Competing entanglements in the struggle to save the Amazon: The shifting terrain of transnational civil society

Publication Title

Political Geography

Document Type


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

Second Department or Program

Latin American Studies

Publication Date



Amazon, Conservation, Indigenous peoples, Networks, NGOs, Transnational civil society


Transnational civil society has often been conceptualized as a third sector, buffered from the power politics of nation-states and global capital. The relative autonomy of this sector has been seen as key in empowering the voices of marginalized peoples and in advocating new counter-hegemonic agendas on the world stage. Recent research, however, has begun to explore power imbalances within the transnational civic sphere, and how different transnational NGOs' modes of articulation with political institutions and market actors inform those power dynamics. We suggest here that the concept of "entanglements," recently introduced within political geography, can offer a useful spatial imagery in assessing the effects of these varied lines of influence. The article first traces the evolution of the Amazon Alliance, a transnational network of environmental and human rights NGOs and Amazonian indigenous federations. It then examines a countervailing nexus of governmental and corporate entanglements that have been drawing conservation NGOs away from indigenous eco-political engagement in recent years. To understand the waning salience of the eco-indigenous conservation agenda, we argue, requires analysis of the shifting terrain of civil society, and of the articulation of different NGOs with institutions beyond the frontiers of the third sector. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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