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Wednesday, July 29 • 09:31 - 10:30
"Indigenous Political Representation Between Democratization and Marginalization: The Roles of Social and News Media in the 2009 Peruvian Amazon Conflict"

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Authors: Jeremy John Escobar Torio and Conny Davidsen

In June 2008, the Peruvian President – with powers granted by the Peruvian Congress – issued a controversial neoliberal reform package that sought to privatize and sell contested lands in the Peruvian Amazon for economic development via international investors. The reform package also bypassed legal land tenure and indigenous Amazon community rights, which prompted indigenous resistance and protests by the leading indigenous organization of the Peruvian Amazon, AIDESEP, in June 2009. The indigenous protests subsequently led to violent encounters with the state military that killed more than 30 people and resulted in the resignation of two key politicians. The 2009 Peruvian Amazon conflict captured intense social and news media attention that opened old and new conflicts ranging from issues of local indigenous rights to global environmental concerns. Amidst the issues that social and news media captured and centred upon during the conflict, the media platforms are adding new dimensions to matters of indigenous political representation that is only starting to be addressed. This paper examines how the use of social media by, and how reports in news media of, indigenous Amazonian communities impacted indigenous political representation during Peru’s 2009 Amazon conflict. 

Using qualitative methodological designs, which are complemented by quantitative data, the study focuses on two analytical elements. The first analyzes social and news media discourses with the investigative focus on the Facebook page of AIDESEP (social media) and three widely read national news dailies in Peru (news media). The second is the examination of semi-structured qualitative interviews with Peruvian actors directly and indirectly involved in the conflict, which are complemented by literature analysis of related lessons vis-à-vis representation of indigenous communities. 

The study suggests that Facebook use by indigenous Amazonians democratized their political voices and protest movements that challenged and even toppled the neoliberal reform package through direct networks between local and global actors. Moreover, Facebook facilitated an indigenous political representation grounded on indigenous ideologies devoid of media gatekeepers and third party interpretations/representations. However, the study also finds the wide audience reach of the national news media alongside its representations of indigenous Amazonians as one of three misrepresentations (violent groups, economic disruptors, and ethnically/politically-fragmented factions) further marginalized them from Peruvian society and their own indigenous communities, hindering a more effective indigenous political representation in the 2009 Peruvian Amazon conflict. 

This paper opens three avenues for future work surrounding social media and indigenous communities. First concerns social media and indigenous Amazonian solidarity in terms of cultural preservation and/or exchange of indigenous beliefs, cosmologies, and ideologies via social media platforms. Second is understanding and establishing a practical framework for consultation processes using social media as the platform for communicating with indigenous communities who live in disputed lands. Finally, a comparison between North and South American indigenous communities and their use of social media presents interesting questions surrounding the life cycle of indigenous movements/protests against neoliberalism. 


Conny Davidsen

Assistant Professor, University of Calgary
Dr. Conny Davidsen is interested in environmental policy and governance processes from a political ecology perspective, especially local-global and discourse interfaces with 'new' and 'old' media, implementation and communication challenges across multi-scale environmental governance and policy implementation. This includes environmental movements and conflict, socio-environmental discourses and roles of the media, environmental/political and... Read More →
avatar for Jeremy John Escobar Torio

Jeremy John Escobar Torio

Visiting Scholar, University of Calgary
Jeremy holds an M.A. (2014) in geography and a combined B.A. (2010) in geography and urban studies from the University of Calgary. He is interested in the socio-political forces embedded in the communication of environmental problems and solutions, especially concerning the communication relationship amongst aboriginal/indigenous groups, government officials, industry representatives, and Non-Governmental Organizations. He is also interested... Read More →

Wednesday July 29, 2015 09:31 - 10:30
(9th Floor) TRS 3-176 (Ted Rogers School of Management) 55 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M5G 2C3

Attendees (9)