Gastón Gordillo: The Forests Destroyed by Bulldozers: An Affective Geometry of the Argentine Soy Boom

Videomitschnitt der Veranstaltung „Present in Absence – The Hidden Life of Infrastructures“

In Argentina, a vast infrastructure has emerged in the past two decades to make possible the pro- duction of soybeans to China and the rest of the world. If infrastructure is “matter that enables the movement of other matter,” as Brian Larkin argues, it is also matter that reorganizes geographies, redefines their daily rhythms, and immerses them in particular affective atmospheres. The infra- structure of the Argentinean Chaco region is haunted by the environmental and social destruction it is based upon. This lecture examines, first, how agribusiness evicts rural residents and destroys forests to create soy fields. Second, it will be argued that forests react to the advance of bulldozers as affective assemblages defined by the presence of trees in their entanglement with animal and insect life. It will be examined how the expansion of a corporatized infrastructure at the service of global supply chains has prompted the rise of grassroots movements united in their defense of the forests as places of subaltern autonomy and non-commodified life.

Gastón Gordillo is a professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. He has worked on questions of terrain and the materiality of space, violence, affect, ruins and ruination, protests and insurrections; as well as the “soy boom” and resistance to agribusiness in South America. He is author of “Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Ar- gentinean Chaco” (2004, Duke University Press) and “Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction” (2014, Duke University Press). He is currently researching the social and spatial impact of agribusiness on the Gran Chaco region in northern Argentina, focusing particularly on the political responses by local people to land grabs, evictions, and deforestation.