Chapter 11: Mining in Latin America: coloniality and degradation
This chapter examines what has been termed the project of coloniality – that complex political, economic, cultural and ecological set of processes that has long defined ‘Latin America’. This project severed myriad historical and cultural processes occurring in the region (themselves marked by warfare and oppression), even as it subordinated natures and societies to alien logics based on the frenetic accumulation of economic resources. Key European states wielded real and symbolic power both at the macro level (territorial and administrative reorganization according to imperial production) and at the micro level (power over nature as well as over humans). Indeed, the coloniality project in Latin America was the necessary counterpart to the modernity project in Europe (and later the USA). The chapter argues that not only is coloniality key to understanding the evolution of society and nature in Latin America; the specific activity of mining (and its associated impacts) is fundamental to the constitution of Latin American coloniality – indeed, the exploitation of minerals in the region is vital to the very genesis of modernity. As such, this chapter focuses on mining in the region to thereby understand larger political ecologies of socio-natural transformation – beginning with a historical overview before assessing contemporary dynamics.
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