generate value for the nation at large, leav-
ing exploration behind in the Palcazú. Ordinary citizens and indigenous
communities had little say about the concessions being granted, deci-
sions made and the environmental consequences. What remained was
actual implementation.
As the oil company noted in its 2006 annual meeting, “Thanks
to the excellent support from Perupetro and DGAAE [The General
Directorate of Energy and Environmental Affairs], Petrolifera was very
well received by the Indigenous Communities on Block 107” (Petrolifera
2006: 39). Legitimacy, from this perspective, was only a question of
rolling out legally prescribed measures. This included standard safe-
guard mechanisms, from social and environmental impact assessments
to legally required public hearings. The latter were informative about
progress made on issues such as impact assessments and mitigation
plans. Essentially, a contract was developed which allowed seven years
of exploration and 30–40 years of extraction. “We work to comply with
the norms,” the community relations officer explained to me. Yet, from
another perspective, much more was at stake.

Negative reciprocity, mimicry and

relationship engineering

In 2007, the temporary and fenced-off Palcazú headquarters of the com-

pany and the frequent helicopter flights signalled economic, material
and symbolic power. Internet connection, independent electricity
118 Post-frontier Resource Governance

supply and separate food arrangements testified to enclave logics and

asymmetries far from the local Palcazú reality then characterized by elec-
tricity cuts, rudimentary transportation and rampant relative poverty.
Within historically shaped moral economies, acts of digging, remov-
ing and selling off were contrasted with local forms of nurturing,
producing and social reproduction. For many, extractive industries rep-
resented symbolic deprivation through the removal of resources from
a given environment with limited, if any, processing or local labour
(Bebbington 2008). Within this larger framework, state-sanctioned safe-
guard measures hardly settled the legitimacy matters in block 107. The
working group behind the nascent Ministry of Environment politely
described the field as lacking “clear and defined environmental manage-
ment and social policies” (Grupo de Trabajo Multisectorial 2008: 27).
It was no coincidence that indigenous community relations officers,
among them former leaders, were deployed in advance before activities
started. As one officer explained to me:

The first that go are those from the social affairs unit, because we need
to inform the population what the study is about, what we seek for
the future. So, we, as social affairs, are the first to pave the road [and]
convince the population [ . . . ] because many people don’t want it to
pass through their site. [I see] that is, sometimes there are problems
like “I don’t want it” or they claim a very high price no? [Yes.] So the
company . . . in the end, well, we’re part of the company [ok] and we
need to respond and try to convince them no.
(Personal interview with Yánesha
community relations officer)

One indigenous federation, UNAY, had denied the company access to

its member communities. Another highly debated legitimacy concern
involved seismic exploration in areas further north of the concession,
overlapping with a proposed reserve for Cacataibo indigenous people in
voluntary isolation (CIEL and IBC 2007).3 The presence of indigenous
peoples in voluntary isolation, exploration in protected areas and the
massive concession spree without consultation or consent across the
Amazon reinforced a legitimacy deficit, triggering massive indigenous
and wider civil society mobilizations from 2007 onwards.
Although the indigenous federation in Palcazú had facilitated con-
sultations and access to community leaders, individual Yánesha raised
considerable doubt about the effects of exploration, having been made
lofty promises more than once. From an exchange point of view, this
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 119

put the oil company at the risk of being associated with negative reci-
procity, that is “to get something for nothing” (Sahlins 1974: 195).
Rather than being able to impose operational peace or a convenient
oil governmentality, the company engaged in constant relationship
building to avoid radical alterity. Whereas Adam Smith emphasized
individual self-interest as the most effective social bond to tie society
together, company officials knew that generosity and gift giving were
far more effective alternatives.
Local oil operations entailed adapting to local forms, values and even
local power culture. What was considered good corporate behaviour was
not only about required safeguard measures, but also about engaging
with cultural prescriptions of sharing, generosity and correct behaviour.
“Relationship management” was all about mimicking local forms of
exchange and good behaviour. In the natural world, insects imitate
harmful species to avoid predators; the company officials did exactly the
opposite, and took on the hues of “friends” to avoid predatory accusa-
tions. Several indigenous leaders spoke of their “friend” or “friendship”
with the oil company relacionista. The company, from very early on,
engaged in support and gift giving. Small credits, sponsoring bus tick-
ets and giving rides were part of efforts to “help out”, as were a set of
agreements of “reciprocal assistance” with indigenous organizations.
Breaking rules, helping without an immediate return were imitations
of generalized reciprocity within an underlying instrumental logic of
keeping operations going. Company staff also entered into imitations
of patron–client and compradazgo relationships for social events, such as
indigenous conferences, a well-established social practice built up with
local elites. They wanted – indeed, needed – to show they were giv-
ing something in return. It was the exact opposite of the impersonal
business of the hitman about to liquidate someone; “don’t take this
personally, it’s just business” (Hart 2005). Oil companies were embark-
ing upon a project that fundamentally threatened indigenous ways of
life, yet they sought to demonstrate that “This is not just business,
it’s personal”, that they were “friends”. Where Marx in the commu-
nist manifesto emphasized how the bourgeoisie had “torn away from
the family its sentimental veil, and reduced the family relation to a
mere money relation” (Marx and Engels 1969 (1848): Section 1), oil
actors attempted to do the contrary by turning an asymmetrical money
relation into a family, friendship and shared development vision.
What had been the problematic basis for social claims in the 1990s
had been incorporated into its function ten years later. The com-
pany implemented programmes on information, local employment,
120 Post-frontier Resource Governance

community monitoring and compensation, a distinct social programme

and a specific “anthropological contingency” programme to deal with
indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation further north in the conces-
sion. Impact studies were no longer hidden away but were rendered
public, consolidating a distinct field of post-frontier practice. Tying
all these efforts together was a “community relations plan”, the goal
of which was to establish “cordial relationships” while accompany-
ing standard safeguard measures as environmental monitoring and

Monitoring the lines and territorializing oil

In late 2007 a group of young Yánesha, handpicked by community jefes

and the indigenous federation, were trained to monitor the impacts
of the seismic exploration phase with the support of a consultancy
company contracted by the oil company. The straight seismic lines
appearing on maps across valleys, communities and protected areas
reflected a distinct resource geography of potentialities. PROMOSAC
(PROgrama de MOnitoreo Socio Ambiental Comunal), the entity of
community monitoring, was initially headed by the brother of an out-
spoken Yánesha leader. At a later public event, a community relations
officer spoke warmly of monitoring in the Camisea gasfields further
south where communities were equipped with computers, motorboats
and radio networks. “If they hear of an incident in a stream, they make
the decision to go, they don’t need to sell timber . . . they have their
fuel . . . so there are no environmental problems . . . the 22 monitors are
watching” (personal communication 2009).
Just as gas dollars had financed the Camisea monitoring scheme
through transportation, salaries, computers and even a website,
PROMOSAC members were hopeful for similar conditions. Monitoring
arrangements were established with the consultancy firm paid for by
the oil company based on a “bi-partite decision between the federation
and the company”, as one representative put it to me. Environmen-
tal protection had been corporatized. This was further compounded
by the subordination of local environmental management processes
(Larsen 2011b). In practice, Yánesha community monitors played an
ambiguous go-between role between the federation, communities and
the company. They followed the negative environmental potentiali-
ties of seismic lines using pre-established formats. Had trash been left
behind? Were working conditions respected? What was the width of
trees cut to place the lines? The young Yánesha selected by the jefes, in
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 121

communities having accepted exploration, had received some training

and were generally accompanied by company staff on their field visits.
Actual monitoring practice was not unproblematic. Baseline data were
weak. While most reports indicated few problems, one monitor infor-
mally raised problems with trash left behind, felling trees larger than
the diameter planned, etc. Another commented on how they only mon-
itored to the boundary of the community, but not in the neighbouring
private grounds and protected areas. Others mentioned the difficulty
of getting workers to talk about problems. There were good reasons to
keep quiet. Hired workers had flexible contracts, and troublemakers were
reportedly let go. Actual time to monitor impacts was very limited, and
critique was virtually absent. It became about following minimalist mit-
igation lines, but also remaining within official lines of reporting. It was
illustrative that, in one case, impact problems were being noted on the
back of the monitoring sheet – the problems experienced did not “fit
the form”.
Such oil governmentalities were contested. Some of the Yánesha
hired to do monitoring called for independent monitoring programmes
with their own juridical persona. They called for longer contracts and
more resources, as well as in-depth monitoring training. Biodiversity
monitoring was also profoundly flawed, and essentially limited to the
monitoring of felled trees. I had specifically questioned one of the hired
consultants leading PROMOSAC about the difference between commu-
nity and protected area monitoring, to which he replied: “they are
similar . . . because the resources are the same, that is, there (in the pro-
tected areas) there is also flora, there is also fauna . . . the same water
resources”. Non-timber forest products such as medicinal plants were,
for example, completely ignored. More importantly, during the initial
seismic phase, the company “overlooked” monitoring the impacts of
four seismic lines within the San Matias San Carlos protected area.
Furthermore, the company had not initiated monitoring within the
Yánesha Communal Reserve where exploration had taken place with-
out the prior informed approval of either AMARCY or the state agency
in charge. Ambiguities of Peruvian protected area legislation provided
leeway for oil exploration within, or right next to, the protected areas.
Upon critique, the company engaged in damage control by initiating
a biodiversity assessment for the protected areas, and hiring community
members to (belatedly) start monitoring impacts within them. Neither
of these activities was unproblematic. The study was supposed to serve
as a baseline, and spoke of the communal reserve as “already degraded”,
minimizing potential negative impacts of oil exploration. Members of
122 Post-frontier Resource Governance

the community organization, which had initially been ignored, were

contracted to be responsible for environmental oversight in the pro-
tected areas. Their contract used legally binding language, where the
community organization was committed to “watch over” the environ-
mental management plan in both the Reserva Comunal Yánesha and
San Matias San Carlos for the modest sum of 63,000 soles (21,000 USD).
Members elected to represent communities on protected area conser-
vation issues had not only become hired staff, but were responsible
for flawed monitoring design whose implementation they had little
control over.
Mitigation plans and monitoring practice were structuring processes
territorializing the Palcazú Valley as a legitimate oil space. In this sense,
they were representational devices with the double-bind connotation
of “doing good” while demarcating the legally sanctioned boundaries
of corporate responsibility – and even more significantly – publicly
legitimating claim spaces for social actors. They were at once devices
of observation (what is seen and what not), of representation (setting
criteria for what was mapped) and of prescription (what should and
could be done). They delineated what should be monitored and what
could be contested, consolidating an oil territoriality that was no longer
simply based on government concessions alone but equally through
community participation. It involved a particular rearticulation of terri-
tory, grounded in documents and practices creating the physical, legal,
economic and social conditions for exploration and potential extraction
to take place. As post-frontier measures, they deepened rather than chal-
lenged the oil fields that were in the making. This stood in contrast with
a local emphasis on indigenous autonomy in the communities.

Neoliberal autonomy and agreement building

Autonomy and self-determination are central to transnational indige-

nous claims and politics (Stavenhagen 2002). They also appeared as
cherished political principles among the Yánesha. Yet, somewhat sur-
prisingly, autonomy did not appear to fundamentally challenge the
oil presence. Contrary to images of “oil versus the people”, Yánesha
autonomy seemed to suit corporate practice. How are we to make sense
of such “odd bedfellows”? How do we explain what appeared as yet
another implosion of rights and autonomy? As Scott notes: “The prob-
lem of exploitation and income is thus not just a problem of calories
and income but is a question of peasant conceptions of social justice, of
rights and obligations, of reciprocity” (Scott 1976: vii).
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 123

Historically, self-determination issues were discussed from an early

stage in governance crafting, connected to native communities. Stefano
Varese had specified the need for native society self-governance (auto-
gobierno) to reverse the history of national assimilation, land grabbing
and cheap labour. “Modern leaders” would mediate between tradition
and the nation state to resolve conflicts, deal with internal matters and
allow for local democratic participation (Varese 1974 (1970)). A cen-
tral pillar enshrined in community statutes, autonomy reflected both
the boundaries of territory and a locus for making decisions. In a cul-
turally grounded subsidiarity logic, decisions that could be made by
community general assemblies should be made locally.
Still, the practice of autonomy had nothing to do with Westphalian
sovereignty, based on the idea of excluding external actors from author-
ity structures (Krasner 1999). Rather, indigenous territories were funda-
mentally entangled in lines of authority, granted or taken by others.
Autonomy was articulated within, rather than as an alternative to, exist-
ing practices of state sovereignty retaining subsoil rights.4 Thus, federa-
tion leaders between 2007 and 2009 emphasized a nested notion of how
communities were autonomous and could make their own decisions
regarding oil and mining, without the federation interfering. This was
reinforced by a strong sense of individual will and personal autonomy
among the Yánesha pertaining to economic matters: “Nobody is enti-
tled to control the economic activities of anybody else” (Santos-Granero
1986: 123). Local autonomy discourse, combined with engrained mis-
trust of their federation in handling money, led to direct agreement
building between the company and individual communities. As the
FECONAYA president explained in 2008:

To avoid accusations that I was taking money and bribes, agreements

were made in the general assembly of the communities and the com-
pany deposited funds directly with the jefe. Compensation has been
paid directly to each jefe. I haven’t received one cent. The jefes haven’t
paid me one sol!

As a result, the federation played a kind of gate-keeping or brokering

role, guiding the company towards autonomous comunidades that made
their own decisions. Indigenous leaders were not adversaries, but social
mediators for a common (extractive) development project. Here was the
kind of economic liberalism – free of state and NGO interference – where
resourceful entrepreneurs met resource-plenty indigenous communities
to strike bilateral deals. It was the neoliberal knowledge economy, where
124 Post-frontier Resource Governance

former indigenous leaders, hired by the oil company, “only” facilitated

the process, but left decisions in the hands of the rightful commu-
nities and investment eager business. It was also a form of neotribal
regulation, grounded in community decision rather than in state regu-
lation. Unsurprisingly, however, there was not much apparent freedom
between state actors, resource-hungry entrepreneurs and cash-strapped
Virtually all communities and representative organizations in the val-
ley had entered some form of agreement with the company. There
was collaboration, co-financing and even the annual indigenous fed-
eration conference was partly financed by oil money. “We are no longer
independent . . . and mainly complain about money when it does not
arrive,” one leader commented in relation to his role in monitor-
ing impacts. There were no transparent long-term negotiations with
Yánesha and local authorities about territorial planning, long-term
sustainability goals or wider collective rights (such as appropriate con-
sultation measures). Where ILO Convention 169 installs a new social
contract for indigenous peoples’ rights and state obligations, oil gover-
nance practice in Palcazú was rather a story of 169 micro-conventions.
One-by-one agreements were negotiated with respective organizations,
individual communities and individuals. The vast majority of commu-
nities affected by exploration had signed such agreements with the oil
company, while nominating youth for the monitoring programme. In
practice, autonomy favoured divide-and-rule tactics, while undermin-
ing the potential for collective bargaining and decision making. The
company seemed remarkably successful and efficient in convincing a
relatively organized group of indigenous communities to support the
exploration activities. One jefe saw it as the result of former federation
leaders serving as “community relations” officers for the oil company.
In total, some 25 community agreements were signed in block 107.
Negotiating minor, and eventually insignificant, compensation mea-
sures for running seismic exploration on indigenous lands drained a lot
of organizational attention and energy, as well as generating splits and
competition among indigenous leadership. Where one might expect
teams of lawyers and resource economists to determine the contents,
compensation agreements in Palcazú were back-of-the-envelope calcu-
lations based on agricultural produce. Compensation benefits reflected
micro-calculations based on land covered and (part of the) resources
affected. Individuals complained over amounts, lost crops, particular
home gardens or other concerns. Community monitors, in turn, were
busy verifying micro-complaints. People were more preoccupied about
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 125

equal treatment – comparing amounts between communities – rather

than the bigger picture and the possible consequences of oil exploration
in their territories.
Agreements were based on what was considered “reasonable”. They
were used to showcase good relationships to local, financial and NGO
audiences, taking compensaton agreements as a social licence for com-
pany activities. It suited the company to perform agreement building
locally, and even avoid indigenous organizations, other than using them
as door openers. It also seemed, during fieldwork, to suit government
officials to simply observe operational activities as they were undertaken
by industry subcontractors. The point here is not to unravel all these
details and mechanisms, but to underline the bottom line of the con-
strained practices of autonomy and instrumentalized use of safeguard
mechanisms in a highly asymmetrical relationship. Just as timber barons
worked directly with individual owners in identifying trees and striking
deals, oil negotiations involved individual jobs and compensation agree-
ments alongside individual community arrangements – all in the name
of autonomy, while seemingly undermining it. Yet, there was more to
consolidating oil territoriality than minimalist monitoring and setting
up micro-agreements through indigenous autonomy.

Replacing the state: Development, citizenship

and rights

Corporate power was not merely about dominating post-frontier

devices, but equally about offering an alternative to the failing state.
Development projections were central to such efforts, spreading the
word of better futures in the making. Contrary to the dependencies of
previously established extraction sites (Nash 1993), such dependencies
needed to be installed or constructed on new oil sites. Corporate rhetoric
proposed a new social contract, reframing ideas of citizenship, territory
and development. Within this discourse, indigenous communities were
part of the oil adventure and were no longer victims of frontier trans-
formation. They were possible beneficiaries under community relations
schemes and “shared risks”. The politics of development was the major
local preoccupation.
Yánesha debates about the future of their children predominated
collective politics and “development” contributions by external institu-
tions opened doors. I first experienced such debates in a general assem-
bly in a lower-lying community near Ciudad Constitución. Comuneros
were busy debating how to spend the 5,000 soles received from the
126 Post-frontier Resource Governance

company as compensation. One man suggested buying poultry, another

wanted scholarships for children:

We need to think about the education of our children, schools, roads,

only that way will we get out of the current chaos. As long as we don’t
have professionals, it will always be chaos.

His notion of chaos was understandable. Located in an important coca-

growing zone, violence and quick money were rampant. Furthermore,
chaos is the central antinomy of Yánesha cultural identity (Richard
Chase Smith 1977b) and scholarships seemed like an exit strategy.
Where degraded and insecure roads testified to development and state
failures, the alternative practice of oil company transportation means
symbolized a new development possibility. Sawyer argues how the
Ecuadorian state retreated from its role as the protector of well-being,
instead of leaving the driver’s seat to oil companies and bestowing gifts
and small projects (Sawyer 2004: 9). Oil development was not imposed,
but incited (Rubenstein 2004).
The oil company presented a developed territorial vision, not merely
the imposition of subsoil resource extraction. Seductive narratives of
wealth and jobs were part of the promising future. While selling oil
landscapes to international investors highlighted extraction potential,
what mattered locally was the development landscapes of jobs, better
infrastructure and child health. Indigenous representatives were sent by
the companies to Camisea gas fields and Canada, where they attended
workshops to “understand” what oil and gas would bring. Despite not
having been part of the trip, one Yánesha, nonetheless commented how:

In Calgary, they not only respect, but invest in, communities . . . we are pre-
pared here, we don’t want more deaths, let’s be careful, the impacts
(of oil) will be minimal . . . we’ve got drugtrafficking here . . . there is
no other way than negotiating with the oil companies . . . we have
recently begun on friendly terms, coordinating, they have social pro-
grammes here, but there is still not a business focus here. We should
be organizing businesses . . . with small businesses we can negoti-
ate, we can create viable initiatives, organize ourselves, build our
(Personal interview 2008)

He emphasized that Canadian indigenas rented hotel rooms, drove cars

and ran enterprises, and suggested that he wanted the same. “We also
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 127

want companies, we want to be big, have money – and not continue

begging,” another representative added. This demonstrated a belief
in the market, and in oil as a cargo-like development tool. There
were hopes of new lives, over and above the receipt of compensation,
grounded in local modernization theories. Ingenieros, paid jobs and edu-
cation were signs of good and decent lives; oil was seen as an avenue
to appropriate such symbols. Rather than measuring compensation in
quantitative monetary terms, it involved the search for a qualitative
shift in terms of access to market-based development while exiting the
declining development state. It was an aspirational logic, which sub-
contractors and the oil company readily utilized despite any lack of
certainty that promises would ever be fulfilled.
Such positive connotations were not accidental, but resulted from
the steady production by companies, the state and from CONAP
(Confederación de Nacionalidades Amazónicas del Peru), the national
indigenous federation. Among the two national federations represent-
ing indigenous organizations of the Amazon, CONAP had in recent
years been actively promoting dialogue with oil companies and the
state. It had signed a cooperation agreement with PeruPetro, the
national agency in charge of oil concessions, in 2007. Shortly after-
wards, its president, Cesar Sarasara, linked oil, opportunity and auton-
omy together when speaking to oil investors in the energy capital of the
world, Houston, Texas:

We the indigenous peoples are looking for new opportunities of

life . . . For that reason, and for our autonomy, we have signed an
agreement with PeruPetro. We want new opportunities . . . better liv-
ing conditions . . . and that private investments should take place in
a way that the indigena finds a new development and a new form of
complete existence.5

Sarasara formulated it as an alternative to the state, of radical change

through private investment. As Yánesha leaders in Ciudad Constitución
in 2007 put it:

We are looking for the money and want to have a direct relationship
with their owner (“el dueño de la plata”). We don’t want the state to

The employers, unions and government agencies were replaced by the

private sector and community entrepreneurs. It was a kind of neoliberal
128 Post-frontier Resource Governance

partnership philosophy, reflecting individual choice and negotiated ser-

vice agreements between enterprises and communities. The deception
of state-driven development projections was frequently evoked. One
indigenous leader spoke of “the infidelity of the state” and, after an
agreement had been negotiated, of “the good fortune that Petrolifera
would return again”. The company was another “father”, another cargo,
a powerful entity to replace the broken promises and the perceived social
chaos left behind by the infidel state.
Oil players were not late to respond. The general manager of
Petrolifera, Carlos Monge, questioned the critique of oil exploration
impacts on native communities as “a wrong message by those who
oppose development and modernization of the country”:

Populations in the interior are very isolated and count with very lit-
tle presence of the State. Conversely, thanks to a government that
promotes investment, the arrival of companies like ours gives these
communities a possibility of developing and improving their living
standards. They have spent their whole lives surviving and isolated
in remote areas of the Amazon region without any opportunity for
improvement. A company like Petrolifera brings a specialized knowl-
edge to a specific area, and explores seeking to find a possible source
of wealth buried in the depths of that territory. If there is a source
of wealth buried there, only an oil company will be able to discover
it. However, this requires a great investment, of money, time and
knowledge, and we provide this opportunity. Native communities
share this understanding and it is important that they participate in
these efforts; they too must share the risk, their time, their peace
of mind, and their territories. It is and must be understood as a
group effort . . . the planet belongs to all and by using high technol-
ogy there are ways to work in the exploitation of its natural resources
in a responsible manner which ensures the well-being of the entire
(Vailija 2009)

Criticizing state absence, state incompetence and development illu-

sions was common political currency in the Amazon. The corporate
player suggested new hope in rearticulated relations of shared territories
and risks. Corporate occupation of state terrains was, however, more
than media tinkering. Where left-wing movements distributed leaflets
encouraging Amazonian strikes, companies readily offered public-type
services such as citizenship cards, welfare support and medical services.
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 129

Furthermore, the oil company was continuously solicited as a source

of “public” funding for social organizations, public events and small
projects. In material and symbolic ways, it occupied core state terrains
of order, services and development promise.
“With money from Petrolifera, we’ve pushed for food for the stu-
dents,” the President of the federation noted in 2008, responding to
worries from parents who had sent their children to Pucallpa to study.
The company was also organizing a medical campaign in ten communi-
ties, he noted. The company’s website pictured Yánesha youth holding
identity cards, provided by the company. They delivered, where elec-
toral promises were long forgotten. They installed development services,
where state agencies remained idle. They provided funding for needy
indigenous organizations rejected or neglected by the state. The very
notion of citizenship was being mobilized. Ready comuneros, in turn,
became workers clearing paths for seismic explorations, participants
in monitoring and beneficiaries of compensation agreements. It was
the transformation of citizenship based on difference towards one of a
shared citizenship–state–business project. In terms of rights, it entailed
a shift from indigenous rights to the right to work.

Workfare and the of labourers

A major bargaining chip in gaining support for exploration involved the

promise of employment. As the company’s executive chairman noted:
“The people there are most anxious to see us come to work. It’s a
job-creating exercise.”6 We may call this “workfare” as it involved the
transformation of oil relationships from dealing with indigenous rights
holders to providing employment for needy jobseekers abandoned by
the state. Where Yánesha hunting or working for oil exploration crews
in the 1950s were the odd exceptions, the engagement of comuneros
as manual labourers during the seismic explorations in 2007 and 2008
was a widely welcomed employment opportunity in communities that
had agreed to exploration on their lands. The company even threat-
ened to move to other, more welcoming, areas if communities did
not accept the terms and conditions. A leader from one of the indige-
nous federations initially rejected oil engagement and expressed how
“his” comuneros complained about being left without jobs. Labour
was not simply an operational necessity, but a structuring device in
rearticulating territoriality and indigenous citizenship.
Whereas most of the qualified workforce with the oil company or
its subcontractors came from elsewhere, local jobs were reserved for
130 Post-frontier Resource Governance

communities that had accepted oil exploration. Agreements with com-

munities specified the number of jobs that were to be provided. “The
agreement was 20 persons, which has been respected till the end,” one
jefe mentioned, referring to how jobs were part of the community’s
acceptance of seismic lines. Employment was even rewritten as a rela-
tion of reciprocity. Gone was the idea of workers providing their labour
in return for doing work (cleaning, service, clearing forest), not to men-
tion the question of access to “their” resources, instead replaced by
the generosity of the oil company “giving” jobs to needy comuneros
as a reciprocal act. This was accentuated by a policy of not giving
jobs to comuneros who had refused the company access to their lands.
Indigenous workers seemed, conveniently, to serve the dual purpose of
engaging locals in operations and naturalizing oil exploration geogra-
phies. People participated in clearing the land for the seismic lines, as
well as performing other services.
The company spoke of generating confidence through “the princi-
ple of shared risks”, additional income and temporary employment for
those who couldn’t access jobs directly. Similarly, both state agencies
and the company sought to engage both current and former indige-
nous leadership. Some were hired formally in “community relations”
positions, whereas others were tied to corporate presence through infor-
mal support and collaboration. Compared with colonial histories, local
labour was not fundamental for the industrial operation but served
instead to build local legitimacy. Workfare was not a question of lock-
ing Indians up in forced labour, but about nurturing the desire to
actively participate in, and benefit from, the presence of oil compa-
nies. Certainly, many comuneros expressed pride in having real, salaried
employment, access to medical services and even in wearing the orange
blue-collar uniform. Petrolifera would continuously emphasize employ-
ment generation as a success in block 107. The company reported hiring
553 local workers and generating some two million soles in salaries dur-
ing the first exploration phase. It was the positioning of indigenous
persons as workers for an enterprise, even beneficaries of employment,
rather than as owners of a territory.

Concluding remarks: Social licences and

post-frontier extraction

The consistent ranking of maintaining a social licence to operate

within the top six risks over the last five years demonstrates it
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 131

is an important element of doing business as opposed to being a

compliance exercise.
(Ernst and Young 2012: 8)

Palcazú oil dynamics were not unique in the wider landscape. They
illustrated a broader shift from “reactive” or defensive approaches to
“proactive” social legitimacy production in the extractive post-frontier.
At the end of the first seismic phase, the community relations offi-
cer would summarize the results at an indigenous congress as follows:
“We have lived up to our compensation agreements”. “220.000 soles
have been distributed directly to communities,” he noted proudly dur-
ing a presentation at the Yánesha congress in 2008. The company had,
he added, worked with 500 people and paid some 1,500,000 soles in
salaries. It had provided social support and had even flown two emer-
gency cases to San Ramon for medical care. Finally, there had been no
“environmental damage”. “We have decided to continue exploration
in the south of the block,” he noted optimistically, adding that “there
would be major income for the region for years should we find some-
thing”. He ended his talk by committing 5,000 soles for a gender project.
He was applauded.
Petrolifera later communicated the first phase of exploration as a suc-
cess: “100% (completed), zero accidents, zero social conflicts” and, most
importantly, “significant potential” as the company put it. The report
spoke of “minimal capital expenditures” for pre-drilling and invest-
ment talks being held with larger companies (Petrolifera 2010). Block
107 had been transformed from a risky opportunity to becoming an
asset, ready to be farmed in a new set of capital(ized) relationships.7
In 2009 and 2010, the oil company initiated new rounds of workshops
and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies for block 107. The
company was shifting from seismic to drilling exploration, and had
narrowed exploration sites down to a number of private landholdings,
many bordering indigenous communities and protected areas. Tempo-
rary headquarters were moved and the establishment of agreements was
further limited to directly affected areas and communities neighbouring
drilling sites.
Portrayals of success were not accidental, but resulted from orches-
trated attempts to manage, negotiate and engineer relations of coopera-
tion, interaction and non-risk. Post-frontier safeguard mechanisms were
carefully managed instruments. In the Palcazú, this involved hiring for-
mer indigenous leaders as community relations officers, setting up and
132 Post-frontier Resource Governance

containing a community-based monitoring system of environmental

and social impacts, occasional handouts, workfare and flexible support
arrangements. Local development, consultation and autonomy were
part of the post-frontier oil geographies, not in radical opposition. Both
indigenous leaders and the company representatives made a point of
emphasizing how each community would define the terms of their
agreements and “contract”, the sanctified pillar of the free market econ-
omy. The hollowed-out residual autonomy left indigenous “deciding”
how to use compensation funds, access to employment or inform-
ing monitoring mechanisms. It was striking how conveniently identity
politics and claims to autonomy versus state interference suited the
neoliberal practicalities of striking workable deals for the oil companies.
Creating alternative development visions, even embarking on state ter-
rains of citizenship and social welfare, were central oil strategies. The
experience is not unique.

To stay ahead, companies have to be proactive in their dealings with

communities and governments. Speed is important as it prevents a
potential issue becoming political.
(Ernst and Young 2012: 26)

In the 21st century, corporate social responsibility and safeguard

measures have become standard post-frontier devices and have profes-
sionalized the domain of industrial intervention. It is widely recognized
that “business as usual”, merely relying on concessions and opera-
tional permits, is no longer an option. In this respect, the post-frontier
involves a shift from direct power contestation to negotiations around
the form and contents of supposedly “neutral” mediatory instruments
like impact assessments and agreement building. Just as Mauss saw social
policy as the return of morality (Mauss 1990 (1954): 87), this chapter
reveals how companies maintain a constant attempt to appear morally
appropriate. Across the world, corporate practices are increasingly pro-
fessionalized around securing “social licences”, replacing state terrains
of action and orchestrating positive community relations. In particu-
lar, negotiated agreements have become part of the managerial tools
employed by extractive industries and governments in indigenous ter-
ritories (O’Faircheallaigh 2004). Bruce Harvey, the global practice leader
on communities and social performance for Rio Tinto, has argued in
highly neoliberal terms that in the 21st century “local agreement mak-
ing, corporate citizenship and global financial scrutiny” would offer
“counterweights to potential sovereign governance deficits” (Harvey
Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier 133

2004: 247). He envisioned a world of “global citizenship and local agree-

ment building . . . away from rigid government intermediation” (ibid.).
The case illustrates how the establishment of rights to recognize,
ensure or restore human dignity may in fact entrench inequities and
discrimination. Where indigenous rights set out to allow indigenous
peoples to deal with, indeed transform, colonial situations (Gray 1997),
the assymetries at stake were glaring. In the Palcazú, indigenous rights
and neoliberal discourse seemed to go hand in hand in emphasizing
free, negotiated choice by autonomous communities. A nightwatchman
state was left in its wake, enforcing property rights alone, in partic-
ular those linked to the concession contract. From one perspective,
oil in the Amazon epitomized a blend of force and consent, the very
centre of Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. Just as Gramsci’s
Italian workers had votes, Yánesha had piecemeal consultation and
autonomy, ultimately guaranteeing their buy-in and complicity rather
than offering a basis for contestation. Yet, from another perspective
oil fields remained highly contested, both in social and environmen-
tal terms. Despite the mimicry of friendship and rights, the short-term
contractual logic of exchange for immediate results was never very far
away. Seismic lines were terminated, phases ended, subcontractors bid
farewell. The simulacra of social relations, like diplomatic exchange,
disguised fundamental contradictions and difference.
Indigenous Power and
Post-frontier Politics


The post-frontier does not involve changing government policies and

regulatory arrangements alone, but equally involves a changing land-
scape of political subjectivities and agency. Where frontier politics are
imposed on the periphery by the centre, spearheaded by frontier pio-
neers, post-frontier narratives are about empowered communities, polit-
ical representation and rights. New “indigenous” forms of governance
institutions (representative organizations, networks and alliances) and
inclusive devices such as consultation mechanisms characterize the
post-frontier landscape.
These dynamics are particularly visible in the Amazon, with the
advent of indigenous organizations and their collective role in contest-
ing, mediating and transforming predatory frontier relations. In princi-
ple, an indigenous person today enjoys equal citizenship rights, special
group rights (codified in legislation), territorial recognition and land
rights (Smith 1994), and is likely to form part of an indigenous orga-
nization in some way or another. Where the colonial mission was “the
quintessential Spanish frontier institution” (Jackson 2009: 330), indige-
nous organizations have become its post-frontier antinomy. The former
were in charge of frontier conversion, whereas the latter represent
post-frontier political empowerment.
The last four decades have seen the unprecedented mushrooming of
indigenous federations sharing organizational forms, identity language,
and political projects. Formalized indigenous political agency today
forms part of Latin American political life (Warren and Jackson 2002),
albeit its forms and articulations vary considerably. They have moved
beyond confined local realms of state-driven developmentalism and

Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 135

become a social movement linking programme, identity and standing

claims (Tilly 2004). There is clearly a “before” and “after” of indige-
nous organizations, rights and recognition, but the question of how
to make sense of this shift remains open for debate. A central tenet of
this new social power and claim, evolves around the notions of rights,
representation, autonomy and self-determination (Stavenhagen 2002).
Whether in the form of indigenous political parties, organizations
or networks, a paradigmatic shift has taken place from the indigenous
development object to the indigenous political subject. Whereas the
first-generation rights perspective, promoted by indigenistas, entailed
elevating the indigenous individual to equal personhood, rights and
citizenship, contemporary second-generation indigeneity entails trans-
forming the structural make-up, allowing for new political subjectivities
framed around collective rights holders claiming autonomous relations
and self-determination. The orthodox “post-colonial” view, Rata notes,
(Rata 2005) signals this as a process of restoration and emancipation.
Such political identities have gained presence in the public governance
arena (Stavenhagen 2002), paralleled by many states “coming out” as
multicultural, constitutionally speaking (Assies 2000; Sieder 2002).
What I explore here is how linear narratives of indigenous organi-
zations act as a prism for (mis)understanding contemporary forms of
indigenous political agency. Rather than getting trapped in the idea of
“half-failed” indigenous cosmopolitan transplants (Dezalay and Garth
2002), this chapter suggests exploring their specific articulations of
power and politics. The Yánesha federation, one of the oldest indige-
nous organizations in South America, serves as the empirical testing
ground. This chapter makes the case for recuperating indigenous agency
in its own terms, not unlike Greene’s emphasis on the Aguaruna
“customizing” indigeneity (Greene 2009). It argues that Yánesha pol-
itics is best understood not through the prism of 20th-century linear
indigeneity (which they pioneered), but through century-old political
culture grounded in loosely tied political alliances in constant need of
social and moral reproduction.

Indigenous linearities revisited

The political organization of the Yánesha is a commonly cited chapter

in the national, continental and even global story of indigenous mobi-
lization (Burger 1987). In his two-volume compilation of indigenous
struggle and organizational history, Moody includes a translated ver-
sion of the initial Amuesha Congress statement (Moody 1988), listed
136 Post-frontier Resource Governance

alongside the Shuar federation in 1964 in Ecuador as the first indige-

nous organizations on the continent. Indigenous organizations in the
Peruvian Amazon started to emerge in the 1960s,1 gradually organizing
themselves into federations. They mushroomed throughout the follow-
ing decades organized around ethnicity, shared river basins and culture,
rather than class or interests (Smith 1994). By January 1980, the Yánesha
were also instrumental in setting up the first national organization,
the Inter-Ethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Jungle, bet-
ter known for its acronym AIDESEP. Soon Cultural Survival and Oxfam
America, and later many others, would finance the expansion of the
national organization and its programme. The spectacular creation of
organizations across the Amazon basin and elsewhere, sharing common
claims, language and approaches, was no coincidence.
Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, lowland Indian issues
became an international concern. Many of the new support organi-
zations appearing in the 1960s and 1970s, such as the International
Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Survival International and
Cultural Survival, involved people with experience in the Amazon.
IWGIA’s very first publication was the reproduction of the Barbados
declaration (Bartolome et al. 1973) supporting the “Indian struggle
for liberation”. From a governance perspective, it underlined “Indian
groups’ right to organize and to govern in accordance with their own
traditions”, as well as state responsibilities to define a “national pub-
lic authority responsible for relations with Indian groups” (ibid.). From
this perspective, the drive to set up representative organizations was
a distinct linear project to allow for indigenous grassroots democracy
to take seed. Organizations and collective agreements voiced through
congresses and elected leadership were considered the basis for indige-
nous claims and political action (Chirif et al. 1991: 31–34), just as there
were recommendations on resource use, alliance building and political
From this perspective, a new political era began with the emergence of
indigenous organizations. National indigenous movements and organi-
zations are, as a consequence, often compared in terms of their relative
strength or presence in national political arenas. Indigenous organiza-
tions able to mobilize and contest national politics are deemed strong,
whereas the opposite are considered weak and poorly organized. Yet, this
gaze also poses something of a straightjacket for decrypting indigenous
politics. Strong representative organizations and visible forms of politics
have come to signify effective, post-frontier, indigenous politics, rele-
gating “weak organizations” as structures in need of improvement. The
Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 137

problem with the linear indigenous mobilization narrative underlining

shifts from exclusion to inclusion, from silence to voice and organized
representation, is that it risks obscuring the histories and contemporary
practice of indigenous politics.
This chapter is essentially concerned with paying attention to the
limits of generic descriptions of indigenous mobilization, agency and
political action (Postero and Zamosc 2006: 3). Whereas previous chap-
ters explored the ambiguity of post-frontier governance devices, I here
address how to make sense of indigenous organizations through the
emblematic case of the Yánesha federation, Federación de Comunidades
Nativas Yánesha (FECONAYA).

Indigenous protests

Indigenous politics in Peru reached global headlines in 2009. Through-

out 2008, I had witnessed growing debates among indigenous leaders
and support organizations about a stream of government decrees that
could potentially affect collective rights and the expansion of extractive
industries in the Amazon. Many indigenous organizations would join
protests across the Amazonian region. The conflict culminated in what
came to be known as the Baguazo on 5 June 2009, as confrontations
between police forces and protestors resulted in the deaths of both police
officers and protestors. The events profoundly shook Peruvian soci-
ety, leading to reports, commissions and legal action in the aftermath.
Indigenous rights and collective action were at the heart of the matter.
Yet, paradoxically, the Yánesha federation, instrumental in spearheading
the organizational model, had refrained from engaging in public protest
and action.
Throughout 2008, the Yánesha federation leaders had distanced them-
selves from protests across the Amazon. They had discouraged partic-
ipation in regional protests. Only a few communities, some of which
were later to break away from the federation, had been present in
regional protests to “defend the jungle”. As a result, Yánesha rep-
resentatives were virtually absent from national gatherings, drawing
hundreds of participants from elsewhere in the Amazon. While leaders
would constantly travel to Lima or the regional capital, they distanced
themselves from the growing protests. Their absence raised multiple
questions, not least in terms of making sense of indigenous organi-
zations and political action. The Yánesha Congress, which took place
in July 2009, shortly after the Baguazo, is my starting point for the
138 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Revisiting indigenous political (in)action

Indigenous congresses are at the heart of linear political indigeneity, and

function through the gathering of community representatives to present
their concerns, elect officials and engage in collective decision making
(see Chapter 3). The annual congress of the Yánesha federation was a
major logistical undertaking and a financial headache for its leaders.
It also involved several days of intense debates, cultural events and an
opportunity to catch up with family, friends and others. Communities
took turns in hosting the event. I shall not here undertake a politi-
cal analysis of all decisions in congresses where I assisted (2008, 2009,
2013), but shall instead focus my argument on a small set of events
occurring in 2009 during the 40th-year celebrations of the federation.
While flags were lowered to half mast to pay tribute to founding lead-
ers and the victims of violence in Bagua, the underlying conflicts that
played out nationally were only briefly mentioned by a few individu-
als, and did not feature as a major topic of discussion at the congress.
Moreover, oil exploration, despite increasingly affecting Yánesha com-
munities, was hardly discussed. In comparison with 2008, where calls
for renegotiating agreements had been put forward by delegates, oil no
longer seemed a priority. The first seismic studies run by the subcon-
tractor had ended, and a new exploration phase was in the making.
The exploration company was thanked for their financial support to the
congress, and the President explained the way in which the 20,000 soles
(less than 7,000 USD) from the oil company agreement had been used.
Indeed, promises and actual expenditure seemed to be the main preoc-
cupation of the audience. The person in charge of oil monitoring was
awaiting state approval of the next environmental impact assessment
to begin working again. He also described the company as “an ally of
FECONAYA . . . they are here . . . we need private investments”.
How are we to interpret this relative silence on major dynamics about
to affect the Yánesha? A common phrase among leaders went along the
lines of, “When the time comes, we will paint our faces and stand up
if necessary.” It did not seem quite necessary yet. Somewhat paradoxi-
cally, the first indigenous organization, which was partly instrumental
in triggering the movement towards indigenous federation building
across the Amazon, seemed only a shadow of itself, faced with con-
tentious oil politics and major reform projects. For critics, it was lack
of indigenous power and mobilization compared with the neighbour-
ing Ashaninka, who had joined national and regional protests. Were
critics right in their accusations of indigenous inaction, passivity and
Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 139

even buy-in? Should the stance even be read as a (neo)colonial effect,

the consequence of frontier domination, missionary activity or settle-
ment for domination from the 19th century onward? The Yánesha are
frequently described as an Amazonian society with long histories of con-
tact (Santos-Granero 1991), living in fragmented colonized settings (see
chapters 2 and 3). Titled communities are interspersed with colono set-
tlements and intermarriage is frequent, as is labour engagement outside
Yánesha absence, or more precisely FECONAYA silence, was partly
a result of national federation politics stressing dialogue and engage-
ment with the state. Whereas one of the national indigenous federa-
tions, AIDESEP, had encouraged its members to join protests, CONAP,
the national organization representing FECONAYA, had opted against
protests “and for dialogue”, as its leader told me in 2009. Whereas
AIDESEP opted for a stronger anti-extractive industry stance, the CONAP
political line involved promoting tripartite dialogues between industry,
state and their organization. Entrepreneurialism and foreign invest-
ment, the heart of the reforms under debate, were framed as opportu-
nities. Nevertheless, I will argue that there was more to it than national
politics in order to make sense of Yánesha forms of (dis)engagement.
If we are to move beyond indigenous agency as confined within the
“role of perpetual object of projects conceived by the dominant other”
(Veber 1998: 358), how do we grasp and address the multiple manifes-
tations and practices of indigenous politics? Some two decades earlier,
a landmark indigenous uprising of the Ashaninka in the neighbour-
ing valley of Pichis profoundly shook the Selva Central, offering an
ethnographic entry point to understanding the distinct politics at stake.

Indigenous resistance or the power of peace?

The Baguazo and oil were not the first occasions when Yánesha
appeared absent from wider indigenous mobilization in the Selva Cen-
tral. Between January and May, 1990 an Ashaninka “army” uprising
(levantamiento), with between 2,000 and 2,500 mobilized men, took
place in response to the kidnapping and killing of their leader, Alejandro
Calderón Chávez by the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)
guerrillas. In some ways, the uprising stood as an invisible subscript
to questions of politics, power and indigenous people in the region.
An intensive campaign against presumed emertistas was initiated across
the valleys. Roads were controlled, population was registered and
MRTA sympathizers were sought (CVR 2003).
140 Post-frontier Resource Governance

The Ashaninka suspected both Yánesha and settler involvement with

the MRTA, particularly in the lower parts, and entered the Palcazú Valley
with the goal of “cleaning” it. Confronted with this drama, the reactions
from Yánesha leaders differed. Several informants mentioned the histor-
ical pact between Ashaninka and Yánesha to support each other in times
of crisis. It was a pact to take up arms and join forces in times of emer-
gency, resulting in pressure on Yánesha leadership to join the uprising.
Yet, for many Yánesha, this was a time of violence, robbery and rape.
There was a deep-felt sense of chaos. “From San Pedro to Izco, there
were attacks, things were robbed and women were taken,” one elder
told me. Some Yánesha leaders argued for negotiations with Ashaninka
to avoid bloodshed in the valley. Offering to form Yánesha comman-
dos, a leader had suggested negotiating with Ashaninka leadership to
maintain some Yánesha influence over the way in which people were
captured. For another informant it had been an ultimatum. “If you don’t
participate, you’re part of the problem”, an Ashaninka leader had told
him, showing a list of suspected MRTA members.
In the Palcazú Valley, the forest cooperative facilities (see Chapter 7)
became the centre of the Ashaninka army. The cooperative truck was
used to transport indigenous army recruits from one zone to another.
“It was like reliving the time of Santos Attahuallpa,” one observer com-
mented, referring to the 18th-century indigenous uprising closing off
the Selva Central for roughly a century. “People were painted . . . killings
took place . . . it was dramatic . . . ” Others later accused leaders of hav-
ing “sold” the Yánesha to the Ashaninka. In the end, a commission of
three Yánesha leaders went to Puerto Bermudez to talk to the son of the
deceased Ashaninka leader.

“He had been very busy . . . had arrived in a government helicopter”,

one told. “In the afternoon we met up with him, we had a conver-
sation. ‘Many people are without work’, we told him, ‘the crops are
failing, their rice . . . There is no kerosene left, no salt . . . ’ so we spoke.”
(Personal communication 2008)

In the end a “peace agreement” was reached and the Yánesha commis-
sion returned home.
As Yánesha spoke of the uprising, it struck me how their recon-
ciliatory peace process primed over taking control of the valley and
making the settlers leave. In contrast, the rebellion had mobilized
Ashaninka from Ene, Tambo, and Pangoa, “attracted by a revolutionary
discourse that called for the destruction of the exploitative old order and
Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 141

announced the advent of a more just new order in which the Asháninka
were to become ‘millionaires’ ” (Santos-Granero 2002: 558). Where
Ashaninka testimonies evoked warrior practice and values, Yánesha gen-
erally emphasized the opposite. “As Yánesha we are passive. Whatever
the problem – we’ll try to solve it through dialogue,” one leader com-
mented. Another leader spoke of missionaries in the early 20th century:
“animating the Yánesha to not resist . . . because people weren’t there to
kill them, but to help them . . . ” A former Yánesha leader from an Adven-
tist community, in effect, formulated it as “solving problems through
dialogue – we should love the proximo (‘love thy neighbour’)” quoting
the New Testament. “It’s our culture,” he continued, contrasting it with
Ashaninka who:

take up the arrows and are aggressive . . . you know, in 1990 ANAP
[the Ashaninka federation, Apatyawaka Nampitzi Asháninka Pichis]
invaded us, thinking that we were hiding the MRTA . . . they killed
four Yánesha.

Yet, it would be erroneous to presume Yánesha “passivity” and take

other bipolar imaginaries (Santos-Granero 2000) for granted. History, of
course, reveals Ashaninka peaceniks, just as it includes Yánesha warriors.
There were histories of open Yánesha resistance from the 18th-century
uprisings, through 19th-century resistance to 20th-century Yánesha
involvement in guerrilla activity. The question is not one of his-
torical veracity, but of cultural ideology. Where activist accounts of
18th-century Juan Santos-Atahualpa tend to emphasized indigenous
rebellion, Yánesha accounts often stressed bringing peace and tranquil-
lity (Martinez et al. 2003). It was about successfully mediating peace and
social order, a recurrent theme in the conflictive and violent history of
the Selva Central.
Consider the case of a Yánesha leader abducted a year earlier by
guerrillas. As he noted:

The subversives abducted me, while I was Secretary of Defense . . . took

me to a secret hiding place . . . perhaps not to kill me or any-
thing . . . what might they have thought? . . . that I would follow them
in their struggle . . . that’s what they were asking. So I told them . . . we
are native communities, we fight against exploitation of man by
men, we fight poverty and all those things . . . that we want to
claim our culture, that we are a special culture, instead of them
convincing me about their ideology, I convinced them . . . I was
142 Post-frontier Resource Governance

abducted for five days . . . I left quietly, they left me in a place where I
could reach my family.
(Personal interview 2008)

He “convinced them” he felt, despite the power disparities at stake. He

was later to become president and the federation sent out a statement
concerning the “rebels”:

respecting their struggles, their fights and the armed rebels and where
we also said that we [Yánesha] were an independent nation . . . we
respect their rebel organization regarding politics, economics and
society . . . and in the same way that they should respect us . . . a
mutual respect.
(Personal interview 2008)

He had been elected in 1993 during the time of the narcotraficantes and
considered his main achievements negotiating peace and keeping the
drug dealers out of the communities. A highlight had also been a secret
meeting with the ‘Shining Path’ (Sendero Luminoso) along with two
other leaders in the native community of Ñagazú. “Our demands were
that they did not recruit in our communities, could not be present in
meetings, or penetrate our communities,” he explained. Yet the senderis-
tas were keen to enter and negotiations continued till 3 o’clock in the
morning before a secret “peace accord” was established. Making do
required steady adaptation to narcotraficantes, guerrilla activity and mili-
tarization. It was the balancing act between social justice, surviving and
growing left-wing engagement among the Yánesha. It was also about
carving out a distinct ethno-political space within a complex setting.
The dramatic consequences of imposed social relations, physical vio-
lence or ideology did not make it a simple task to distinguish friend
or foe. Yánesha leaders took pride in their non-confrontational style.
One leader called it “Yánesha diplomacy” where the maintenance of
relations, even in situations of conflict, was fundamental. Open resis-
tance and politics was risky business during the internal war. The lawyer
and activist Fernando Mejía Egocheaga, who had defended the Yánesha
against the Catholic Church in 1986, was tortured and killed three
years later following the accusation that he had harboured guerrilla
sympathies. Yánesha leaders would repeatedly talk about the risks of
legal accusations and manipulations, and of law being instrumentalized
against them rather than protecting them against conflicts. It was social
chaos in Yánesha terms. Being with or without rights converged, the
Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 143

protection of state institutions was reversed and the nature of political

and cultural survival became a careful balancing act.
I do not argue that contemporary dynamics are comparable to this
dark chapter of recent Peruvian history. Yet, it is time that indigenous
political agency is recuperated through more than the lens of bravery,
resistance and overt politics. Dramatic cases of active resistance (such
as the Ashaninka uprising) are part of indigenous political agency, as
is the ability to make do within conflict-ridden political landscapes.
Everyday power was about making do within asymmetries, violence
and insecurity. It was less about taking power than it was about liv-
ing with and through power. Santos-Granero has succinctly remarked
that certain forms of Amazonian friendships, such as trade friendships,
“emerge in contexts of great of (potentially) dangerous others” (Santos-
Granero 2007: 11), and has more generally described the Yánesha
cultural practice of appropriating the Other (Santos-Granero 2009).
Friendly forms of engagement served as a form of “domestication” of the
dangerous “Other” establishing a modus vivendi, assimilating the Other
into local dynamics and practices.
Yánesha tools of peaceful organization and mediation were central to
encounters and building frontier relations with settlers, guerrilla fighters
or oil workers. It was profoundly about social reproduction, grounded
in engagement rather than resistance. Yánesha territory had, since the
18th century, been intimately connected to the world system. Not only
was it a place of haciendas, sugarcane and coca production, but was
equally an arena for national political conflict. Cultural continuity was
a question of social reproduction within such flows, not outside of it.
It was not merely about manifesting cultural identity and collective
politics (its late 20th-century linear form), but was grounded in two cen-
turies of making do within and through the other. Similar findings of
friendship and “mutually beneficial relationships” have been observed
among other Arawak neighbours (Killick 2009: 714), perhaps suggesting
that the Yánesha exception may have had wider regional significance
as a historically grounded form of sociality. We need to pay far more
attention to the power of peace within the arsenal of weapons of the
weak (Santos-Granero 1991; Scott 1990). Where linear narratives of cul-
tural survival and political action are about resistance and mobilization,
Yánesha everyday reality and governance practice was one of coexis-
tence, the power of friendship and engagement within. Their strength
has been their mobilization and adaptability over time. Yánesha survival
was not about survival despite colonial society, but through it. I now
return to the 2009 Yánesha congress to explore such themes in more
144 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Ethnic unity and the Italian intermezzo

Compared with the silence on major dynamics affecting the Yánesha,

seemingly insignificant quarrels between two Italian ecotourism tour
operators took up far more time in the 2009 Congress. The two Italians
had initially worked together, but were now operating separate commu-
nity tourism initiatives, bringing groups of tourists to different Yánesha
communities for home stays, walks and campfires. Contracts had been
written up with a subset of the Yánesha communities to receive guests,
improve tourism facilities and run small projects. Both Italians were
present at the 2009 Congress, yet barely communicated and were clearly
on bad terms. This seemed to bother the Yánesha leadership, who even-
tually brought up their interaction as an issue on the congress agenda.
The Italians were called upon to explain their positions in front
of the seated community representatives. Their case was discussed,
mediation took place and hands were eventually shaken. It was some-
what surprising that indigenous leaders let Italian affairs overshadow
their far more important long-term concerns. Community leaders had
spent hours, if not days, getting to the congress. Why was time being
spent on Italian tourism activities rather than concentrating energy
on territorial politics, future drilling operations and national reforms?
I soon understood that this noble attempt to resolve problems between
the two Italians was not about retracting to politics of insignificance.
It was fundamentally about showing leadership through moral values
of acting in a fatherly way, resolving misunderstandings and building
cohesion. Acting responsibly was framed using fatherhood language
for power relations, with the role of their federation classified as “our
father” (Santos-Granero 1986b: 111–15). Fatherhood was linked to the
moral values of love and generosity, requiring leaders to act generously,
providing “equality within hierarchy” (ibid.).
A major component of the congresses involved external “institu-
tions” (government, external agencies, NGOs and the private sector)
presenting their programmes. Beneath the formal surface of “informa-
tion sharing”, indigenous leadership was measured in terms of its ability
to mobilize alliances with outsiders, attract support and incorporate
them into exchange circuits. A number of the scholarships and projects
obtained were “indicators of success” of actual leadership capabilities.
Equally important was the ability to demonstrate moral leadership and
maintain unity, where external actors had divided the federation more
than once. Where guards during the congress in guerrilla times had
served to prevent outsiders from attending, the current practice of fluid
Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 145

engagement with outsiders required moral guardianship from within.

The Italian quarrel, however insignificant in my eyes, was a potential
threat to the unity of the federation. By painful experience, the Yánesha
federation had previously seen splits erupt due to personalities, alliances
and external pressure. The “Italian conflict” not only represented a break
with friendly relations and appropriate behaviour but, more fundamen-
tally, represented the risk of dividing the organization. During congress
debates, different community leaders expressed their support to their
respective Italian benefactors. It was a moment of potential divide. The
very social contract of acting together as one federation was poten-
tially under threat as accusations were voiced. The Italian intermezzo
allowed for leadership to reaffirm moral authority through its ability
to demonstrate cohesion and control over external relations.

Dealing with divides

Federations were not all-empowered representative institutions,

although some leaders had at times aspired to such control. There is
a long-standing ethnographic emphasis on the limited decision-making
power of lowland chief institutions (Clastres 1974; Lowie 1963 (1944)),
equally relevant in the context of contemporary indigenous federa-
tions. In effect, federation politics among the Yánesha, and many other
Amazonian groups, have a long legacy of breakout groups and contested
leadership. Whereas native communities are legally recognized, the role
of federations remains in political limbo. Community representatives
would not hesitate to question leadership decisions or constrain the
action of their organization.
Indigenous organizations were not simply adopted as a consensual
locus of political subjectivity, but also appeared as flexible arenas for
long-standing moral politics and emergent indigenous collective action.
As the initial congress, and even centuries of politics revealed (Renard-
Casevitz 1993), there was a history of uniting around given claims and
projects, and then dissolving. Whether in the form of 16th-century del-
egations to protect lands against intrusion (Renard-Casevitz 1993: 34)
or 17th-century “congresses” in times of war, there were long-standing
histories of flexible political organizations and collective mobilization.
Indigenous organizations were, in this respect, another chapter in the
political history of ad hoc collaboration. Where the creation of an indige-
nous organization is easily interpreted as a straightforward collective
organizational effort around common cultural and ethnic goals, pro-
found divisions were common. Boycotts and absences were not unusual
146 Post-frontier Resource Governance

signs of political division and possible fission. On several occasions,

competing leaders had simultaneously claimed leadership. Indeed, a
major concern from day one of the congress meetings involved counting
the actual number of jefes arriving. Political allegiance, Santos-Granero
argues, was traditionally expressed through regular attendance and gifts
(Santos-Granero 1986a). In contemporary Yánesha politics, whether a
jefe was present, absent or represented only by a delegate without voting
rights, was a clear sign of indigenous politics.
A milestone division in the history of the federation took place when
the founding Amuesha Congress (see earlier chapter) was transformed
into a modern federation (Congreso Amuesha 1988 (1980)). An outbreak
group considered the Amuesha Congress an “outdated measure”, domi-
nated by anthropologists, rather than a real political structure. In 1982,
the congress was dissolved in a putsch leading to the establishment of
FECONAYA, affiliating itself with a peasant union (CGTP) (Smith 1994).
The new organization took up a strong leftist discourse, in part seek-
ing to reunite colonos and indigenous as the exploited class2 (Chirif and
Hierro 2009). Over time, the political lines of the organization have
been culturalist, developmentalist and left-wing, as well as more recently
business oriented. Yánesha federative politics have evolved not only
from congress to federation, but also involved shifting alliances with
governments, NGOs and the corporate sector.
My point here is to stress the how indigenous representative orga-
nizations were not self-evident political entities, but highly contested
and malleable structures. Whether at local or national levels, there was
a constant presence of divides, new constellations and political frac-
tions. Ethno-political unity was far from given, but involved bridging
relations between diverse Yánesha constituencies such as coffee growers,
timber communities and urban residents, as well as dealing with polit-
ical differences as such. Power did not emanate from formal statutory
terms alone, but through maintaining and demonstrating relevance not
only in political terms, but through a particular moral and social space.
Indigenous presidents were frequently abandoned on moral grounds,
just as moral reasoning could trigger new, indigenous organizations.
Earlier presidents had been ousted for immoral behaviour, either in rela-
tion to money management or for not taking care of their wife and
children. Fatherhood values conversely were central to good political
behaviour, even if this entailed educating Italian tour operators gone
astray. At the heart of Yánesha politics was the ability to display har-
monious relations and reproduce the congress, indeed the organization,
as a collective process and space. Indigenous politics relied on ensuring
Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics 147

that those present were socially and morally united. Identity politics did
not build on a pre-given shared “ethnic” interest but, first and foremost,
required reproducing or reaffirming moral and social connection in the
first place. The very survival, strength and nature of indigenous agency
was located in the identity and moral spheres, as much as in collective
organization and universal principles of grassroots organization. Reaf-
firming shared moralities was the starting point for ethnic politics, and
not the other way around.

Concluding remarks: Governance in the interstices

Claude Levi-Strauss’ impressions of meeting veteran anarchist Victor

Serge, as they both escaped World War II on a boat from Marseilles
(Lévi-Strauss 1973 (1955): 25), incarnates European notions of subver-
sive power and resistance. Little would Levi-Strauss see such politics
as an Amazonian issue then populated by what he saw as “sensitive”,
yet “powerless victims” (ibid.: 41). Indigenous Amazonians were consid-
ered victims of frontier politics, not political actors per se. The political
post-frontier landscape is a very different one. Indigenous organizations
are today at the heart of shaping and contesting politics. Subversion
is now readily employed by Latin American governments to describe
indigenous organizations, just as indigenous Amazonia readily engages
with long-standing anarchist themes of self-organization, autonomy
and anti-state discourse. This chapter sought to make sense of such
post-frontier politics through the portrayal of one of the first indigenous
organizations on the continent.
Where a common narrative portrays indigenous struggles “growing”
or “maturing” into formal organizations, national federations and col-
lective struggles, these portrayals are not ethnographically sufficient.
First, indigenous power and politics have a much longer history and
cultural depth than might appear in late 20th-century linear histories
of political organization. Second, there is rarely only one collective
voice. As with any other political organization, indigenous organiza-
tions are fraught with intense conflicts and shifting political stances
over time. Third, activist gazes on indigenous politics are easily con-
fined to the celebration of overt politics of resistance and social mobi-
lization, neglecting other forms of politics and action. Whereas the
Yánesha in contemporary contexts of intensified Amazonian politics
have been viewed as “passive” compared with, say the Ashaninka and
the Aguaruna, the chapter seeks to restore a somewhat different sense
of historically mediated indigenous agency. Indigenous politics are not
148 Post-frontier Resource Governance

merely about asserting resistance (Scott 1990), but also about finding a
modus operandi, working in the interstices of asymmetries and reproduc-
ing identity politics in the midst of dominant tales. It is not merely of
anecdotal significance, but also of analytical importance, to understand
indigenous politics in their continuity and complexity rather than as
singular – accidental, modern or postcolonial – phenomena. Just as we
need to denaturalize the post-frontier significance of environmental and
indigenous rights regulatory measures, an analytically open-ended and
historically grounded perspective is critical to capturing the meaning
and nature of contemporary indigenous politics.
Concluding Remarks: Theorizing
Post-frontier Governance


Future historians may remember the late 20th century for its
proliferation of “sustainable development” tools to resolve long-
standing social and environmental challenges at the frontier. Where
Igor Kopytoff spoke of Africa as a “frontier continent” with new polities
spreading around mature African societies (Kopytoff 1989: 7), histori-
ans may even, with a hint of irony, speak of a “post- frontier world”
as the nominal taming of frontier topographies becomes globalized.
While much hope is still placed upon the discovery of new frontier
resources, the promised land of El Dorado is no longer about gold alone,
but involves sustainable harmony, underpinned by post-frontier insti-
tutions harmonizing environmental, social and economic objectives.
Just as modernism implies radical breaks from the past, the post-frontier
attributes transformative powers to new sustainability institutions. Yet,
similar to the fall of modernity, we are currently witnessing crippled
post-frontier institutions capable of securing neither environmental
sustainability nor social justice. A zero-sum conception of the post-
frontier, where new regulatory measures are ipso facto seen as taming
the frontier, is at best misplaced optimism, at worst misleading. As ever
more technico-salvatory means are invented and proliferate at the fron-
tier, failures and contradictions abound. This book has sought to shed
light on this post-frontier paradox. Nowhere are such paradoxes more
evident than in post-frontier Amazon, where sustainability institutions
coexist side by side with the degradation and marginalization of com-
munities. The post-frontier Amazon does not have fewer frontiers, they
have merely metamorphosed into different orders, or rationalized forms
and modalities of frontier expansion. Frontiers, it could be argued, are

150 Post-frontier Resource Governance

no longer a physical entity or historical stage (say the Amazon or the

Wild West). Rather, we may think of “frontierity” as a fluctuating prop-
erty, which has appeared over the centuries – and continues to appear –,
produced under different forms and with different effects. This also
allows us greater flexibility in capturing emergent frontiers within a
changing world system of financial flows, and production and consump-
tion patterns. Rather than speaking of specific frontiers expanding or
closing in remote areas, it would be more precise to speak of frontier-like
qualities or properties of given phenomena, alongside other spatial, eco-
nomic and social relations. Contemporary frontiers are not (only) about
a deregulated wilderness “out there”, but equally represent a quality of
ordered spaces, urban spaces and individual bodies.
Where many social scientists over the last three decades have sided
against frontier projects calling for more rights and protection measures,
the defence of post-frontier quick fixes and regulatory interventions is
today at an impasse. The transformative politics of the post-frontier
are rarely as transformative as their wording, or more precisely, as this
book demonstrates, in appear in different ways than expected. Fron-
tier histories and contemporary post-frontier practices are, in empirical
terms, more alike than often imagined. Thus, is the post-frontier merely
a re-engineered resource frontier, able to dwarf social and environ-
mental protest, accommodate critique and further intensify resource

Understanding post-frontier entanglement

Post-frontier devices are deeply entangled in territorial and capitalist

logics (Harvey 2005: 91), as they generally neither challenge the drive
for profits and accumulation nor core state politics to consolidate ter-
ritorial power. Genealogies of post-frontier geographies in the Peruvian
Amazon illustrate how environmental institutions and rights measures
did not replace frontier pressures but, in path-dependent ways, emerged
in conjunction with a reorganized and managerial frontier. From one
perspective, this defines post-frontiers as residual convenient measures,
allowing for the reproduction of frontiers within new sustainability
orders. Oil concessions, one of the most visible signs of frontier pres-
sures, relied on the separation of subsoil from indigenous territorial
rights while reassembling divides between surface rights and conces-
sion holders. In this sense, post-frontier measures may even intensify
the dual logic of consolidating new state spaces and forms of control,
while liberating new fields of entrepreneurial action from social protest.
Concluding Remarks: Theorizing Post-frontier Governance 151

Such observations are particularly relevant for countries like Peru,

where post-frontier governance crafting is in constant tension with its
economic dependence on resource extraction. Critics like Stefano Varese
have lashed out against official Peru and its “ ‘internal colonies’ that can
be invaded, subjugated, conquered, and taken”, with law constituting
“a programmatic plan to execute looting with an appearance of civility”
(Varese 2013: 134). This book contends that debunking the polished
language of post-frontier civility is important, yet not enough. Whereas
critiques may reveal how the post-frontier emperors have no clothes
on, we need to pay careful attention to the tailoring practices behind
the scenes, as well as the fabric that these produce. Analysis that points
to institutional “failure” or “window dressing” of post-frontier schemes
alone is problematic in the very epistemological neglect of what else is
at work. The alternative should be equated neither to complicit anal-
ysis nor an attempt to obscure continued frontier pressures. Where
the post-frontier in some respects replaces the “creative destruction” of
modernity (Harvey 2003: 1), its own creative destruction entails game-
changing dynamics. Technological fixes to social and environmental
problems at the resource frontier displace rather than resolve the nature
of sustainability problems (Hornborg et al. 2012: 3). The coexistence
of frontiers and superficial post-frontiers is not void of meaning, but
involves mutual imbrication leading to different forms of enclosure and
new terrains of struggle. The recognition of rights, for example, does not
replace frontier exclusion, but nurtures new post-frontier battles within
and around rights regimes. Contemporary debates and negotiations
about the significance of indigenous rights to consultation illustrate this
with all clarity. The post-frontier question is not whether people are con-
sulted as such, but how and in which ways it transforms ongoing power
As the chapters on timber, oil and conservation illustrate, social and
environmental safeguards are, in anthropological terms, neither weak
nor shallow but have specific social effects and trajectories. They entail
new actors, policy measures, different forms of relations and hierarchies
of action coming to the fore, intertwined with old dynamics of power
and control. This forces analysts to tread with caution when decon-
structing, even dismissing, the self-evident qualities of post-frontier
institutions. Critique of weak states or poor implementation (“if only
States would do more”) easily neglects the specificities of what is actually
taking place. In order to start sketching a more analytically produc-
tive approach and research agenda on the post-frontier, I suggest three
major analytical entry points. First, there is a need for an epistemological
152 Post-frontier Resource Governance

shift to recognize post-frontier assemblages for what they are and do,
rather than remaining caught in normative conclusions about their
deficiencies. Second, there is a need to further address the processes,
boundary setting and effects of negotiating new post-frontier arenas.
Third, there is a specific need to further document the shifting processes
of accumulation and frontier maintenance at the post-frontier.

Post-frontier as emergent assemblages

Rather than merely debunking the illusory projections of the post-

frontier, a renewed epistemological gaze is necessary to capture its
emergent nature. Days spent with NGO practitioners and indigenous
leaders discussing protected area plans, provincial consultation mech-
anisms and impact assessment methods reveal technical dilemmas.
Whereas post-frontier prescriptions incite ideal solutions, practition-
ers on the ground soon had to learn “the ropes” by figuring out
the real flows of power, meaning and agency. The question was not
one of weak or poor instruments alone, but about how governance
modalities were embedded in social practice. The ethnographic evi-
dence from Peru showed long-standing non-linear continuities of social,
cultural and economic nature intertwined with and fundamentally
shaping post-frontier practice. Oil relations were not simply deter-
mined by officially sanctioned policy prescriptions. They entailed highly
asymmetrical relations, vibrant moral economies and deep-seated hier-
archies of knowledge and practice. Forest relations were equally not just
about property rights, sustainable yield and community control, but
also about frontier histories, debt relationships and elite capture. Post-
frontier institutions were re-associated and reassembled (Latour 2005: 7),
triggering the need for a “bottom-up ontological model” avoiding the
pitfalls of taking linear properties as its starting point. Actor–network
theory has been particularly attentive in mapping out such emerging
relations between things and concepts, humans and non-humans. This
allows us to address post-frontier governance phenomena not as poorly
implemented or deficient copies of the legal framework or international
standards, but as being grounded in their own emergent properties.
Properties are not given, but emerge from interaction (DeLanda 2006:
4–5), allowing governance analysts to identify assemblages in their own
emergent terms rather than as the poor cousins of ideal wholes. Com-
munity forestry in Palcazú was not a simple failure, although it was
generally described as such. It involved a distinct form of community
dynamics driven by local moral economies, debt and long-standing elite
Concluding Remarks: Theorizing Post-frontier Governance 153

control, reassembled in emergent community forestry void of local con-

trol. In similar terms, oil governance did not end with the creation
of a concession or formal safeguards, but evolved around the orches-
tration of relationships, workfare and localized territorial politics. The
modus operandi of behaving well, and engaging in social relations, was
as important as the legal transplant of national oil contracts in the
emergent governance assemblage. What on paper offered empower-
ment, in practice limited indigenous influence to small titles, renewable
resources under bureaucratic co-management and non-renewables left
in the hands of the corporate–state nexus. Only by taking such emergent
properties seriously can appropriate relational theories be employed to
pinpoint the actual structuring dynamics at work.

Post-frontier arenas

A central claim of this book is how contemporary frontiers no longer

thrive in deregulated or subsidized extraction spaces alone, but coex-
ist with post-frontier regimes indicating closure. Where linear models
in the heyday of frontier development stressed conquest, control and
extraction, they are now at least partially replaced by, or reconsti-
tuted through, sustainability meta-values. Such values reconfigure what
is legitimate within the normalized state order. At stake are evolv-
ing fields in Bourdieu’s sense (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992), with
post-frontier values being mobilized in the negotiation of specific gover-
nance arenas. We may call this post-frontier arena building, understood
as the way in which a particular set of policy spaces, governance
levels and institutional measures are consolidated as authorized post-
frontier regimes. Such arenas are constituted by a bundle of explicated
legal, institutional and spatial conditions, which, however complex,
only comprise the tip of the iceberg of a broader field of relations.
Constitutive “arena design” questions concern the scope of policy,
decision-making levels and legitimate voices. Such constructions fun-
damentally involve power fields, not only in terms of who or what is
included, but equally in terms of how institutional powers are delegated
and distributed. Much rethinking of scales has dwelt upon relations
between the global, the nation-state and the local (Sassen 2007), and
how territories, rights and authority are reassembled (Sassen 2006).
Specific post-frontier arenas in this sense result from connected pro-
cesses of territorialization (DeLanda 2006: 28), stabilizing assemblages
(Latour 2005), space production (Bebbington 2005) and scale making
(Tsing 2000). Scale making, for example, entails a “relational ordering
154 Post-frontier Resource Governance

process” (Moore 2008: 221) whereby linear boundaries are set for legit-
imate forms of agency and action in a given governance field. The
resulting publicly sanctioned governance arenas set out the boundaries
and standards for how resources, such as oil or timber extraction, are
governed. It was such arena production that, on the one hand, turned
renewable resources in the Peruvian Amazon into a “local” issue, linked
to long-standing territorial constructions and scalar politics (native
community, reserve, biotic resources). Sub-surface mineral resources,
on the other hand, were consolidated as a national level and state-
controlled domain. Clearly, the form and boundaries of such arenas
are not only space and time dependent, but emerge through contested
claims to scale, forms of agency and boundaries of legitimate action.
Therefore, the key question is one of explicating the negotiated pro-
cess of translating values into distinct governance arenas and what this
entails for other intentionalities and the accommodation of the cap-
italist necessity of frontier creation. As this book demonstrates, shifts
to conservation topographies and rights regimes are only a posteriori
retrofitted as rational shifts, but essentially emerge through a socially
negotiated and contested process. The Palcazú case illustrated how a
government-driven frontier project was renegotiated through intensive
political campaigns, international mobilization and managerial inter-
vention ultimately reconfiguring a post-frontier geography of protected
areas and land rights.

Post-frontier effects

A core claim of this book is the need to shift from analysis denounc-
ing a failing post-frontier towards analysis interrogating its specific
dispositifs and effects. In the protected area context, the shift towards
co-management revealed the pervasive force of managerial language,
disciplinary effects and bureaucratic power. Rather than empowering
communities, post-frontier mechanisms cemented the transformation
of a community hunting space into a state-driven protected area. While
contracts signalled recognition, in practice they left indigenous com-
munities in a double-bind of nominal inclusion and de facto exclusion.
While such effects are often explained as a result of weak measures, this
book claims more attention should be directed to the strengths in play.
Legality in the post-frontier is more than “dressing up”, as it entails
a reorganized and restructured social power field. On the one hand,
post-frontier recognition reinforces processes of state incorporation and
Concluding Remarks: Theorizing Post-frontier Governance 155

bureaucratic control. This shifts social movements from the position of

claiming change from the outside towards working within the param-
eters and constraints of state power. On the other hand, post-frontier
devices consolidate a managerial domain, privileging the power of
technical expertise, law-fare and professional mastery. Rather than lev-
elling the playing field, it reveals the asymmetries of knowledge and
capabilities at stake. Whether from the perspective of timber barons
mobilizing forestry consultants, protected area agencies emphasizing
technical formalismo or oil companies orchestrating safeguard measures,
they demonstrate the shifting forms and effects of techno-power. The
post-frontier in this respect involves a shift from direct power con-
testation to negotiations around the form and contents of supposedly
“neutral” mediatory instruments.

Accumulation through repossession

Where critical literature may highlight how neoliberalism deepens fron-

tier pressures through deregulated and deterritorialized capitalist spaces
of resource extraction and labour exploitation, this book suggests that
the post-frontier entails a shift to what we may theorize as accumu-
lation through repossession and re-regulation. Where frontier dispos-
session involves the physical displacement, annulment of rights and
the engineering of terra nullius, allowing concessions to take hold and
resource extraction to flow freely, post-frontier accumulation through
repossession works through rather than against regulation, just as it
thrives on new forms of territoriality, rights and citizenship. This par-
tially answers Harvey’s question about how territorial logics of power
respond to capital accumulation and, vice versa, the implications of
capital accumulation for territorial logics of power (Harvey 2005: 93).
Whereas Harvey notes that geographical processes of accumulation
under neoliberalism are “much more molecular and diffuse” and “often
escape control” (ibid.: 92), post-frontier accumulation, in contrast,
works through such control as summarized in the following matrix
(Table C.1).
This book ethnographically demonstrates how such repossession may
operate in different ways. In the forestry sector, it shows how the
shift from frontier logics of imposed concessions to community forest
management resulted in “reverse governance” tactics where commu-
nity permits were instrumentalized to further pursue predatory logging.
Timber extraction in the Palcazú did not rely on the expulsion of
156 Post-frontier Resource Governance

Table C.1 Post-frontier accumulation

Frontier and neoliberal logics Post-frontier logics

Accumulation through Accumulation through repossession

Deregulation Re-regulation
Deterritorialization Re-territorialization
Expansive capitalized space Ambiguous territorialities and multiple
Commodified labour Citizenship

communities and the consolidation of private property through forest

concessions. Rather, repossession involved working within community
forestry lands and permits. Likewise, the oil post-frontier did not only
involve physical dispossession and battles against indigenous commu-
nities. Instead, oil exploration involved working with, and not against
indigenous leadership. It involved careful corporate orchestration to
work with indigenous organizations, safeguard measures, and local
notions of autonomy. Such dynamics were not unique, but illustra-
tive of wider post-frontier dynamics reproducing frontier control within
the interstices of sustainability meta-values. Accumulation no longer
only takes place through escaping regulatory control, but through
repossession of new tenure forms, environmental protection and rights
mechanisms. As a result, means of inclusion and protection may in
practice entrench or lead to new forms of exclusion.

Challenging the post-frontier

The post-frontier is not merely regulatory and managerial, but is equally

popular, political and alive. Post-frontier institutions are, most often,
not natural evolutions, but negotiated outcomes of social contestation
by indigenous and environmental organizations claiming rights and
calling for environmental protection. This creates a permanent tension
between claims for change, on the one hand, and state incorpora-
tion and normalization on the other. Consider popular marches against
dams, oil concessions and road construction regularly appearing across
the globe. Collective rights and environmental safeguards are high on
such agendas. This book does not question this claim space, but rather
draws attention to the effects and practices once post-frontier measures
are normalized. It stresses how hard-gained post-frontier spaces are at
Concluding Remarks: Theorizing Post-frontier Governance 157

risk of repossession, pointing to the fragility and elusiveness of “getting

the institutions right”.
A few decades ago, social struggles revealed hard battle lines between
frontier development pressures and alternative socio-environmental
agendas. Today, activists face the challenge of dealing with repossessed
rights and environmental safeguard measures. Far more ethnographic
attention should be given to these new spaces and forms of power that
constitute the post-frontier landscape in real, rather than ideal, terms.
Indeed, age-old frontier battles have not disappeared, but have merely
been reconfigured and displaced. Consider a recent report document-
ing how, between 2002 and 2013, “908 citizens were killed protecting
rights to their land and environment,” roughly paralleling the number
of journalists killed in the same period (Global Witness 2014: 4). A strik-
ing finding in the Global Witness report was not just the number of
killings, but also the levels of impunity. Of 908 killings, only 10 per-
petrators had been convicted and 34 perpetrators were facing charges
(Global Witness 2014: 16). Whereas the killings, law suits and impris-
onments of indigenous leaders, journalists and conservationists would
appear to confirm age-old myths of jungle lawlessness, they are, in
fact, signs of the opposite: instrumentalized law-fare in the age of the
post-frontier. Such dramatic figures are just the tip of the iceberg, illus-
trating the imbalances of judicial practice, elite control and the (lack
of) rule of law. Rather than the post-frontier resolving the underlying
conflicts of interest, contestations based on safeguards themselves have
become signs of security threats. Calls for respecting rights or indepen-
dent environmental assessments are increasingly considered “radical”
or criminalized across the globe, revealing the repossessed nature of the
post-frontier and the dangers of mainstreamed sustainability politics.
As a former Yánesha leader noted upon evicting illegal settlers:

[The law] offered us autonomy, the decision of the community, but

this, this wasn’t worth much in practice, when we began acting
and making decisions . . . well, the penal code, the civil code, always
sanctioned us . . . that’s how it went . . . I was imprisoned.
(Personal communication 2008)

While the leader’s imprisonment epitomized his curtailed autonomy, he

was eventually aided by his “political allies”. Asymmetries of power in
the state terrains of law-fare and institution did not hinder attempts to
use legal tools for different ends. It is no coincidence that legal specialists
are increasingly hired by indigenous and environmental organizations
to defend their causes. Post-frontier battlefields increasingly occur in
158 Post-frontier Resource Governance

parliamentary commissions and courtrooms, where devilish details are

easily overshadowed by consensually crafted sustainability commit-
ments. This book only covers a fragment of post-frontier complexity.
Nonetheless, the Oxapampa experiences demonstrate with clarity the
shifting terrains at stake. Contemporary arena negotiations involve
intense debates about the nature and role of indigenous rights, equitable
consultation measures as well as ongoing policy debates in the fields of
conservation and forestry. The post-frontier is by no means settled, and
as such is a critical field not only for social action, but equally so for
social science enquiry.
What then are the implications for the wider sustainability challenges
faced today? “We have as yet no idea of what it means to govern the
world now that Nature as an organizing concept (or rather, conceit)
is gone,” Bruno Latour lamented upon the failure of the now almost
forgotten Copenhagen climate summit (Latour 2010: 479). Parallel ques-
tioning, it could be argued, has arisen in relation to human rights,
their diluted meaning and the call for reinventing social justice lan-
guage. Universalist theories of prescriptive action may have disappeared
(indeed a modernist pretension), but the search for one underlying prob-
lem (a modernist conspiracy), as well as the belief in the irreversible
move forward (Latour 2010: 473) continues. Anthropologists have for
the last two decades struggled to move beyond the conceptual divide of
the modern constitution. What now? There is no reason to get carried
away by the postmodernist trend of leaving society stuck in a chaotic set
of options. Nor need we remain trapped in the epistemological contra-
dictions of environmentalism (Latour 1999: 34). Concluding inaction or
confusion from the fall of modern orthodoxies would be a logical fallacy.
The post-frontier approach defended in this book suggests addressing
what is happening in a more socially open-ended manner by taking
it far more seriously in its own emergent terms, rather than denounc-
ing existing practices as merely dysfunctional. In other words, while we
can no longer take the salvatory properties of post-frontier solutions for
granted, we can nevertheless take the process of ontological assemblage
Whether addressing the failures of climate summits, indigenous rights
violations or failing parks, the analysis of the dynamics at stake is fairly
well hypothesized, if not straightforward, in terms of the underlying
social, political and economic dynamics at stake. Although hyper-
specialized policy proliferation, on the surface, renders sustainability
challenges ever more technical and distant from everyday life, it is now
time to recuperate space for analysis of the intersections and connected
fields of relations. As the holy trinity of sustainable development was
Concluding Remarks: Theorizing Post-frontier Governance 159

rehashed in “Rio +20” and other global arenas, the bottom line is the
convergence between academic and policy interest in seeing a host of
domains together, rather than as separate fields. There is a broad recogni-
tion that these are multi-dimensional and multi-scale challenges, albeit
organizations continue to propose tools crafted around single variables
(“if only we could get the economic incentives right”). What this book
argues is the importance of bringing social science and critique into
the managerial equation anew. Ethnography has a particularly impor-
tant role in resituating governance practices in its social fabric. It allows
analysis to start where people are, not where managerial models ideo-
logically begin. Rather than presuming the whole nature of prototypical
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), rights or co-management
plans, ethnography reveals how these may be restructured to quite dif-
ferent ends. This may lead to their inversion, but is also the opening
for change. The question is no longer whether or not rights (territo-
rial or private property, depending on who is asking) or environmental
measures are being implemented, but how they are being produced,
lived out and socially assembled. Is this of more than academic interest?
How relevant are they for getting on with the actual work of halting
forest degradation, preventing further biodiversity loss and recogniz-
ing the rights of indigenous peoples? Don’t we not already know what
is needed (adequate titling, sufficiently funded protected areas, equi-
tably shared conservation regimes and strong legal frameworks, etc.)?
Is the remaining challenge not simply to ensure support, to get beyond
the policy obstacles and to mobilize adequate resources to put them
into practice? However seductive such policy “quick-fix” narratives may
appear, it would leave the social sciences caught in the straightjacket of
contemporary linearities. Within shifting terrains of governance there
are no policy panacea, simply shifting institutional forms and terrains
of struggle. Given that today’s solution might be the locus of tomor-
row’s problem, grounded analysis is ever more critical to tracking such
shifts and their social effects. In other words, this is not simply about
mobilizing the ethnographic gaze to generate local examples, but is
equally about reconsidering the ongoing social assemblages of gover-
nance fields through anthropological theory. This point is fundamental.
As new forms and sites of power and dominance emerge alongside, or
within, means of emancipation, new understandings are not only criti-
cal for anthropology to retain its relevance, but fundamental for global
quests to revitalize notions of sustainability, environmental governance
and rights.
Postscript: Biosphere Dreams
and Biosfears

A return to the post-frontier realities of Oxapampa is now warranted. The latest

governance arena in the making was the recognition of Oxapampa Province by
UNESCO as a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 2010, one year after the Baguazo
conflicts. Was Oxapampa once again spearheading new ways of reconciling
development and conservation in the Amazon? The province had, after intense
lobbying by indigenous federations and NGOs, created a new unit in charge of
both environmental and indigenous affairs. The biosphere appeared, on paper, as
a linear masterpiece illustrating the managerial optimism of combining science,
politics and practicality. Its very name, the “Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha” Bio-
sphere Reserve, combined its provincial locus with indigenous ancestry, all tied
together in a global form recognized by the world community.
Such post-frontier assemblages were no coincidence. Since 2001, the
NGO ProNaturaleza had promoted the recognition of the “Selva Central Bio-
sphere Reserve” as a “macro-level space to secure sustainable development and
conservation in Oxapampa province” (Garay 2007: 48). Their proposal had been
rejected by indigenous federations, and was later to be revived as the “Oxapampa
Ashaninka and Yánesha Biosphere Reserve”. This was managerial reconciliation
at its best. Was biosphere recognition the necessary linear ingredient to finally
close the frontier, coroneted by the state and the world community? The sup-
posed political differences, divergent territorial projects and power asymmetries
had vanished, replaced instead by a common reconciliatory project. Celebra-
tions seemed to promise a new linear starting with oil managers, ministers
and indigenous leaders joined hands in their commitments to the biosphere.
Protected areas were at the core of the biosphere reserve, and indigenous orga-
nizations presided on the management board. Yet, beneath the surface of linear
unity and recognition were long-standing differences. Crafting a common ecol-
ogy and heritage did not equate to common positions or adherence to the same
project. The change in name did not change its fundamental anatomy, nor struc-
tural divides. “If FECONAYA thinks they are the owner of this [the biosphere],
they are mistaken . . . it belongs to all of us including the austro-alemanes,” an
NGO representative told me in private during a preparatory meeting in 2008.
Although the project was initially chaired by indigenous leaders, NGOs and civil
servants were instrumental in keeping it alive throughout the preparatory pro-
cess. Biosphere planning processes accelerated upon international recognition,
and a flurry of governance projects emerged or was reconfigured into new bio-
sphere language, notably promoted by the NGOs. One email circulating in 2010
spoke of the biosphere being used “by bureaucrats making ‘conservation projects’
and living the good life with houses, expensive travels paid for by NGOs at
the cost of poverty and the misery of our Ashaninka and Yánesha brothers”.
The following year, the Management Committee was reshuffled and a host of
new actors joined the biosphere table. For many the key was to set up a new

Postscript: Biosphere Dreams and Biosfears 161

implementation structure and secure funding. Initially, the idea of an “insti-

tute” dedicated to the reserve was put forward, inspired by similar initiatives
where municipalities pooled resources for a common project. The proposal led
to discontent as indigenous organizations not officially presented by the munic-
ipalities would lose their position at the decision-making table. As I returned
in 2013, the biosphere project was deeply entangled in local politics. By late
2011, the provincial mayor replaced an indigenous representative as president
of the biosphere. While a group of district mayors, with support from NGOs,
had embarked upon setting up a new structure, a mancomunidad, to generate
funds and initiate biosphere management, the mayor of Oxapampa had allied
himself with indigenous organizations, suggesting an alternative management
structure built around provincial environmental management. New linearities
had not erased structural differences, nor was the history of politics of territori-
ality and representation gone. While the biosphere was recognized as a formal
whole, it was also a distinct reassemblage of existing social relations, political
divides and engagements in a newly contested governance arena, rather than
a shift towards a new post-frontier collectivity as such. While the biosphere
signified unity, underlying post-colonial settlement logics were never far away.
Villa Rica district, branding itself as the coffee capital of Peru, sought to trans-
late biosphere recognition into added value for its coffee beans. Palcazú district,
in turn, positioned itself as the capital of cattle. However, the collective abil-
ity to address shared challenges of extractive industries, and conduct territorial
planning, remained in their infancy. On 10 June 2014, Peru’s President Ollanta
Humala signed a new law declaring it of “public necessity and utility to conserve,
restore, maintain and improve conditions for the sustainable development of the
Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha biosphere reserve”.1 What appeared on the sur-
face as further legal impetus for post-frontier change amounted to provisions for
the elaboration of a new action plan, its implementation and the use of prior
consultation measures in practice. However, the law equally specified that no
additional public resources “would be requested”. Post-frontier assemblages were
once again being reinvented under the auspices of the state, without resolving
the deep contradictions at work.

1 The Post-frontier Paradox

1. Debt-swaps, national budgets and global post-Rio financing schemes, such as
the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), have been instrumental for their
proliferation in the global South. Since 1991, the GEF, for example, has pro-
vided more than $11.5 billion in grants leveraging $57 billion in co-financing
for over 3,215 projects in over 165 countries.
protegida-y-conservada-en-un-84-minambiente-101679, accessed 20 December
3. The term was used by European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani
to describe the politics involved in building resource agreements around the
mineral resources appearing in Greenland.
4. The PhD research was undertaken as a “co-tutelle” arrangement between École
des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and the Graduate
Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. It benefited
from a PhD grant from the National Centre of Competence Research “North–
South” programme, as well as a grant from the Rectors’ Conference of the
Swiss Universities (CRUS) enabling research in Paris.
5. A generous grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation allowed for a
visiting fellowship at the Oxford Department of International Development,
where the bulk of the manuscript was consolidated.

2 The Peruvian Amazon and Post-frontier Ethnography

1. FECONAYA (Federación de Comunidades Nativas Yáneshas), ANAP (Asociación
de Nacionalidades Ashaninka del valle Pichis), UNAY (Unión de Nacionalidades
Asháninkas y Yáneshas) and AMARCY (Asociación para el Manejo y
Conservación de la Reserva Comunal Yánesha).
2. Without using it as an excuse, it was also evident that many key informants
were not active users of Yánesha as language. For many non-native-speaking
Yánesha, social and cultural categories were experienced in Spanish, yet
have socio-cultural meanings profoundly connected to indigenous cultural
concepts and practices.

3 Frontier Narratives
1. Two hundred years later, Antonio Brack, a leading Peruvian ecologist (and
the country’s first Minister of Environment), would dedicate his encyclopedia
on useful plants not only to his natural science teacher, but equally to Doña
Narcisa, “a Yánesha native from Villa Rica through whom my mother learnt
about using plants to cure her sons”. (Antonio Brack, 1999). Brack’s parents

Notes 163

were frontier settlers in the customary Yánesha territory in the Selva Central.
By then some 25,000 plant species were known of which around 5,000 were
being used for 49 purposes, Brack argued.
2. Their aim was to connect Huancabamba with the Chanchamayo Valley fur-
ther south (a trip that would otherwise take eight to ten days, passing through
the highlands).
3. Smith has also suggested the dramatic impact of a yellow fever epidemic in
1879–1880 interpreted as a new colonist weapon: “their only chance for sur-
vival was to lay down their arms, burn their magical plants for war, and allow
the whites to enter the valley” (1974: 8).
4. Campa was the category employed to describe Ashaninka, Asheninka and
Yánesha in much of the older literature. There is a general confusion in the lit-
erature of this period between the Asháninka and the Amuesha. The Amuesha
were not thought of as a separate ethnic group until Sala made the distinction
clear early in the 20th century (Smith 1977a: 52).
5. The PEPP initially covered the Pichis, Palcazú and Pachitea River basins,
later also including upper-lying districts such as Villa Rica, Oxapampa,
Chontabamba, Huancabamba and Pozuzo. Later it also included other areas
in Huanuco and Ucayali.

4 Decolonizing Indigenous Governance

1. I would like here to specify my gratitude to Richard Chase Smith for allowing
me to consult a series of letter exchanges from this period.
2. Whereas Yánesha throughout the 20th century had largely abandoned such
“condominiums” in Chanchamayo, San Luis, Paucartambo and Sogormo for
lower-lying areas in the Palcazú Valley, a small group of settlements had
remained in Quillazu, situated as an indigenous enclave space.
3. In effect, Article 37, in Belaunde’s 1964 agrarian reform law (DL 15037), had
specified that
lands occupied by aboriginal jungle tribes shall not be affected to the
extent to which they are required for the needs of the tribal population,
such needs to be determined in a preferential manner by the Institute.
In the same preferential manner, the Institute shall grant the relevant land
title to them. For this purpose, the Executive power shall prescribe the
measures required for a cartographic survey of the eyebrow of the jungle
and the jungle regions, using the services of the technical agencies at its
4. Whereas the four reserves granted in Oxapampa-Villa Rica totalled 430 ha,
the seven in Palcazú amounted to 21,214 ha. Reservas recognized included
the 1971 Villa América-Esperanza-Topsis reserva with a population of 392 and
some 8,362 ha. This had an average of 21.3 ha per person compared with
other much smaller reserves. By early 1974, some 114 communal reserves had
been set up in Peru.
5. This had a cost. Varese’s involvement with the military regime was seen as
suspect by the academic San Marcos community, forcing him to leave his
position as assistant professor (personal communication).
164 Notes

6 The Double-bind of Community Conservation

1. The 1977 regulations specified a number of criteria. Reserves were to ben-
efit communities, contain an area guaranteeing optimal management and
include a technical report approved by the Agricultural Department speci-
fying the area as a source of hunting and fishing and not for agricultural
purposes. They also specified that timber extraction, human settlements and
agricultural activities could not take place.
2. San Pedro de Pichanaz, Loma Linda-Laguna, Santa Rosa de Pichanaz,
Shiringamazú, Alto Iscozacín, Buenos Aires, Siete de Junio, Nueva Esperanza.
3. During my visits in 2013, AMARCY had finally been granted office space in
the official buildings.

7 Community Forestry and Post-frontier Deforestation

1. Shiringamazú (700 of 1,289 ha), Loma Linda/Laguna (500 of 1,783 ha), Alto
Iscozacín (100 of 669 ha) and Santa Rosa de Chuchurras (300 of 1,125 ha)
(Benavides and Pariona 2002).

8 Oil Exploration and the Extractive Post-frontier

of-360-m/messages/1329385, accessed 11 September 2010.
3. The case led to prolonged debates between NGOs, indigenous federations and
consultant experts about the presence or otherwise of indigenous communi-
ties in voluntary isolation. A coalition of NGOs had requested precautionary
measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
4. The international regime, enshrined in instruments like ILO Convention
169, determines indigenous rights not as an alternative to but as the multi-
ple articulations of self-governance, self-determination and autonomy within
state sovereignty. This implies a double-tier system of sovereignty and non-
contested state machineries (agencies, laws, mainstream administrative sys-
tem) coexisting and intersecting with indigenous realms of state-recognized
self-government and autonomy (structures, organizations, customary legal
corpus, etc.). This evidently results in historically contingent different artic-
ulations, conflicts and innovative spaces. The autonomous space of Peruvian
Amazon is distinct from Greenlandic autonomy, etc.
5., accessed 16 October 2010. Sarasara
made the presentation at a road show in Houston among potential oil
investors. The statement was widely questioned by other indigenous orga-
741287a5-5ad1-478a-8ee2-4755b9b433ef, accessed 12 January 2010.
7. In 2011, the contracted area had been reduced to 252,232.329 ha, and
Petrolifera and block 107 were taken over by Gran Tierra Energy pursuing
Notes 165

drilling exploration in the area. New drilling sites were identified and another
round of impact assessments and management plans was implemented.

9 Indigenous Power and Post-frontier Politics

1. There were organizational precedents – for example, 120 delegates of Perené
Ashaninka meeting in 1959 to discuss land matters within the Peruvian Cor-
poration (Chirif and Hierro 2009). Yet, these events did not receive similar
linear articulations (see Chapter 4).
2. At the national level, Yánesha would also by 1987 be instrumental in setting
up a new national organization, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas
de la Amazonía Peruana (CONAP), as an alternative to AIDESEP, which they
had co-founded a decade earlier. Supported by a number of NGOs, the new
organization accused AIDESEP of being too development oriented and not
political enough; 20 years later the situation was largely reversed. CONAP
today has a strong developmentalist discourse and generally considers itself
less confrontational compared with AIDESEP. It is now AIDESEP’s turn to
accuse CONAP of being too development oriented and not political enough.

Postscript: Biosphere Dreams and Biosfears

1. Law no. 30206. “Ley que declara de necesidad y utilidad pública la
conservación, restauración, mantenimiento y mejores condiciones para el
desarrollo sostenible de la reserva biósfera Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha, en
la provincia de Oxapampa, Departamento de Pasco.”

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accumulation, 13, 156 church, 31, 38, 42, 52

through dispossession, 156 citizenship, 8, 46, 63–4, 83
through repossession, 155–6 Clastres, Pierre, 111, 145
adventist, 116, 141 Cleary, David, 6
Agrarian reform, 43, 47, 52–60 climate change, 15
agreement making, 101, 104–8, COFYAL, 99
122pp, 132 collaborative management, 79
AIDESEP, 136, 139, 166 Colombia, 9, 47, 50
AMARCY, 82–92, 121 colonialism (internal), 30
Amuesha, 27 colonization, 47, 50, 59, 63–4, 68
see also Yánesha Comaroff, Jean and John, 4, 11–12
ANAP, 32, 139pp commodification, 156
Ashaninka, 25, 27, 55, 110, 139 community conservation, 78pp
uprising, 139pp community forestry, 95pp
assemblages, 152–3 compensation, 64, 84, 116, 120,
Austrian German descendents, 25, 123–7, 131–2
30–1, 160 comunidad nativa, 34, 50pp, 60–6
autonomy, 110, 122–5, 132, 157 CONAP, 127, 139
Constitución (Ciudad), 24, 48, 125–7
Bagua, 22, 137–9 contractualization, 82–4, 93
Barclay, Federica, 6, 25, 30, 38, 44 Convention 169 (ILO), 124, 165
Belaunde Terry, Fernando, 37, 47–8, corporate social responsibility, 132
52, 72 criminalization, 33, 157
biodiversity loss, 2, 6, 8–11, 159 cultural Survival, 136
biosphere Reserve, 25, 68, 160–2
block 107, 117–18, 124, 130–1 debt, 109, 110, 112
Bolivia, 47, 50, 96 deforestation, 1, 3, 9, 68, 70, 95pp
Böttger, Enrique, 40–2 De Landa, Manuel, 152
Bourdieu, Pierre, 153 Delgado, Carlos, 58
Brazil, 6, 9–10, 28, 47, 70 deregulation, 5, 11, 13–14, 156
bureaucratic power, 3, 77, 154–5 Descola, Philippe, 35
development projections, 125, 128
Cacataibo, 118 discourse, 13, 16, 17, 112, 123, 133,
Camisea, 116, 120, 126 140, 146–7
Campa, 27, 34, 42–3, 55 dispositifs, 66, 154
capitalism, vii–viii dispossession, 37–8, 78, 155–6
carbon sequestration, 8 doublebind of conservation, 90–2
carbon trade, 15 Dourojeanni, Marc, 70, 74
centrifugal, 8–9
centripetal, 8–9 ECA, 84
Chanchamayo, 40, 43, 45 ecological modernization, 67
China, 61 ecological zoning, 68–9
Chirif, Alberto, 57, 63, 72 economic value, 8

Index 183

ecosystems, 7, 24, 100 Grimwood, Ian, 69

Ecuador, 9, 35, 47, 126, 136 Guerilla, 100–1, 139pp
El Sira Communal Reserve, 25 Guía de transporte forestal, 103–5, 107
emergent dynamics, 13
entrepreneuralism, 6, 8, 22, 37, 123, Habilitación-enganche, 110
139, 150 Hale, Charles, 14, 33, 50
environmental impact assessment, Hart, Keith, 119
72–4, 131, 159 Harvey, David, 12, 150, 155
environmental planning, 8, 67pp Hornborg, Alf, 151
Escobar, Arturo, 13 Huancabamba, 24, 40–3
ethnography, 21pp, 29–30 Hvalkof, Soren, 30, 65, 110–111
expert authority, 58–9, 70, 74–5, 77,
85–6 IBC, 21, 23, 32, 65
extractive industries, 113pp ICCA, 78–80
ILO, 46–7, 124, 165
FECONAYA, 32, 116, 123, 134pp, 160 Indian problem, 46, 59
forest indigenous peoples, 50–66, 118
concessions, 7, 112, 156 indigenous politics, 134pp
cooperative, 98pp, 140 IUCN, 70, 79, 95
cover, 19, 96–8 IWGIA (International Work Group for
use, 28, 106 Indigenous Affairs), 136
Foucault, Michel, 62
FPCN, 75–6, 81–2 Ki-moon, Ban, 10–11
Franciscans, 37, 40, 42, 55 Kopytoff, Igor, 4, 149
friendship, 119, 133, 143
frontier labour, 101, 110, 118, 129pp
definition, 2, 5, 49 landgrabbing, 3, 15, 123
narratives, 7–8, 35pp land rights, 7–8, 15, 45, 50pp, 134,
and neoliberalism, 156 154
FSC, 96 Latour, Bruno, 158
law-fare, 142, 157
García, Alan, 22, 117 legality, 154
Geiger, Danilo, 4 Lévi-Strauss, Claude, 30
geographies, 43–5 Lima, 21–3, 31, 32, 40, 42, 45, 48,
globalization, 11, 14 69, 86
governance linearity, 16–18, 135
assemblages, 152–3, 159 Little, Paul, 36
decolonizing, 60 Loreto, 6, 102
double-bind, 78pp, 93
exclusive, 8–9 Madedero, 102–10
inclusive, 8–9 magic of managerialism, 87
modalities, 2, 79, 152 management plans, 84–7
permeability, 36, 49, 77, 111 managerialism, 74–5
governmentality, 58–60, 65, 93, 121 Manu, 70, 72
Gramsci, Antonio, 133 Mariátegui, José Carlos, 61
Gray, Andrew, 133 Marx, Karl, 119
green economy, 15 Mendes, Chico, 6
green energy, 15 methodology, 18, 29–32
green grabbing, 15 migration, 28, 31
184 Index

mining, 2, 9, 113–14 Pozuzo, 24, 30, 38–40, 42, 47

mitigation, 113, 117, 120–2 PROMOSAC, 120–1
modernization, 67, 127–8 ProNaturaleza, 75, 100, 160
monitoring, 120pp protected areas, 7–10, 14, 18, 21, 25,
moral politics, 132, 135, 146–7 26, 67pp, 78pp
MRTA, 139pp Pucallpa, 102
multicultural constitution, 50
Raimondi, Antonio, 40
narcotraficantes, 142 Rens, Jef, 47
nature commodification, 15 repossession, 156–7
negative reciprocity, 117, 119 re-regulation, 156
neoliberal autonomy, 122 Reserva Comunal Yánesha, 20, 78,
neoliberalism, 14, 22–3, 123, 155–6 80–94, 122
NGO, 65, 75–7, 105, 161 resource frontier, 1–2, 5, 10, 12,
non-linearity, 18–19, 152 15–16, 115, 150–1
non-timber forest products, 101 re-territorializazion, 156
reverse governance, 108–9
oil concessions, 26, 113–15, 134pp rights
ONERN, 48, 71 abuses, 6, 10, 52, 110
Ordinaire, Alexandre, 42, 110 civil, 6
Oxapampa, 23–4, 30–1, 40–2 indigenous, 50pp
Oxapampa Ashaninka Yánesha social transformation, 112
Biosophere Reserve, see Biosphere Rio + 20, 159
Reserve rubber, 6, 25, 39, 42–3, 110
Ruiz, Hipólito, 38–9
Palcazú, 24, 27, 28, 32, 40, 42–3, 48,
55–6, 73, 97 San Matías-San Carlos Protection
oil exploration, 115pp forest, 74, 76, 81, 121, 122
participation, 78pp, 87 San Pedro Pichanaz, 105
participatory planning, 87, 90 Santos-Granero, Fernando, 6, 27, 141,
Peace Corps, 51–2, 55 143–4, 146
PEPP, 48, 74–5, 164 Scott, James, 143, 148
Peruvian Amazon, 21, 97, 113, 136 self-determination, 122–3, 135, 165
Peruvian Corporation, 38, 43–5 Selva Central, 23pp
Petrolifera, 117, 128 Sendero Luminoso, 142
policy, 10, 13, 15–18, 23, 32, 73, 76 SERNANP, 91
political ecology, 4, 30 Shiringamazu, 102
politics of sustainability, 157 SINAMOS, 58, 62
post-developmentalism, 13 Smith, Richard Chase, 7, 27, 32, 52–60
post-frontier social licence, 130–2
arenas, 153 space, 5, 7, 11, 16–17, 31, 45, 96, 108,
assemblages, 152 110, 116, 146, 150, 153–4
definition, 2, 16, 17 state crafting, 66
deforestation, 112 state incorporation, 156
effects, 154 statistics, 59, 70, 81
emergent, 16 Stavenhagen, Rodolfo, 135
governance, 149pp subjectivity, political, 17, 50pp, 64
narratives, 7–8, 134 Summer Institute of Linguistics
power, 113–15, 143 (SIL), 54
Index 185

Survival International, 72, 136 Varese, Stefano, 55–64

sustainability, 2–10, 15–17, 67, 77, Vásquez, Mario, 58
100, 109 Velasco Alvarado, Juan, 51
sustainable forestry, 3, 7, 96, 98, Villa Rica, 24, 28, 45, 55, 107, 161
101, 152
workfare, 129–30
territoriality, 13, 68, 156 World Bank, 9–10, 25, 95
territorial reserves, 1 World System, 14, 30, 114, 143, 150
timber concessions, 97 WWF, 70, 95
time, 5, 32, 49, 121
TNC, 76
Tosi, Joseph, 69, 98, 100 Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park,
Troncoso, Moisés Pobleto, 46 25, 81
Tropical Science Centre, 98–100 Yánesha, 27pp
Tsachopen, 41, 56 Ethnonym, 27, 34
Tsing, Anna, 4–5, 35–6 Yánesha Communal Reserve, see
Reserva Comunal Yánesha
UNAY, 32, 118 Yato Cooc, 105–9
UNESCO, 68, 160
USAID, 72–6, 98–101 zoning, 67, 70, 86, 88–90