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Ethnicity, Territory and Indigenous Peoples: The Paradoxes and Challenges of Neoliberal Policies – until June 28, 2017

Editors: Victoria Chenaut and Laura Valladares de la Cruz

Deadline for submission: June 28, 2017

Keywords: indigenous rights, extractivism, environmental resources, indigenous territories, post-neoliberal states

The purpose of this thematic volume is to bring together contributions from different fields of the social sciences – political and legal anthropology, human geography, political ecology, critical sociology of law, rural sociology, and others – that tackle the problems faced by indigenous peoples in different parts of the world, as a result of the avalanche of investments by national and international companies intent in exploiting the biotic and energy resources in their territories.

The debate over the environmental and social risks stemming from the abuses of private companies and governments over collective territories has a long history. One of the most relevant studies on the subject is by Elinor Omstron (1990) who, in view of the already precarious ecological balance of our planet, called for the need to preserve resources through institutional reforms and agreements among producers. However, during the last phase of neoliberal Capitalism, even as new programs, laws and public policies try to alleviate or offset the damages caused by economic activities, constitutional regimes are being reformed to pave the way for new extractivist projects that threaten the social, environmental and territorial rights of vast populations, in what David Harvey (2004) has aptly called “accumulation by dispossession”.

The global rise of neoliberal policies over the last several decades has had a serious impact on the lives of indigenous peoples. In this thematic issue, we would like to delve into the paradoxes of public policies and practices, which declare the recognition of cultural diversity and indigenous rights in the national constitutions of several countries, while in practice threatening the collective territorial rights of indigenous peoples. This results from state support of the activities of national and transnational oil and mining corporations, the construction of hydroelectric and infrastructure projects, tourism development, the plunder of precious woods, etc. The states authorize these activities in the indigenous territories with neither prior and informed consultation nor consent from their inhabitants, as established in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) and the International Labor Organization Convention 169 (1989).

As a result of the ensuing environmental changes, this lack of prior consent in the application of neoliberal policies leads to the loss of territorial control by indigenous peoples, threatens their rights to autonomy and territory and severely affects the social, economic and cultural reproduction of these groups. It has a negative impact on production, land tenure, relationships with sacred areas and ceremonial centers, as well as on the different activities men and women carry out for their social life. Individual, gender and collective rights are thus endangered.

The panorama is a complex one. The advance of transnational corporations is reconfiguring not only the socio-territorial space, but also the power of states and the sovereignty of nations. Seeing their human and environmental rights breached, people in many parts of the world – particularly indigenous peoples, who have a long history of subordination and exclusion – are turned into what Herreño (2015) calls “the new victims of development”. Their resource-rich territories are today regarded as booty by several actors. The late Twentieth Century and the beginning of the new Millennium are characterized by the escalation of social conflict on the one hand, and the emergence of networks and social movements that try to combat the new forms of despoilment and pillage of territories and resources in vast areas of the globe, on the other.

Side by side with environmental activism, the defense of peoples’ rights, and the struggles against the new political and economic powers of the big transnational corporations, there is the suggestive work of theorists in the fields of postcolonial and subaltern studies, such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1999), Walter Mignolo (2000), Catherine Walsh (2009) and Arturo Escobar (2014), among others, as well as the so-called “Southern Epistemologies” proposed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos and María Paula Meneses (2014), and the studies that approach the relationship between neoliberalism and extractivism, such as those by David Harvey (2004), Eduardo Gudynas (2009) and César Rodríguez Garavito (2016). Finally, we could not end this list without mentioning the relevant contributions by other authors who have reflected on the issues of identity, state policy and neoliberalism, such as John and Jean Comaroff (2012) and John Gledhill (2014).

Drawing from studies carried out in countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas, in this thematic issue of e-cadernos we would like to document these processes, the forms of struggles to defend the territory and the strategies of social mobilization and resistance that accompany them. We also plan to address the issue of legal and court appeals in view of the ongoing criminalization of social protest in a number of countries. Our main interest resides in documenting and reflecting upon a number of specific cases of constitutional and legal reform that have been carried out in several countries to facilitate extractivist projects. We ask how, from the moment such reforms are implemented, territorial disputes and the struggle for material and immaterial resources take place, how the territories of the indigenous peoples are reconfigured, and how these processes contribute to a demographic mobility in the forms of migration and displacement, threatening the human, collective and gender rights of populations. We will also look at social movements and their manifestation under the current economic policies, and the criminalization of social protest, as well as the role played by judicial institutions in the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples. Of special interest to us is the identification of the new actors and organizations that emerge from these contexts to question the current economic and political model. In short, this interdisciplinary thematic issue aims to situate the current debates over these extremely relevant topics, by bringing together different fields of the social sciences.

We are interested in articles based on original research by authors who contribute to the debate about the impact of neoliberal policies on indigenous peoples. Our proposal stems from the presentations and discussions within the conference panel organized as part of the activities of the Human Rights Commission of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), of which we are members.

e-cadernos ces is a peer-reviewed, online and entirely open access journal, published by the Center for Social Studies in Coimbra. The journal is currently indexed in CAPES, EBSCO and Latindex. For more information about this publication see

Texts should be presented in final version, in Portuguese, English, Spanish, or French. Manuscripts must not exceed 60,000 characters (with spaces), including notes and references. For the final section @cetera, other manuscripts may be submitted (up to 35,000 characters), such as interviews and discussions (up to 25,000 characters) or book reviews (up to 5,000 characters).

Detailed guidelines for submitting texts are available at Manuscripts should be sent by email to and authors should clearly identify the thematic issue in question – “Ethnicity, Territory and Indigenous Peoples: The paradoxes and challenges of neoliberal policies”.

All manuscripts will go through a blind peer review process.

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