Storytelling Seasonally Dry Neotropical Forest: The Social Production of Space and Nature in Peasant Communities of a Costa Rican Dry Forest
Vasquez-Olguin, Silvia Cristina
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In the state-created settlements of Bagatz and Falconiana in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, spatialized social relations are co-constituted with processes of production and reproduction. This dissertation illustrates the ways in which socially-produced space and spatialized social relations unfold in rural and peasant contexts in these two peasant settlements created in the 1980s by ITCO the Costa Rican state land and settlement institute. In theoretical terms, the dissertation puts into conversation Henri Lefebvres social production of space with reflections on the traditional Marxist agrarian question concerning the disappearance of peasantry under capitalist social relations of production. It argues that spatial dynamics structure the extent to which the communities under study and many other peasant towns are able to prolong a partially subsistence-oriented livelihood over generations. The design of these two peasant settlements produced advantageous conditions for monocrop and industrial agriculture, requiring a hired labour force, intensive use of machinery and a controlled water supply. Based on field work over four years, entailing a series of workshops, life story interviews, visits to farms and observations of the everyday life of the settlements, as well as more than fifteen years of researching the region, the dissertation illustrates how agrarian families in Bagatz and Falconiana strike a balance between labour and consumption, drudgery and utility important aspects of the agrarian question as theorized by Chayanov. The dissertation reveals that an imbalance occurs in part due because land-use prescribed by the state shifts the available labour force, decreases the consumption of products of the farm, and reproduces ongoing gender disparities in the community. The result is that current forms of land use take a heavy toll on male workers in the community, and women continue to be excluded from both decision-making and on-farm work. Yet despite adverse conditions and a capitalist environment, these settlements have persisted and survived through the adaptation and production of peasant spaces, including through womens use of varied portions of the available space for subsistence purposes. The settlements have been unable, however, to assure generational replacement via their sons and daughters, many of whom migrate elsewhere for employment.