Cover image for Producing Knowledge, Protecting Forests: Rural Encounters with Gender, Ecotourism, and International Aid in the Dominican Republic By Light Carruyo

Producing Knowledge, Protecting Forests

Rural Encounters with Gender, Ecotourism, and International Aid in the Dominican Republic

Light Carruyo

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$25.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03326-6

136 pages
6" × 9"
16 b&w illustrations
2007

Producing Knowledge, Protecting Forests

Rural Encounters with Gender, Ecotourism, and International Aid in the Dominican Republic

Light Carruyo

“In her account of Ciénaga and its people, Light Carruyo centers the voices, experiences, and political interests of Ciénagüeros as they confront the local state, national elites, foreign aid workers, and foreign scholars who lay claim to their community’s resources. She offers a rich portrayal of a peasant community in the Dominican Republic actively engaging the changing global economy, the contradictory development policies promoted among them by a range of actors, and competing notions of what constitutes ‘the good life.’ The result is a highly readable text that contributes significantly to multiple sociology sub-fields, including development, gender, and cultural studies.”

 

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Development studies has not yet found a vocabulary to connect large structural processes to the ways in which people live, love, and labor. Producing Knowledge, Protecting Forests contributes to such a vocabulary through a study of "local knowledge" that exposes the relationship between culture and political economy. Women's and men's daily practices, and the meaning they give those practices, show the ways in which they are not simply victims of development but active participants creating, challenging, and negotiating the capitalist world-system on the ground.

Rather than viewing local knowledge as something to be uncovered or recovered in the service of development, Light Carruyo approaches it as a dynamic process configured and reconfigured at the intersections of structural forces and lived practices. In her ethnographic case study of La Ciénaga—a rural community on the edge of an important ecological preserve and national park in the Dominican Republic—Carruyo argues that Dominican economic development has rested its legitimacy on rescuing peasants from their own subsistence practices so that they may serve the nation as "productive citizens," a category that is both racialized and gendered. How have women and men in this community come to know what they know about development and well-being? And how, based on this knowledge, do they engage with development projects and work toward well-being? Carruyo illustrates how competing interests in agricultural production, tourism, and conservation shape, collide with, and are remade by local practices and logics.

“In her account of Ciénaga and its people, Light Carruyo centers the voices, experiences, and political interests of Ciénagüeros as they confront the local state, national elites, foreign aid workers, and foreign scholars who lay claim to their community’s resources. She offers a rich portrayal of a peasant community in the Dominican Republic actively engaging the changing global economy, the contradictory development policies promoted among them by a range of actors, and competing notions of what constitutes ‘the good life.’ The result is a highly readable text that contributes significantly to multiple sociology sub-fields, including development, gender, and cultural studies.”
“The book is concise yet rich in ethnographic and theoretical insights. Producing Knowledge, Protecting Forests is a much needed contribution to the fields of development studies, rural sociology, tourism studies, Caribbean, Latin American, Women’s and Gender Studies. It will be classic for years to come.”

Light Carruyo is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latino Studies at Vassar College.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Development and the Construction of the Productive Peasant

2. Encounters: Tourism, Conservation, and Gendered Tourist Patronage in La Ciénaga

3. Disjunctures: Why “Nothing Ever Comes to La Ciénaga”

4. Collisions: Meaning, Mobility, and the Serious Woman

Epilogue

Appendix

References

Index

Introduction

A 1999 dark-green sports utility vehicle (jeepeta) with tinted windows slows as it drives past. I am sitting on the ledge of Rita’s porch, writing in my notebook, as I have done on many afternoons. Rita and her father are listening to the radio novela, and Miriam, Rita’s eldest daughter, has just finished cleaning the house and is now polishing her nails. Francia sits with us while keeping an eye on the colmado (small general store) that she and her husband run next door and breastfeeding her baby girl, the youngest of five. A group of kids play ball in the dirt road in front of us; they attend school in the morning and have the afternoon free. Their play is interrupted by the dark-green jeepeta; a window comes down, and the driver, a middle-aged Dominican man wearing designer sunglasses, mumbles something to one of the kids, nods, rolls up the window, and drives toward the office of the park, located at the road’s end. The kids run after the jeepeta for a few yards and then turn back to their game. Miriam blows on her freshly polished red nails and asks if I would like to paint mine. I do.

We are located in a community called Boca de los Ríos, the last stop before entering the national park—Parque Nacional José Armándo Bermúdez. This is the end of the road; it is the beginning of a mountain adventure for some, but for residents of La Ciénaga de Manabao it is a strategic location. It is strategic precisely because it is the end (of the winding mountain dirt road) and the beginning (of the park) and thus places the residents squarely in the path of visitors. “If it weren’t for tourism we’d be dying of hunger,” one man told me. Residents of Boca de los Ríos have an advantage over other locals. Their location means more access to tourism—obtaining jobs as guides, renting a bed or a room, selling from their colmados, renting out a mule, or benefiting from the “goodwill” of tourists. Boca de los Ríos is one of several communities, called parajes, or smallest geopolitical administrative units, that make up La Ciénaga de Manabao—its location makes these particular Cienagueros more highly visible than their neighbors.

I suppose what is visible depends on who the visitor is, and there are many. Jeepetas drive in and out frequently enough to go unnoticed, except that nothing goes unnoticed in a small town. Here, a taken-for-granted skill is the ability to tell the difference between a motorcycle, a produce truck, and a passenger truck by their sound as they approach up the hill and, even more impressive to me, the ability to tell whose vehicle it is—“Oh! Here comes Kiko’s truck!” The traffic in La Ciénaga includes tourists, politicians and military officers who have vacation homes or land in the area, people who would like to buy land, and the director of national parks and other park personnel. La Ciénaga is also visited by representatives from a variety of nongovernmental organizations (ngos), environmentalists, and scientists from U.S. universities and their Dominican counterparts. Sometimes missionaries, supervisors from the coffee plantation up the road, and presidential candidates (by helicopter, of course) come to the area; even the vice president himself has visited, to attend a meeting of the local women’s association, the Asociación Nueva Esperanza (ane).

What visitors see might depend on the reason for their visit, where they came from, and their timing. An agronomist, or other person interested in agriculture, may notice that most of the small plots of land are being used to grow tayota, a squashlike vegetable. This was not always so; beans and coffee were much more common in the past and more profitable, I am told. Small farmers in the region can no longer compete with large agribusiness and imported beans. They lose money and accumulate debt, so most have turned their land over to tayota—which at least puts a little food on the table. Such an agronomist, if familiar with the area, may know or notice that some of the best land on the drive to La Ciénaga is owned by absentee urban landowners and is being used as grazing land.

Foreign tourists have commented on the amount of garbage seen on the side of the road, between houses, under small patches of coffee plants, or in ravines—shoes, batteries, plastic bottles. This garbage detracts from the beauty of the area, they say. But there is nowhere to take the garbage, I say. No sanitation truck comes to La Ciénaga, no recycling truck. And while residents have been asking for—and the Peace Corps was meant to build—landfills, nothing has been done. And just where does that tourist think the garbage she generated in the park and on her visit will be put, anyway?

When I rode up to La Ciénaga for the first time in May 1998, I sat in the back of a pickup truck with a history buff. As we drove past the pine trees and looked down the mountain into the river rushing below—a breathtaking view—he commented on the region’s history. These are fairly new pine trees; these forests were all burned down by the military, he told me. Looking for guerrillas, he said. An artist might notice the colors and the architecture. The wooden houses that decorate the road are painted pink and green or orange and aqua, have zinc roofs, and are framed by trees and bright flowers of red, fuchsia, pink, and yellow. The faces of the inhabitants who peek out the doors and windows, or sweep patios, or carry water from the river ranged from black to very blond and blue-eyed. In La Ciénaga, where almost everyone is related, one woman told me, “Somos todos de las mismas familias, pero salimos de diferentes razas” (We are all from the same families, but we came out different races).

Perhaps there are some tourists who miss these important details as they focus on the river and imagine that in a few short minutes they will be slipping on their orange life jackets, slapping on some sunscreen, and hopping onto the raft that will take them down the river again. Or maybe they are focused on getting on a good strong mule and heading to the famous Pico Duarte or Valle del Tetero to escape the heat and traffic of the capital.

Clearly the eye of the beholder is of some consequence. Timing matters too, because had the driver of the 1999 dark-green jeepeta with tinted windows come to La Ciénaga in 1998, instead of on that particular sunny afternoon, he might have seen Clara come running down the hill with the yokes. She had marched herself up the hill through the rows of pine trees and removed the yokes from a team of oxen that were being used to transport illegally cut pine trees from her family’s property. Had the driver rolled in a bit later in the afternoon, he would have seen Graciela selling coconut and potato sweets she made and sold so she could buy the evening’s meal of fried eggs and boiled green bananas. In fact, it is possible he drove past Graciela on his way out, and maybe he even purchased a dulce for a peso. And a few days before he might have seen Junior wipe out on his motorcycle—show-off!

Had he driven in several months later, he might have seen Anita and her husband, eyes cast down, walking down the hill with a tiny bundle and a shovel to the place where they would bury their child. She was born just before dawn, without enough warning to make it to the hospital (forty kilometers away), and she did not make it to sunset. Had he come on a Sunday, he would have seen people gathered together and maybe noticed fifteen-year-old Celina walking to the colmado just to flirt with Luis, the cute nineteen-year-old who drives the tayota truck to Santiago and always honks as he drives by on weekdays. But had he come two Septembers ago he would have had to turn around and go home, because Hurricane George destroyed the bridges and roads that lead to La Ciénaga, along with crops, homes, livestock, and schools. The bridge was no good anyway, but neither is the one in place now; some tourists even get out of their car and walk across, not trusting the rickety planks to hold up their heavy top-of-the-line 4x4, though one brave person does drive across. But it was on this particular day, and at this particular hour, that the driver of the 1999 dark-green jeepeta with tinted windows drove by, as we sat and wrote, talked, polished our nails, and listened to the novela.

The dark-green jeepeta signifies the presence of the tourist, the traveler, the outsider in whatever form he or she takes—ecotourist, researcher, missionary, organizer, or politician. Perhaps I imagine that the work I do as an ethnographer makes me different from the jeepeta driver, or the missionaries or whitewater rafters, but during my time in La Ciénaga, we were all tourists, travelers, outsiders. The account that follows is a combination of what was visible to me during the time I spent in La Ciénaga and what was shown to me by Cienaguera/os who were my hosts, guides, and mediators. I attempt to represent a tiny fragment of the lives and concerns of the people whom I came to know and care about while I was there. Although my visit was more than a cursory drive through town on my way to the park, and I adhered to most of the sociological conventions that would authorize me to write this book, I am certain that I cannot begin to do justice to the complexity of life in La Ciénaga. Thus, this book can only be a story—a partial truth—that weaves together my own questions and anxieties about development with the voices that I encountered in La Ciénaga.

Paradoxically, perhaps, I center local knowledge, while simultaneously questioning whether it is even possible for me to do so. I choose the local—local knowledge specifically—as a site for analysis because I am interested in what it means and could mean to development studies. In a field in which the smallest unit of analysis is the capitalist world-system, the fact that Clara ran down the hill with a pair of stolen yokes, or that Celina may well run off with the tayota-truck driver, may seem insignificant. This is because development studies has not yet found a vocabulary to connect large structural processes to the ways in which people live, love, and labor. But the daily practices of women and men and the meaning they give to those practices show the ways in which they are not simply victims of development, but active participants creating, challenging, and negotiating the capitalist world-system on the ground. Therefore, an empirical study of local knowledge as dynamically constituted not only illuminates the relationship between culture and political economy, but also unsettles assumptions about the meaning of development and the workings of agency, thus opening up the possibilities for a more radical, informed, and potentially transformative dialogue.

Local Knowledge

To get at this question of local knowledge, this book is framed by two questions: How have women and men in La Ciénaga come to know what they know about development and well-being? And how, based upon this knowledge, do they engage with development projects and work toward well-being? I am interested in these questions because I have been arguing for a development studies that more adequately addresses the relationship between large structural forces and people’s lived experiences. Such a project must weave together and between historical narratives and ethnographic narratives, the voices of the author and the subject, silences and actions, global economies and local economies. I have chosen as my starting point local knowledge, which I argue is knowledge that emerges precisely from tensions between structural process and local lived practices and definitions of well-being. In other words, local knowledge is the way in which women and men make sense of the world and their own circumstances, and upon which they make decisions about how to create well-being in their lives and communities.

In the past couple of decades there have been a growing number of challenges to what have been exposed as the masculinist, modernist, and economistic assumptions that undergird development theory and practice (Sen and Grown 1987; Shiva 1991; Parpart and Marchant 1995; Escobar 1995; Vandegrift 1998; Chua, Bhavnani, and Foran 2000; Bergeron 2001; Freeman 2001). These critiques, which have come from multiple directions, have opened up questions about the foundational tenets of development, such as the notion that the West (particularly the United States) should be the model for all nations to emulate, and the importance of the first-world, or first-world-trained, development expert. Both of these were seen as key to overcoming the cultural constraints that were keeping poor nations poor.

Marxist development scholars, notably dependency and world-systems theorists, reframed the problem of “underdevelopment,” exposing its roots in colonialism and in the very same international economic processes that created growth for the first world (Gunder Frank 1969; Cardoso and Faletto 1971; Wallerstein 1974). They avoided questions of culture entirely. More recently, scholars and activists have been concerned with the negative impact of policies intended to create national economic growth and development on communities, ecosystems, and local practices (Sen and Grown 1987; Shiva 1991). These studies have reintroduced an interest in culture and local knowledge, suggesting that these may move us away from universal solutions to problems that are unique in terms of history, culture, and geography.

Others have suggested that these “problems” of development are cultural constructs themselves. Arturo Escobar (1995), for instance, has rather convincingly argued that the third world and underdevelopment are the inventions of the first world—inventions that have been used since World War II to justify interventions made by the United States in the name of developmental assistance. And while he exposes the embeddedness of development discourses in first-world epistemologies and interests, one is left to wonder whether third-world actors—elite and non-elite—are more than empty receptacles into which first-world knowledge is deposited. Escobar himself implies that this is not the case by inviting scholars to produce ethnographies of popular practices, to encourage envisioning alternatives to development. Nevertheless, a marked tension remains between the overdetermining power of developmentalist discourse centered in the text, and the potential existence of “hybrid” place-based models to which he alludes (Escobar 1995, 96); this very tension opens up the space for new lines of inquiry into the making of local knowledges.

Over all, critical discussions of development have been dominated by two troubling tendencies. One is the dismissal of local knowledge as colonized knowledge—merely reflective of centuries of colonial/imperial and debt domination by the first world and first-world epistemologies. The second tendency is the romanticization of local knowledge as the “authentic,” “traditional,” and thus automatically “counterhegemonic” opposite to first-world knowledge. These two tendencies are really two sides of the same coin. Without the presupposition of a “true knowledge,” there can be no false knowledge. In this framework it is not necessary to understand local knowledge, only to center it or correct it. For instance, once folks remember that in centuries past, the organic agriculture used by their ancestors did not harm the land, they will willingly practice it. While this approach critiques modernization, it is entrenched in an enlightenment approach, which seeks to uncover an innocent Truth, as it is held by marginal subjects. This standpoint approach has been widely critiqued as it relates to the sciences in general, notably in the work of Donna Haraway (1988), Jane Flax (1992), and Stuart Hall (1992).

Parallel to, and often in dialogue with, these very critiques of enlightenment approaches to progress and development, we have seen in the past two decades the emergence of a plethora of theoretical and empirical studies that have taken on the development apparatus from a variety of critical vantage points. While this is a vast literature, I would like to say a few quick words about two widely read and seminal works: Sen and Grown’s Development, Crisis, and Alternative Visions (1987) and Arturo Escobar’s Encountering Development (1995).

Sen and Grown’s intervention combines structural analysis with analysis of the work lives of women to expose the ways in which economic development does not, in fact, benefit them. Sen and Grown ask development scholars and practitioners to center the voices of the most marginal populations of the world—poor third-world women—as a way of transforming the way in which development is conceptualized. Their contribution to understanding women and development by centering women’s practices and suggesting a model of economics that centers women’s well-being should not be understated. However, this approach been taken to task for not critiquing modernist assumptions about progress and for falling into a “cultural essentialism” that homogenizes and victimizes women (Mohanty 1991; Narayan 2000). In this model, culture and tradition remain things that should and can be overcome.

If Sen and Grown at their core maintained a modernist framework—in which the knowledge of poor women could expose a more liberatory development, and oppressive “traditional” cultures could be overcome—Escobar’s Encountering Development (almost a decade later) was at its core a sharp and focused critique of this framework. For Escobar, culture cannot be overcome by development, because development, underdevelopment, and modernization’s hailed “progress” are themselves cultural constructs. Specifically, he argues, they are first-world constructs that have been enabled by the relationship between knowledge and power—and used to legitimate a variety of U.S. interventions into the workings of “underdeveloped” states, economies, and peoples.

The authors of both these books conclude by suggesting a turn to the local. Sen and Grown call for a centering of poor women’s voices as a way to envision an alternative development. Escobar calls for local ethnographies; by understanding local practices we may come closer to identifying alternatives to development. Each of these works provides an important critique of “expert” and “first-world knowledge” and sheds light on the workings of power in development theory and practice. And both share the assumption that local practices could lead us to alternatives. Likewise, I am convinced of the importance of the cacophony of voices that are marginalized—not because they are authentic or necessarily oppositional, but because, as Haraway argues, a better science is at stake (1988), and, importantly, a more just world. If the real is constructed by a variety of interacting forces (Hall 1980), then it must also be that “accounts of the real depend on a power-charged social relation of conversation” (Haraway 1988, 593).

If it is both necessary and desirable to engage with something we might call “local knowledge,” then it is first necessary to develop a theorized understanding of what local knowledge might be in the context of development studies. The arguments for local specificity that have been advanced by feminist development scholars (Harcourt 1994; Parpart 1995; Feldman and Welch 1995) should not be read to mean that the local exists outside or in opposition to knowledge that has been understood variously as “universal,” “scientific,” “first world,” or “elite.” When specificity is deployed as “cultural relativism,” or read through a static understanding of culture, local understandings are dehistoricized and erroneously treated as if they could stand (innocently) outside the power/knowledge coupling that has created “universal,” “scientific,” or “first world” knowledge. Recent scholarship has also suggested that polarizing “local” and “global” or “Western” and “non-Western” in development studies precludes grasping the rich and complex interactions that occur in what Anna Tsing refers to as “friction”—those connections in which something new is inevitably created (Tsing 2005; see also Pigg 2005). Both Pigg and Tsing raise important questions about how to understand ideas such as global, universal, and local in more complex and dialogical ways.

Local knowledge should be understood as a logic that, like all knowledge, is situated; is constructed historically; and is fractured, fluid, and contested (Haraway 1988). To avoid making the false division between the local and the general/global/elite, local knowledge should be understood as always in dialogue with a variety of competing logics/knowledges that overlap and exert differing degrees of power—local knowledge is created and re-created in this dialogue. This dialogue interacts with lived experiences to shape analytical frameworks that both inform how meaning about well-being, development, and progress is made and provide the language with which subaltern voices enter into and engage with development.

This proposed understanding of local knowledge builds on Sen and Grown’s centering of lived practices and well-being of third-world voices; on Escobar’s deconstructive approach to development studies; and finally, to avoid false dualisms and integrate material and cultural analysis, on the theoretical contributions of British cultural studies—and those of Stuart Hall in particular. Hall’s work suggests that culture or, more specifically, cultural studies offers the tools to work through this seeming impasse between structure and agency. For Hall, and in this work, culture is defined as “both the meanings and values which arise amongst distinctive social groups and classes, on the basis of their given historical conditions and relationships, through which they ‘handle’ and respond to the conditions of existence; and as the lived traditions and practices through which those ‘understandings’ are expressed and in which they are embodied” (Hall 1981, 26). Thus, culture is understood as a process—fluid, constructed, complex, and contradictory, rather than static or homogenous. Culture, in this definition, is not only the reflection of an economic base, but also a site in which a variety of forces are expressed, challenged, and transformed. In my research on development, international interests, national development, local knowledge, and conservation, organizations are forces that shape one another, although perhaps to differing extents. It is the analysis of this dynamic interplay—and here Hall quotes Raymond Williams: “the interaction of all practices in and with one another”—that Hall refers to as “radical interactionism” (Williams, quoted in Hall 1981, 23).

By seeing local knowledge as created in and through culture, it is possible to see local knowledge and local processes as complex and part of the larger structures through which they are constituted and simultaneously constitute. Local knowledge is neither wholly created by the development discourse analyzed by Escobar nor stands outside it—indeed, serious work must be done on the role of local knowledge in the creating and contesting the workings of development. The Woman, Culture, and Development (wcd) framework proposed by Bhavnani, Foran, and Kurian in their recent collection Feminist Futures (2003) provides a lens through which such work on local knowledge can be done. The authors propose a platform for carrying out multilevel and dialectical analysis of development processes, avoiding the pitfalls of economic determinism and victimization of local subjects, particularly women. They do this “by putting women at the center, culture on par with political economy, and keep[ing] a focus on critical practices, pedagogies and movements for social justice” (2). As in the work of Tsing (2005) and Pigg (2005), such studies could recast the local not just as an authentic voice to be centered or a solution to be uncovered, but as a critical site in which to analyze the interplay of structure and culture. This reframing also demands new tools and a new politics with which to engage the multiple actors for whom development matters.

Organization of the Book

In this book I suggest a way to think about this interplay between structure and culture by discussing the construction of “local knowledge” in La Ciénaga de Manabao, a rural community located in the buffer zone of José Armando Bermúdez National Park. Because of La Ciénaga’s location, the livelihood of its residents is negotiated at the intersections of competing national and global imperatives—economic development and environmental conservation, agricultural production and ecotourism. On the basis of fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 1998 and 2001, in the following chapters I examine the multiple and complex ways in which development and well-being are understood and how they take form in the context of these forces.

In Chapter 1, I provide an historical overview of the relationship between national development and the lived practices of the Dominican peasantry. I highlight the tension that has existed between the creation of a “productive peasantry” as the vehicle for national economic development and the relatively autonomous practices that peasants have carved out for themselves. Historically, as many women and men created rural livelihoods on the fringes of capitalist production, the government attempted to integrate them into national development and nation-building strategies through invitation (for instance, through land grants), coercion, and at times brutal repression. These strategies were meant to transform peasant autonomous subsistence practices—the way in which peasants achieved well-being—into sedentary and productive agricultural practices. Of key significance to the larger work is the fact that peasant knowledge has been created through these encounters and yet, at each turn, peasants have sought ways to elude the process of incorporation. While they have had varying degrees of success, this struggle nevertheless leaves clear indications that the development landscape has always been contested.

Refusal of and resistance to capitalist production has been and continues to be read as “peasant indolence.” Because La Ciénaga is distinctly marked by its geographic location—defined by both the forest and the Cuenca Alta del Yaque watershed—conservation and development interests have been intricately interwoven. The watershed and the river Yaque del Norte are of critical importance to the country’s agricultural lowlands and, as such, began piquing the conservation anxieties of the agricultural elite in the 1920s. Simultaneously, the rich forests have been of interest to the timber industry; in fact, it was this industry that in the early 1930s and 1940s stimulated migration into the otherwise sparsely populated area. However, deforestation caused by the timber industry has primarily been elided by discourses of conservation in the Dominican Republic, which have instead cast peasant practices as the primary threat to the environment. Thus, not only were peasants to be rescued from their “indolent ways,” but nature itself—and, by extension, elite interests—was to be rescued from the peasants as well.

The strategies for rescuing nature from the peasants, and the peasants from their “indolent ways,” have moved between mandatory production laws, strict militarized protection of forests, relocation of peasants, and most recently the fostering of conservation projects, particularly those revolving around the park and ecotourism. Tourism has been constructed as the solution to environmental concerns and poverty in the area. The lack of possibilities for and interest in relocation, the lack of markets for agricultural products, the presence of conservation funds, a reliable though temporal stream of tourists, and the history of criminalization of subsistence practices all lend a degree of credibility to the logic of tourism as the solution. In Chapter 2, I show the gendered ways in which ecotourism is understood and gained access to by residents of La Ciénaga. In particular, I reveal how and why well-being is secured not in a formal, or even informal, tourist economy, but through what one Cienaguero referred to as enlace—and what I call gendered tourist-patron networks—the ties that have developed between Cienaguera/os and tourists.

My focus in Chapter 3 is the seeming disjuncture between the narratives of absence or lack that characterize local representations of development in the area and the numerous interests and projects that are present. I analyze the context, development, and representation of two projects; the discourses surrounding development projects more generally; and the ways in which “lack” can be mobilized, with specific attention to the 2000 presidential elections. I argue that, as is the case with gendered tourist patronage, the discourses of nothing reflect points of analysis and strategy and reveal not only the making and complexity of local knowledge, but also the ambivalent relationship that locals have with development workers, politics and politicians, and researchers.

Local knowledge, as I argue, is not innocent; it partly holds together and perpetuates structures of inequality as well as resistance. In Chapter 4 I discuss the investment of local knowledge in “women’s place” and “women’s labor.” While the “productive peasant” narrative was concerned with creating a white male peasant who was tied to the land (rather than a hunter or swidden farmer, which implied mobility), his counterpart, the “good woman” or “serious woman,” was/is discursively tied to the home. Therefore, even while her (productive/reproductive) labor was relied upon, her good standing did not rely on productivity. It did rely, however, on her immobility (and, of course, by extension her reproductive work). In this chapter I discuss how women confront patriarchal notions of womanhood in their daily practices. While I look primarily at women who study, work, and organize, I do not center their workplace or their labor practices. Instead, I center collisions of meaning—the moments when differing meanings, expectations, and desires about women’s mobility confront one another. Together these chapters tell a story about development in the Dominican Republic and specifically about ways in which women and men in La Ciénaga engage with development, create knowledge, and work toward well-being.

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