Special report: Racialization and public policy
Extractivism and indigenous mobilizations in Peruvian AmazoniaBy Doris Buu-Sao
This article deals with the ethnicization of environmental struggles in the face of Peruvian extractive policies. While the claim to an “indigenous” identity in these mobilizations is well known, it is rarely seen as being constrained by the government and the resulting dominant categories of ethnicity. Furthermore, ethnicization processes should not hide the internal divides within the mobilized groups. The ethnography of the area surrounding the oldest oil field in Peruvian Amazonia provides an insight into the ambivalent influence of the racialization of public policy on mobilization processes. The article first places the development of the oil industry within the regional history, which is at once marked by extractive policies and by the racialization of part of its population—who thus face “environmental racism” insofar as, as a minority, they are particularly exposed to the toxicity of the oil industry. The article then returns to the construction, within the mobilizations, of a unified ethnic social image and to the trajectory of leaders inclined to appropriate the “indigenous” category from a protest perspective. Finally, from the village space, it studies the plurality of social affiliations and the process of ethnicization of differences; this process leads to the emergence of spokespersons competing with the leaders of protests for the representation of local populations faced with extractive policies.