2021 Theses Doctoral
Resonances of Land: Silence, Noise, and Extractivism in the Brazilian Amazon
This dissertation investigates the role of listening and sounding in the geopolitics of extractivism, in which the Brazilian Amazon is deeply immersed, by weaving a storytelling of transformation and destruction of places in the region through the tropes of noise and silence. Extractivism here means a process of accumulation by dispossession tied to the tearing apart of places to become resources. The storytelling of this dissertation builds on ethnographic fieldwork in the state of Pará, in the Brazilian Amazon, and the geopolitical testimonies of small farmers, inhabitants of riverine communities, and a social educator, as they articulate relations between the sonic and what they perceive around them, what they are losing, and what they value. I elaborate on a dialogue with and critique of acoustemology as tied to place making by attending to noise and silence as acoustic assemblages tied to modes of making, destroying, sensing, and neglecting place. In the context of radically unequal land distribution, finite land becomes a major contested ontological ground. As places clash, unequal needs of sensing reality as a shared ecosystem come to the fore.
Chapter one delves into the way an educator in the Xingu region talks about the silence of the water and the loss of forest and river spirits to neoliberal megaprojects. In dialogue with her words, I explore how silence participates in an economy of extraction in which incompatible notions of nature clash while crystallized sensorial machinations of neoliberalism destroy place from a safe distance. Chapter two debates how soy monoculture farming, in the Low Amazonas Region, fabricates multiple silences as it displaces people, desertifies place, and fills the land with pesticides and mechanisms of surveillance for private property. In dialogue with the testimonies of small rural farmers, and building on my visits to the region, this chapter discusses silences in relation to the desertification and animation of place as part of the cycles of the monoculture extractive chain. The third chapter focuses on the trope of noise as tied to present and potentially changing infrastructures in a riverine community in a conservation unit in the same region. I build on what four inhabitants of this community express about the noise of motors and generators in relation to singing birds and roosters, noting how the storytelling of the relation between these sounding presences is also the storytelling of development as a threat and a promise, in a context where belonging is complexly situated in relation to state tutelage, notions of environmental protection, and NGO projects. Altogether, the storytelling of noise and silence presented in these chapters points to the complicated entanglement between modes of listening and modes of tying being, belonging, and land together, in territories of a region constantly positioned as a resource for extraction.
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More About This Work
- Academic Units
- Thesis Advisors
- Ochoa Gautier, Ana M.
- Ph.D., Columbia University
- Published Here
- June 15, 2021