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Inscribed in the margins : envisioning road colonization in Peru's age of development Sharon, Tucker

Abstract

Inscribed in the Margins chronicles the socio-ecological changes that attended the colonization of Peru’s Huallaga Valley from the 1950s through the 1980s. Focused on the project of road colonization, a style of both formal and informal colonization centered around the building of a 1,500-km highway called the Carretera Marginal de la Selva, the study examines the Huallaga’s hodgepodge of stymied development schemes in a way that transcends the terse logic of political economy to implicate development’s broader epistemological regime, one that enlisted architecture, photography, cartography and criminality as much as science and politics to impose its vision on the land. Throughout, the author develops the concept of inscription as a way of understanding how environmental imaginings effect tangible socio-ecological change, arguing that the epistemological features that undergirded nature’s (primarily visual) representation as an object of development are crucial, yet often overlooked, factors in the Huallaga’s reconfiguration as a vast matrix of eco-assemblages adapted to an amalgam of capitalism and patriarchy. The study explores how photographic rituals figured in processes of imagining development; how Cold War technoscience facilitated the Huallaga’s emergence as a developable site; and how the very gendered environmental narrative constructed around the Huallaga’s colonial project all conspired to inscribe a myopic vision of Amazonian nature into the landscape. The primary sources consulted include photographs and documents from the community development program Cooperación Popular; the writings of early climate scientist, Leslie Holdridge; aerial photography from Peru’s Servicio Aerofotográfico Nacional; feasibility studies; and criminal cases from the superior courts of Huánuco and San Martín. By emphasizing the transnational dimensions of road colonization, as well as the wide variety of professional, cultural, political and historical notions that fuelled its conception, this study complicates the phenomenon of development as much more than a projection of U.S. imperial hegemony. Moreover, it offers a challenge to the field of environmental history and the historiography of the Peruvian Amazon by arguing that culture, not just economy, effects sweeping changes in the land.

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