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Intersectionality and Territory: Perspectives from the Latin America and Caribbean region

For defining “intersectionality”, we propose to start from the definition of Mara Viveros, who understands that:

“[L]a apuesta de la interseccionalidad consiste en aprehender las relaciones sociales como construcciones simultáneas en distintos órdenes, de clase, género y raza, y en diferentes configuraciones históricas” (2016, p.12.).

"Intersectionality consists in apprehending social relations as simultaneous constructions in different orders, of class, gender and race, and in different historical configurations."

It’s also important not to omit other sources of social inequality such as localisation of your place of origin - at multiple scales from the national to the district levels. That inequality carries with it symbolic practices of discrimination through stereotyping and stigmatization, which can lead to differentiated access to development opportunities.

Following this approach, a dimension that is a source of complex social inequalities is the racial mixing/Mestizaje that continues to occur in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The conquest and colonization produced processes of violent racial mixing in the most populated regions of the 16th century as these events were, in many cases, carried out without consent and as an imposition of power. This abuse of power and transgression of reproductive rights happened along with the great demographic decline caused by new diseases as well as the "importation" of slaves from Africa and Asia. It is in this context that “Latin American machismo” is born, based on the de-structuring of families, which threatens women and other gender identities.

When republics were formed in LAC two hundred years ago, they did so on the basis of enormous inequalities that intermingled cultural and racial issues with economic ones. This is again rendered visible in how the territory is occupied and transformed. The result is a contradictory discourse of what citizenship entails as it was never a universal concept for all inhabitants. Access to rights, decision-making processes, basic services and infrastructure, and to development opportunities is still differentiated, in practice, according to class, race and gender but also depending on your place of origin.

In our work with the GRRIPP network, we propose an intersectionality lens to the management of the territory, understanding its occupation as a dimension of inequality in LAC. The territory of LAC is diverse as a physical environment, formed by fragile ecosystems and exposed to different natural phenomena. On this physical environment, there is an occupation of the territory that expresses and reproduces different dimensions of social inequality in our region.

Intersectionality is key to understanding inequalities in land management and development. Photo: Yarinacocha Lagoon flood, Peru 2011. By: Diego Sanguinetti (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

On the other hand, the multiple dimensions of inequality are worsened through the appropriation of the territory by extractive interests on a global scale that takes advantage of the dispersion of small human occupations to build the "mito de la desterritorialización” or

“myth of deterritorialization”, ignoring network occupations of various populations in the region (Haesbert, 2013). On more contemporary terms, deterritorialization occurs as natural ecosystems, topographies, and geographies are not taken into account in imposed models of land management and city-making. Contemporary planning and city-making result in violent practices that limit the fulfilment of diverse modes of living and inhabiting under the false promises of “modernisation” and “development.”

It is in this framework that an intersectional perspective should help us enrich our understanding of land management. For this, we consider, as a working hypothesis, to understand management as a tool dependent on an approach based on the care of the territory. We also envision the debates around land management as platforms towards the operationalization of theory into practice and towards political incidence, hoping to go beyond rendering visible inequalities and injustices into the co-production of alternatives modes of operation.

Professor Pablo Vega Centeno is a Professor at the Department of Architecture and a researcher at the Research Centre in Architecture and the City, both at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Belen Desmaison is a Lecturer at the Department of Architecture and a researcher at the Research Centre in Architecture and the City, both at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Perú.

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