Politicising Development in Northwest Argentina: Peasant Initiatives for Integral Change
This thesis focuses on grassroots responses to economic, political and social challenges of peasant (campesino)-indigenous communities in Northwest Argentina. The main aim of this thesis is to analyse the particular development model and experiences of two campesino-indigenous organisations, MOCASE-VC from the lowlands of Santiago del Estero Province and Red Puna y Quebrada from the highlands of Jujuy Province. These organisations have been demanding access to land, citizenship rights and an inclusive form of development, among other things. Both organisations were formed in the midst of the neoliberal economic restructuring of the late twentieth century, and articulate a discourse of “integral development”. This discourse entails a profound and simultaneous change to the current exclusionary and polarised polity, society and economy in which campesino communities live. This thesis provides a critical in-depth analysis of the main livelihood challenges of peasant communities and how these communities mobilise and organise to contest these challenges. This thesis situates the emergence of campesino organisations and their struggles within historic processes of socio-political, socio-economic and agrarian change, and draws on reflections and experiences of members of various organisations in order to understand their current realities and challenges. The organisations under focus contest their marginalised position by adhering to principles of radical democracy, which include a decentralised organisational structure that strives for promoting horizontal prefigurative politics, consensus decision-making, social equality and food sovereignty. This study was guided by a qualitative methodology and the empirical data was generated over two visits to the field. The main research methods used while in the field were semi-structured interviews with individuals and focus groups, observations and participation in various activities of the organisations and spending time living with campesino families, experiencing first-hand their way of life. The findings from this research provide evidence that while discourses and praxes of radical democracy and horizontality pose different challenges, they also contribute to the consolidation of campesino communities as autonomous and active social subjects. These discourses and praxes politicise development to incorporate a wider political analysis of social and economic marginalisation as sources of poverty and inequality. It has been found that the main livelihood challenges for peasants in the study areas are securing land-tenure and improving production and commercialisation. This thesis has found that while natural attributes are significant to the latter challenges, the structural political impediments to development that are most crucial. Therefore, this thesis has found that the horizontal and participatory structures of the case-study organisations empower individuals and communities, and create a bottom-up inclusive alternative that mobilises and politicises campesino-indigenous communities. The main conclusion drawn from these findings is that a politicised programme of participatory development is fundamental to an integral approach to solving the multitude of potential livelihood challenges. This approach seeks to address problems at their source, but also requires long processes of social change and learning within rural communities.
Advisor: Hill, Douglas; Rosin, Christopher
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: development; peasant organisation; indigenous people; radical democracy; Argentina
Research Type: Thesis