Main content area

Soy states: resource politics, violent environments and soybean territorialization in Paraguay

Correia, Joel E.
TheJournal of peasant studies 2019 v.46 no.2 pp. 316-336
ecology, environmental governance, industry, politics, soybeans, territoriality, transgenic plants, violence, Latin America, Paraguay
Soy production has radically transformed the social, ecological, territorial and political form of Paraguay. This paper traces waves of sojización – soy territorialization – to analyze how soybean resource politics are changing environmental governance and state–society relations in Paraguay. I argue that political, social and ecological ruptures mark each territorialization: agrarian reforms that reconfigured land control, the introduction of genetically modified soy varieties, and most recently a ‘parliamentary coup’ preceded by spectacular acts of violence against campesinos. The violent rejection of post-neoliberal politics espoused by former President Fernando Lugo marked the beginning of a third wave of sojización defined by the increasing influence of the soy industry, campesino and indigenous dispossession, and violent environments. Paraguay reveals unexpected consequences and contradictions of the Left Turn in Latin America. The country’s experiment with post-neoliberal politics created conditions that eventually broadened and deepened neoliberalizations of nature. The term ‘soy states’ indicates three conjunctures of soy production and how they reconfigure state–society relations and conceptions of ‘the state’ in Paraguay vis-à-vis soy production. My arguments draw from extensive qualitative field research and applied work in Paraguay coupled with secondary source analysis, contributing to debates about neoliberalizations of nature, plant territoriality, agrarian political ecology and state formation.