Beyond postdevelopment: Civic responses to regional integration in the Amazon

Publication Title

Journal of Cultural Geography

Document Type


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

Second Department or Program

Latin American Studies

Publication Date



Amazon, Citizenship, Civil society, Environment, Postdevelopment, Regional integration


Postdevelopment theorists often try to read "alternatives to development" in the actions of local social movements or non-governmental organizations. More recent studies of development, however, emphasize the imbrication of state agendas with those of civil society. In the context of a major regional integration initiative in South America, this essay argues for the need to move beyond postdevelopment. Launched in 2000, IIRSA, the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America, calls for a massive expansion of the continent's transport, energy and telecommunications networks and as such has the potential to redefine both the ecological and political-economic landscapes of South America. In particular, IIRSA's Amazonian mega-projects have prompted outcries from environmentalists and indigenous peoples. In examining some of the salient methods activists are using to challenge IIRSA, this paper takes issue with postdevelopment and argues that activists are not rejecting elite projects, but instead are engaging them. Activists generate this space of engagement by invoking and problematizing the idea of active citizenship. The essay ends by exploring the implications of such a strategy, emphasizing an awareness of the entanglements between civil society and dominant institutions through a consideration of development, environment and citizenship. © 2011 JCG Press.


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