The Indigenization of knowledge and power in the Peruvian Amazon : a case study for socio-environmental participatory monitoring processes in Aerija and Huao communities.

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: The Amazon has always been a strategic region because of its rich variety in natural resources. Its global interest is spreading across levels and scales, influenced by the increasing demand for fossil fuels and biodiesel and the threat of climate change. Neoliberal practices continue privatizing and exploiting the Amazon´s resources regardless the Indigenous communities’ interests. These communities are losing control over their territory and facing socioenvironmental problems while their knowledge is being neglected. This is not only a crucial issue for the Indigenous communities, but for the rest of the humanity, as they share the potential to envision other possible paradigms beyond capitalism which comprises human-environment interconnections and collective property regimes. The aim of this thesis is to be part of the current discussion on the inclusion of different knowledge in sustainability science while giving voice to the Indigenous communities. The case study is set in Atalaya, center of the Peruvian Amazon, where I carried out two participatory research workshops in Aerija and Huao Indigenous communities and thirteen interviews with members from the Subregion, CSOs, local experts and comunerxs. With a Feminist Political Ecology perspective and adopting Lukes´ three-dimensional power concept, I analyze the suitability of socio-environmental participatory monitoring processes for reducing conflicts, balance power relations and foster sustainability in Aerija and Huao communities. I consider three aspects in order to discuss the suitability of a SEPM process: 1) compatibility between Indigenous knowledge and sustainability 2) Aerija and Huao socioenvironmental conflicts 3) underlying power relations. The findings show: compatible characteristics between Indigenous cosmologies and knowledge with sustainability, the socioenvironmental problems ranging from climate change and deforestation to livelihoods threatened, culture loss and women oppression, and the existence of uneven power relations between the communities and the State, the timber companies and the invaders, among other actors. Hence, SEPM becomes a suitable tool for Aerija and Huao acknowledging the local context, the multi-actor condition and the strengths and weaknesses of these communities. It can integrate the community knowledge, construct a shared environmental visualization and understanding of their territory, empower women in the community, and work as a management and advocacy tool for exercising more control over their territory, and potentially, foster sustainability. However, it also has some limitations and assumptions which have to be considered.

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