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Remember where we came from: Globalization and environmental discourse in the Araucania region of Chile

Niall Stephens, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Based on an ethnographic investigation, the dissertation examines the emergence and significance of discourses around "the environment" in the Lake District of the Araucanía region of Chile (Araucanía Lacustre). These are understood as part of the discursive aspect of globalization – the process by which the territory and its population are integrated ever more tightly into the networks of global market society – and considered in conjunction with discourses around Mapuche indigenous identity. Drawing on media-cultural studies, actor network theory, and medium theory, the analysis seeks to advance an ecological concept of communication that does not privilege human consciousness and agency. Communication is argued to be the principle by which space (physical and metaphysical) is configured and connected. Through a discussion of the physical and human geography of the territory it is argued that discourse is mutually immanent with material realities, including human practice and pre-discursive, nonhuman elements (chapter 3). The connection between environmental discourse and Mapuche culture is examined through the stereotype of the ecologically virtuous indigenous subject – a stereotype whose significance is changing as parallel neoliberal multicultural and sustainable development discourses boost the prestige of both Mapuche culture and ecological responsibility, even as the steady expansion of market society undermines both (Chapter 2). A program run by an NGO, funded by the Chilean state, and intended to market the agro-ecological produce of Mapuche small farmers to tourists, provides a concrete case of the intersection of neoliberal multiculturalism with environmental discourse (Chapter 4). The concept of "postmaterialism" is adapted, with a critical edge, in an exploration of the environmental activism and a certain dissatisfaction with modernity among college educated immigrants to the District from Santiago, North America and Europe (chapter 5). The process of globalization, through which Mapuche campesinos come to use environmentalist discourses, involves interactions among old and new information technologies, transportation technologies, and the non-anthropogenic realities of physical space-time and geography (chapter 6). The dissertation concludes with a normative argument about the ethical and epistemological inadequacy of globalizing market society.

Subject Area

Communication|Environmental Studies|Latin American Studies|Mass communications

Recommended Citation

Stephens, Niall, "Remember where we came from: Globalization and environmental discourse in the Araucania region of Chile" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3556289.