Theses Doctoral

Calculating Amazonia: the politics of calculative abstractions in Peru’s tropical rainforest governance

Romero Dianderas, Eduardo Javier

In this dissertation, I examine how massive technocratic investments deployed over the last twenty years are changing the ways in which Peru’s tropical rainforests come to be experienced, known and governed in the context of climate change and biodiversity loss. I focus on the region of Loreto, Peru’s largest Amazonian region, in order to explore recent changes in two realms of tropical rainforest governance: the traceability of tropical timber and the georeferentiation of Indigenous lands.

Drawing on 24 months of ethnographic and archival fieldwork following the activities of state bureaucrats, loggers, Indigenous peoples, land surveyors and other human and more-than-human actors, I show how such interventions have focused on stabilizing elusive calculative abstractions that I call metaphysical objects: objects such as lines, points or volumes that cannot be directly experienced through the senses, but whose continuous stabilization through everyday technocratic labor carries the promise of making rainforest information ever more coordinated, standardized and self-consistent.

As emerging regimes of global environmental governance increasingly demand modes of epistemic coordination and standardization at planetary scales, I argue that metaphysical objects are becoming themselves important terrains of political struggle where what comes to be at stake are the terms of their always precarious stabilization. In this context, I contend that following the speculative processes by which metaphysical objects are precariously stabilized across tropical rainforest, Indigenous communities and state offices is crucial to understand the political and epistemic dilemmas that surround emerging regimes of global environmental governance in the age of climate change and biodiversity loss.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
West, Paige
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2022