What Comes Between Coca and Cocaine: Transformation and Haunting in the Peruvian Amazon Open Access

Silverstein, Sydney Meredith (Summer 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pr76f345z?locale=en


In March of 2015, the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in two borderland provinces in the department of Loreto. The area had grown deeply enmeshed in the cultivation of illicit coca and the manufacture of raw cocaine paste (pasta básica de cocaína, or pbc), making it a new hotspot in the global cocaine economy. The state of emergency justified increased military presence and coordinated drug interdiction and coca eradication efforts.

Loreto’s forested acreage and riverine arteries have long served as a site of coca paste transit and exchange. But the region’s expansion to a space of production created new sorts of social and economic relations. I turn an eye to some of these relations—specifically among rural coca-growing communities, the national drug control commission, and urban coca paste users—to ethnographically explore the expansion of coca in Loreto. I study how efforts to curtail the spread of coca paste production and consumption are challenged by both material and affective attachments to il/licit coca. These attachments, I argue, come to haunt projects of eradication and transformation. A collaborative, multimedia ethnographic practice helped me better understand il/licit spaces, as well as to see the spectral presence of coca even in its material absence.

 Through an ethnographic exploration of coca in Loreto, I build on three bodies of research. First, I add to a growing anthropology of ‘the margins’. I show how Loreto’s seeming marginality to Peru’s center of economic and political power created conditions of possibility for its emergence as the center of a lucrative global industry, while simultaneously hampering economic alternatives. Second, I add a novel perspective to burgeoning scholarship on illicit economies. By simultaneous ethnographic study of illicit coca production and consumption in the same geographic area, I demonstrate that similar forces reproduce social and economic dependencies on coca. Finally, I contribute to studies in visual and multimodal anthropology. Through a mixed-methods study that includes collaborative film, drawings, and collage, I show how a multimodal research practices can enrich and expand ways of knowing about off-limits and il/licit social spaces.

Table of Contents

1.    Acknowledgements

2.    Introduction

2.1.   Arrival Story

2.2.   The Matter of Ghosts

2.3.   October 2015

2.4.   Structured Liminality and the Production of Haunting

2.5.   Background

2.5.1.Beyond Indigenous: Hybrid Cultural Forms in the Peruvian Amazon

2.5.2.Ambiguous Economies

2.5.3.Ways of Knowing Il/licit Social Worlds

2.6.  Arrivant/Things to Come

2.7.  Barco Fantasma

2.8.  Postscript: Some Notes on Research and Methods

2.8.1.Preliminary Fieldwork

2.8.2.Rural Fieldwork: Ramón Castilla

2.8.3.Urban Fieldwork: Iquitos

3.    Chapter One: Jungle Cosmopolitan: A Brief History of Loretano Exceptionalism

3.1.  Introduction

3.2.  Exceptional Extraction: The Rubber Boom and Dashed Promises of Fortune

3.3.  Exceptional Circumstances: Free Trade & Security

3.4.  Palo Alto

4.    Chapter Two: Contested Fields: Coca as Threat, Coca as Promise

4.1.  Introduction

4.2.  The Values of Coca in Peru

4.3.  Coca as Threat or Promise?

4.3.1.Coca as Threat? Interventions in Cushillococha

4.3.2.Coca as Promise? Coca Futures in Mishkiyacu

4.4.  Coca and Development: Some Contradictions

4.5.  Conclusions

5.    Chapter Three: Regulated Reciprocity: Spatiotemporal Unevenness and the Challenges of Alternative Development

5.1.  Introduction

5.2.  Time: Planting Hope

5.3.  Space: Awkward Adaptations

5.4.  Informal Extension Agents

5.5.  Spatiotemporal Imbalance: DEVIDA in Lima and Caballococha

5.6.  Conclusions

6.    Chapter Four: Horizons/Hauntings

6.1.  Preface

6.2.  Caminos al Futuro

6.3.  Coca Fields: A Palimpsest

6.4.  Interloper

6.5.  Night Whistles

6.6.  Epilogue

7.    Chapter Five: A Second Chance: Corporeal Memory, Re-Enactment and Ways of Knowing

7.1.  Introduction

7.2.  Opening Scenes (film clip)

7.3.  Re-Enactment

7.4.  Work with Talita Kumi

7.5.  The Film

7.6.  Corporeal Memories

7.7.  Conclusions

8.    Conclusions

8.1.  Palimpsest Landscapes

8.2.  Old Haunts, Revisited

8.3.  Rethinking Transformations

9.    References Cited

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