Livelihoods, capabilities and insurgent citizenship in and around a rainforest metropolis : from violent urbanism to a new rurality?

Piva da Silva, Mariana and Barlow, Jos and Parry, Luke and Fraser, James (2017) Livelihoods, capabilities and insurgent citizenship in and around a rainforest metropolis : from violent urbanism to a new rurality? PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Latin America is one of the most unequal and violent regions in the world. This unevenly affects the poor, who bear a disproportionate share of social pathologies including violence, poor health and inadequate access to healthcare and social rights. This uneven distribution of injustices has been theorized as “differentiated citizenship.” These injustices impinge on the wellbeing of the poor in several ways. The capabilities approach has contributed to expand notions of wellbeing recognising that social injustices are a serious threat to it. This approach offers a conceptualization of wellbeing that places central emphasis on dignity and freedom, seeing wellbeing in terms of what individuals are able to do and to be within society. Migration has been seen as one of the responses to unfair socio-economic conditions and distribution of rights. Because of its importance in shaping biodiversity, human migration in the Amazon is a well-studied subject. The majority of migration research in the region has adopted a quantitative approach and focused on the socio-economic and political drivers of migration – specifically, rural-urban and urban-urban migration and its implications for the region's development and environment. Thus, many of these studies tend to frame poverty within material and rights-deprivation frameworks without addressing how people experience poverty, the degree to which they are capable of improving their conditions and how these things relate to people’s understanding of their own freedom and wellbeing. This thesis attempts to understand an under-studied urban-to-rural (from a metropolis to a new forest-frontier) flow of working class citizens in the Amazon. In order to do this, this thesis explores the daily lives of the working classes in the Amazonian countryside and city, as well as their experiences of symbolic and material injustices, including the production, reproduction and performances of inequalities. Adopting a qualitative approach and drawing on the capabilities and insurgent citizenship theoretical frameworks, this study compares urban and rural contexts, analysing the experiences of people who are relatively marginalized within Brazil’s highly stratified society. This thesis is the result of a journey that began on a new agricultural-deforestation frontier, one hundred kilometres from Manaus, Brazil. Initially focused on investigating the potential socio-environmental benefits of fish-farming for that region, this research took a different direction when I came across to novel social transitions and landscape transformations manifest in the process of former city-dwellers (re)emerging as rural peasants. This thesis proceeds through three data chapters. Embedded in the global debate surrounding the long-standing search for environmental and social sustainability in Amazonia, chapter two provides insights into the potential of fish farming to support conservation and regional food security in the Brazilian Amazon. Chapters three and four are based on participant observation: the life histories and experiences of working class former city-dwellers living in the rural areas surrounding Manaus (chapter three) and on current residents of this metropolis (chapter four). Through the lens of capabilities and citizenship approaches, chapter three explores the experiences of urban social injustices and oppression and how it contrasts (and in some ways, contributes to or motivates) their new rural lives. Drawing on the capabilities , strucural violence and disadvantages apporoaches, chapter four attempts to critically analyse working class individuals’experiences of urban deprivation and violence in Manaus. Chapter 3 reveals that the socio-environmental context of the countryside that surrounds Manaus is apparently much safer and less socially stratified than that of the metropolis, which seems to foster improvements in central capabilities. An apparently lower risk of violence considerably reduces fear and anxiety around bodily integrity and of others leading the new colonists to experience an increased sense of safeness and freedom, which appeared to contribute to an enhanced capacity for agency in comparison to that offered by the city. Alongside this, less evident social inequalities in the rural areas seems to positively influence the new rural citizens’ sense of dignity and self-worth. In addition, the establishment of a new life has required migrants to collectively mobilize in pursuit of their rights, seeking fuller forms of citizenship. I interpret this urban to rural movement as a form of insurgent citizenship in response to an oppressive urban reality, which I examine in Chapter four. Chapter four argues that structural violence (re)produces various disadvantages that contribute to capabilities failures among the Amazonian urban working class. High levels of violence impinge upon free movement, threaten bodily integrity, cause negative emotions, and damage social affiliation, resulting in severe constraint to individual flourishing. Despite experiencing some economic prosperity throughout their lives, many were unable to change and improve their capacities to do and to be and to live a dignified life due to a cluster of ‘corrosive’ disadvantages centred on bodily and structural violence. These findings offer new insights to the debate surrounding human migration and insurgent citizenship in the Amazon which has hitherto paid little attention to the link between poverty and the deprivation of capabilities. The thesis' own change in direction – from addressing grand global challenges about Amazon’s sustainability towards the equally important locally-experienced social injustice – also offers insights into the possible limitations of research and policy-making which, dominated by remotely-defined global challenges, fails to capture the social transitions that define the lives and wellbeing of ordinary citizens.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? capabilities, violence, insurgent citizenship, inequality, migration, amazon ??
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20 Apr 2018 08:30
Last Modified:
03 Jul 2024 00:34