Summary and keynote video of the 3rd International Workshop: Alternatives to Development within Contested Territories.

Recent political changes in Latin America point towards a return towards nationalist, (neo)colonial and neoliberal ideologies. Such trends are often accompanied by a deepening of intersectional inequalities, processes of democratic decline, and violations of human rights and rights to nature. Throughout the region, grassroots movements are actively involved in challenging such uneven patterns of development. This is evident in previous and current social uprisings and territorial struggles throughout the region which confront the exploitation of populations and nature, call for a reduction of inequalities, and advocate for development alternatives framed around, among others, the commons, degrowth, feminist and afro-descendent thought, as well as indigenous cosmovisions.

Such alternatives possess the potential for sustainability and transferability across different contexts and provide innovative approaches to territory production and associated human-environment relations, values and knowledges. Yet, to date, such alternatives have been marginalised by policy makers and private sector representatives. Importantly, such approaches challenge dominant world-views and are orientated towards the Pluriverse – an understanding of reality that is constituted “not only by many worlds, but by many kinds of worlds, many ontologies, many ways of being in the world, many ways of knowing reality, and experimenting those many worlds” (Querejazu 2016).

From 29-30 January 2020, a group of interdisciplinary academics from the Humanities and the Social Sciences met at Regather Cooperative in Sheffield to engage in discussions around the construction of Alternatives to Development in the context of Contested Territories, focusing not only on previous and recent social uprisings in Latin America but also on the institutionalisation of development alternatives – for example, within Bolivia’s and Ecuador’s constitutions – as well as on more subtle conscious and unconscious day-to-day practices which put into question conventional forms of development.

As a keynote event, two of our workshop organisers – Philipp Horn and Andrea Jimenez (both University of Sheffield) – recorded an interview with Miriam Lang which provided an introduction to the theme of the workshop. Miriam Lang currently coordinates the Permanent Working group on Alternatives to Development which was established by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in 2011.

Leandro Minuchin (University of Manchester), Catalina Ortiz (UCL), and Claire Wright (Queen’s University of Belfast) provided additional keynote interventions. The rest of the workshop was organised into four substantive panels focusing on ‘urban development alternatives’, ‘alternatives in a changing environment’, ‘alternatives and grassroots knowledge’ and ‘practicing the pluriverse’.

The different workshop panels departed from a conventional format of oral presentations aided by PowerPoint. Instead, 16 contributors were asked to produce a short communication which was shared with all participants prior to the workshop. Panel chairs used these written communications to instigate a panel conversation amongst the speakers and wider participants.