The anti-politics of sustainable development: environmental critique from assemblage thinking in Bolivia

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Abstract

In this paper I argue that assemblage theory provides an innovative way to extend critique of sustainable development as it is being remade by the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Drawing on recent fieldwork in Bolivia, I examine the early take‐up and implementation of the SDGs in a site of intensifying resource extraction and struggles for radical development alternatives. I foreground the assemblage of institutions, discourses, landscapes, and infrastructures that are at once disciplined and held together to materialise and legitimise particular interpretations of sustainable development. This helps highlight what I term the “lost geographies” of the assemblage. Based on this analysis, I argue that the SDGs as assemblage act as a form of anti‐politics by rendering neutral and apolitical the conflictive politics of extractivism. As global momentum to combat climate crisis and environmental crisis grows, such assemblage work helps explain how powerful, extractivist development logics are nevertheless being maintained and reworked.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-222
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Volume46
Issue number1
Early online date20 Sept 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Anti-politics
  • Assemblage
  • Extractivism
  • Latin America
  • Political ecology
  • Sustainable development

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