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From contested to ‘green’ frontiers in the Amazon? A long-term analysis of São Félix do Xingu, Brazil
- Schmink, Marianne, Hoelle, Jeffrey, Gomes, Carlos Valério A., Thaler, Gregory M.
- TheJournal of peasant studies 2019 v.46 no.2 pp. 377-399
- deforestation, ecology, environmental governance, forests, issues and policy, politics, uncertainty, violence, Amazonia, Brazil
- The Amazonian frontier, shaped by developmentalist policies in the 1970s and 1980s and a socio-environmental response in the 1990s, has historically been a site of widespread violence and environmental destruction. After the imposition of new environmental governance measures in the mid-2000s, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon dropped to historic lows. Many analyses of this ‘greening’ of Amazonia operate within a limited historical perspective that obscures complex and still-evolving contestation among diverse actors and projects. The long-term evolution of the frontier is illustrated dramatically in the municipality of São Félix do Xingu (São Félix). Emerging as a ‘contested frontier’ in the 1970s, São Félix in the early 2000s lost over 1000 km² of forest annually, but since the mid-2000s, the municipality has entered a period of ‘greening’. This contribution deploys a historical political ecology framework to analyse how decades of agrarian frontier change and land conflicts among actors on the ground interacted with shifting national policy debates. Nearly a half-decade of field research in São Félix is combined with data from a 2014 field ‘revisit’ to situate the current ‘greening’ of policy and discourse within the longer term history of frontier development, revealing positive social and environmental developments and persistent contradictions and uncertainties.