Repository logo

Becoming green citizens and other subjects: community forests in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title




Degree Level



Between 1987 and 1990, Guatemalan state policy in the Peten turned from felling trees in the name of progress to guarding them from progress in the name of biodiversity. What was at stake in this transformation was not simply protecting nature, but also the rebirth of images and narratives of the nation surrounding Guatemala's fragile transition to formal democracy and precarious movement towards peace. These new national narratives were integral to the creation of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve in 1990. This thesis explores the history of the rise of the state's policy of community forest concessions in the Multiple Use Zone of the reserve as a shift from the prohibitive mechanisms of the law to the participatory mechanisms of govemmentality. This history serves as a prism to address the literature on democratic transition in Guatemala and democratic theory in general by applying the concepts of governmentality to the construction of citizenship and nation building. A campesino movement, the Association of Community Forests of the Peten, that arose during the process contested the exclusionary practices of the state, including representations of campesinos as nature's destroyers, and lobbied the state for community forest concessions. Through the processes of participation in the awarding of concessions and in the incorporation of sustainable forestry practices, campesinos became citizen-agents even while this agency was tied to practices of subjectification. At the regional level, the incorporation of the demands of campesinos was also a mechanism to produce a population that would govern itself, avert large-scale reform, and stabilize the meaning of the 1996 Peace Accords. In the village of Uaxact:Un, resistances to governmental intervention and the negotiation of new relationships with the state by the villagers reveal how govemmentality is not something simply imposed by the state, but rather constituted out of an on-going process of resistance, ontestation, and negotiation. The construction of a citizenry of "nature's defenders" through the mechanisms of govemmentality also produced a new series of exclusions of migrants. These exclusions point out the limitations of govemmentality, and resistances point towards how citizens might be made more democratically.





Master of Arts (M.A.)







Part Of