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Governmentality, Development and
the Violence of Natural Resource
Extraction in Peru
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Governmentality, Development and the Violence of Natural Resource
Extraction in Peru
Diego Andreucci ⁎, Giorgos Kallis
Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Ediﬁci Z, Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona, 08193, Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain
Received 28 July 2016
Received in revised form 23 December 2016
Accepted 3 January 2017
Available online 21 January 2017
Since the late 1990s, resource-rich countries in the global South
experienced a boom in extractive activities and their exports of primary
commodities, associated with the deepening of an ‘extractivist’or
‘resource-based’development model (Bridge, 2008; Gudynas, 2013).
The intensiﬁcation and rapid geographical expansion of extractive
activities has been a hotly contested process (e.g., Bebbington and
Bury, 2013). The aggressive expansion of extractive frontiers has had
profound socio-environmental impacts, and has met resistance from
affected indigenous and campesino communities and movements
(Conde, 2017). These local movements have occasionally succeeded in
scaling-up their struggles, causing political crises and changes of nation-
al relevance. In most cases, however, opposition to extractive activities
(or policies which encouraged them) has been met with violent repres-
sion from states (Bebbington and Humphreys Bebbington, 2011).
Within ecological economics, several researchers have explored
issues of ‘environmental justice’and ‘ecological distribution conﬂicts’
related to resource extraction (Martínez-Alier and Walter, 2015).
Ecological economists have stressed how rising global demand for raw
materials and fuels—connected to growing global population and GDP
and the emergence of China as an hegemonic political actor—has both
increased the need for primary commodities and driven up their prices
(Muradian et al., 2012). Increased proﬁtability—coupled with the
progressive depletion of high quality, easily accessible primary
resources—has driven extraction to materials previously regarded as in-
accessible or not cost-effective, thereby increasing the likelihood of con-
ﬂicts in marginal areas (Martínez-Alier et al., 2010). This has been
Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (D. Andreucci).
For an alternative understanding and conceptualisation of (neo-)extractivism, see
Brand et al. (2016).
facilitated by a shift in global political economic relations brought
about by globalisation, whereby emphasis on ‘comparative advantage’
and ‘export-led growth’has resulted, for resource-rich countries in the
South, in a process of ‘primarisation’, or specialisation in primary re-
source exports (Muradian and Martínez-Alier, 2001). Recent research
as part of the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas) projecthas produced
a bottom-up documentation and mapping of the numerous conﬂicts
over extraction taking place in various parts of the world and have
helped makevisible the violence perpetrated by states and corporations
against resisting populations (Martínez-Alier et al., 2016).
In this ecological economic literature, the violence of extraction is
observed and documented, but not analysed and explained in ways
that speakto broader conceptual debates. In particular, there is little en-
gagement with and theorisation of how violence is sanctioned, justiﬁed
and legitimated by the state. How is consensus built around extractivist
‘development’, despite the violence it is predicated upon? In other
words, how do states get away with exercising repression against sec-
tors of the population, while claiming to act for the greater good of all?
To address these questions we shift attention to the institutional dis-
courses which sustain the imaginary of development, seeking to under-
stand how theyrelate to the role of violence in securing natural resource
extraction. Using the emblematic case of struggles over resource
extractivism in Peru as an entry point, we will explore the tension-
fraught relationship between the promise of inclusive, modernising
development—enabled by transnationally-driven natural resource
exploitation—and the repression and violence this extractive-led
growth model is necessarily predicated upon.
We address two speciﬁc, empirical objectives:
1. To unpack the ways in which resource-based development is discur-
sively naturalised, through narratives of ‘improvement’and
2. To explain how the tension between resource-based development
and the violence that sustains it is recomposed through a discursive
‘othering’, targeting those who oppose extraction.
This provides the basis for a discussion on the interplay of develop-
ment, repression and discourse.
Through drawing insights from Michel Foucault's theory of
governmentality and biopolitics, we render explicit the connections be-
tween violence and the development ‘imperative’(Arsel et al., 2016),
and make two interrelated arguments. First, the purported universality
and benign character of development require substantial political work
in order to elicit support and neutralise potentially destabilising
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critiques. Second, as extractivist development shifts costs spatially onto
those who live in marginal areas, along expanding commodity frontiers,
it relies on imaginaries that separate these ‘others’from the majority of
the population, justifying the exceptional use of violence against them.
Foucault's work has been extensively mobilised by political ecolo-
gists to reﬂect on how society-nature relationships are governed
through politics of knowledge and subject-making (Valdivia, 2015).
However, these insights have not yet been adopted by ecological econ-
omists working on socio-environmental conﬂicts. We hope that our re-
search opens an intellectual frontier for ecological economists who
want to integrate the study of conﬂicts and their material causes with
analysis of the discursive mechanisms through which the development
process is sustained.
The article proceeds as follows. In the next section, we introduce
some insights from ‘governmentality’studies, as mobilised by political
ecologists. We argue that: a) resource-based development can be un-
derstood from a Foucauldian perspective as oriented towards ‘improv-
ing’populations through optimising resource exploitation; and b) the
discursive naturalisation of development-as-improvement is accompa-
nied by the discursive othering of those who oppose development, pre-
sented as enemies whose elimination is necessary for the betterment of
In sections three and four we explore these processes in the case of
Peru during the presidency of Alan García (2006–2011). The politics of
Peru have changed since, but García's period remains emblematic and
illustrative of the broader points we want to make about the discursive
framing of extractivist development and othering of those who resist.
First, we look at the ways the World Bank mobilised narratives of ‘sus-
tainability’to sustain the remaking of the country's extractive sector
and present it as both benign and necessary for the population's ‘im-
provement’. Second, we explore how the discursive targeting of indige-
nous groups opposing extraction allowed for a framing of repression as
necessary for the ‘greater good’of Peru's development. As we will show,
García adopts from the World Bank a neoliberal narrative, whereby ‘im-
provement’is predicated on transnational cap ital's a bility to valorise the
country's untapped natural resources—and therefore sees indigenous
resistance as a barrier to development.
In section ﬁve, before concluding, we draw some broader empirical
patterns out of our single case-study, linking the experience of Peru to
that of other countries, and reﬂect on the conceptual and practical im-
plications of our ﬁndings.
The empirical research for this paper consisted of a content and dis-
course analysis of media articles and policy documents, including public
interventions by Peru's president Alan García in the context of struggles
with indigenous groups over hydrocarbon development. We looked at
and analysed loan agreements, policy papers and reports produced by
the World Bank over a 20-year period (1992–2012), concerning Peruvi-
an and Latin American extractive sector policies as well as relatedsocio-
environmental and development issues. The analysis was conducted
using Foucauldian discourse analysis strategies (Feindt and Oels, 2005;
Wetherell et al., 2001). A short period of ﬁeldwork was conducted by
the ﬁrst author in Lima, Peru in August and September 2011. This in-
cluded archival research at the repository library of the World Bank's
Peru headquarters in Lima, as well as nine in-depth interviews with ex-
perts of indigenous and environmental issues and state and World Bank
representatives. Interviews concerned Peru's policies for the extractive
sectors and development more generally, as well as the signiﬁcance
and implications of indigenous conﬂicts against hydrocarbon develop-
ment in recent years.
2. Biopolitical Governmentality, Improvement and ‘Racism’
In this section, we argue that the frameworks of ‘governmentality’
and ‘biopolitics’offer a productive way of conceptualising the relation-
ship between the discursive naturalisation of resource-based develop-
ment and the legitimisation of repression which accompanies it.
The notion of governmentality was introduced by Foucault in the
lecture given on February 1st 1978 at the Collège the France. In this lec-
ture, he provided a broad deﬁnition of the term, giving three alterna-
tives, though partly overlapping meanings (Foucault, 2007, pp. 108–
First, by ‘governmentality’I understand the ensemble formed by in-
stitutions, procedures,analyses and reﬂections, calculations, and tac-
tics that allow the exercise of this very speciﬁc, albeit very complex,
power that has the population as its target, political economy as its
major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as its essential
technical instrument. Second, by ‘governmentality’I understand the
tendency, the line of force, that for a long time, and throughout the
West, has constantly led towards the pre-eminence over all other
types of power—sovereignty, discipline, and so on—of the type of
power that we can call ‘government’and which has led to the devel-
opment of a series of speciﬁc governmental apparatuses (appareils)
on the one hand, [and, on the other] to the development of a series
of knowledges (savoirs). Finally, by ‘governmentality’Ithinkwe
should understand the process, or rather, the result of the process
by which the state of justice of the Middle Ages became the admin-
istrative state in the ﬁfteenth and sixteenth centuries and was grad-
In short, for Foucault, governmentality refers to a) a set of tactics and
knowledges for the exercise of a type of power targeting the population;
b) a historical tendency which led to the development of this type of
power; and c) the process through which the above-mentioned tactics
and knowledges are adopted by the state (how the state was
Most commonly, the notion of governmentality is used to signal a
shift from authoritarian, direct forms of rule—what Foucault calls ‘sover-
eign power’—to “a more diffuse form of power through which an in-
creasingly administrative, bureaucratic state came to manage its
population and resources by employing a new set of savoirs or rational-
ities (such as statistics), which enabled an unprecedented degree of
control and surveillance over individual lives”(Bakker and Bridge,
2008, p. 225). Importantly, while sovereign power, which remained
dominant at least until the seventeenth century, was centred on the
protection and expansion of territory, with the emergence of modern
forms of governmental rationality, the main target of control shifts to-
wards the population. In order to signal this shift, Foucault (2003) had
earlier introduced the notion of ‘biopower’(or biopolitics); that is, a
power focusing on the population understood as a biological and statis-
tical unit (Lemke, 2011). To a large extent, biopolitics is synonymous
with the ﬁrst of the three meanings of ‘governmentality’described
above; in this sense, it is possible to refer to the latter as a ‘biopolitical
Biopolitical governmentality emerges from the seventeenth century
to gradually replace ‘sovereignty’. Sovereign power refers to the tradi-
tional power of the monarch to ‘make die’—to kill—those who threaten
his territory; or alternatively, to ‘let live’those that protect it. With the
emergence of biopolitical governmentality, and the consequent shift in
focus from territory to the population, power is no longer simply repres-
sive, but works thorough securing and promoting the health, productiv-
ity, reproduction and wellbeing of the population (Foucault, 2003;
Lekme, 2011). In this new model, expressed best in the historical emer-
gence of the science of ‘political economy’, the state is expected to take
of their role in the economy). Under biopolitics, rather than exercising
its prerogative to take lives, state power ‘makes live’or, in its extreme,
‘lets die’(Foucault, 2003, pp. 240–241; Turhan et al., 2015, p. 297).
Note that, according to Foucault, biopolitical governmentality did not
fully replace sovereignty; a biopolitical rationality continues to be
complemented by a sovereign one (the importance of this point will be
made clear later in this section and the rest of the paper).
96 D. Andreucci, G. Kallis / Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
2.1. Natural Resources and the ‘Will to Improve’
The notion of biopolitical governmentality allows us to capture the
naturalisation of resource-based development as a form of optimisation
of population's relationships with the environment.
Biopolitical governmentality seeks to enhance the productivity and
controllability of the population through improving its overall wellbeing.
The tactics described by Foucault under the label of governmentality sig-
nal an attempt to exercise power from a distance, through shaping human
conduct (hence the deﬁnition of government as ‘the conduct of conduct’).
As Li (2007, p. 4) summarises, “[a]t the level of population, it is not possi-
ble to coerce every individual and regulate their actions in minute detail.
Rather, government operates by educating desires and conﬁguring habits,
aspirations and beliefs”. Here, power operates through calculated means
that seek to “to improve the condition of the population, to increase its
wealth, its longevity, and its health”(Foucault, 2007, p. 105). This is an es-
sential feature of government functioning in ‘biopower mode’:“Now that
power is decreasingly the power of the right to take life, and increasingly
the right to intervene to make live, …power begins to intervene mainly
…in order to improve life”(Foucault, 2003, p. 248).
Such a will to improve the population also mobilises nature. One of the
main targets of government intervention, for Foucault (2007, p. 97),is
“men in their relationships, bonds, and complex involvements with
things like wealth, resources, means of subsistence, and, of course, the ter-
ritory with its borders, qualities, climate, dryness, fertility, and so on.”Po-
litical ecologists have rendered explicit the way that biopolitical
governmentality, and its logic of improvement, works through managing
and optimising relationships between society and the environment, pop-
ulations and resources (Bakker and Bridge, 2008; Valdivia, 2008). The
label of ‘green’-or‘eco-governmentality’is often used to refer to work
mobilising Foucauldian categories for the study of how society-nature re-
lations are governed (Rutherford, 2007; Valdivia, 2015). This framework
is mobilised to analyse how certain knowledges about nature are pro-
duced as ‘true’, in order to shape the ways people interact with and use
resources and the environment, as well as to explore how these knowl-
edges are interiorised through process of education and subject-making.
The insight that biopolitical governmentality operates through the
purported goal of population ‘improvement’, and that it mobilises ‘nature’
discursively and materially to this end, makes this framework particularly
apt for political ecology approaches to analysing colonial and develop-
ment politics (e.g., Li, 2007). It is important to note here that ‘develop-
ment’does not just refer to small-scale, targeted interventions, typically
carried out by NGOs or aid agencies ostensibly aiming to rationalise re-
source use by local communities (Bryant, 2002). Development also sig-
niﬁes broader, structural policies and actions aimed at remaking state
institutions and policies and remodelling the way state actors see and
manage environments and populations through national-scale interven-
tions (Goldman, 2001).
This point is of particular relevance for the analysis we carry out in
section three. As Michael Goldman (2001, 2005) has argued most con-
vincingly, in resource-rich, peripheral states, policies for the improve-
ment of populations via the optimisation of relationships with nature
are primarily directed through macro-scale, transnationally-led ‘devel-
opment’. First, efforts by states to optimise resource exploitation are in-
creasingly directed by international institutions and actors, such as
‘northern’conservation agencies with direction and funding from the
World Bank. Second, and relatedly, the optimal relationship between
populations and the environment which leads to a purported improve-
ment is understood as taking place through export-oriented exploita-
tion of natural resources, often mediated by transnational capital.
2.2. Sovereign Power and ‘Othering’
This presents us with something of a paradox. The notion of
biopolitical (eco-)governmentality as described above—as a form of in-
direct rule that exercises control through ‘improving’society-
environment relationships—does not seem to capture adequately the
reality of the world's commodity frontiers. Here, the exercise of ‘sover-
eign’power often appears to prevail. As the example of African petro-
development shows perhaps most clearly, in the extractive periphery
a biopolitical will to improve can hardly be seen at work. Indeed, extrac-
tive regimes often operate according to radically different logic, which
generates fragmentary spaces, ecological disasters and authoritarian
rule (Ferguson, 2005; Holterman, 2014; Watts, 2003).
It is important here to avoid presenting a clear-cut dichotomy be-
tween biopolitical governmentality and sovereignty. As mentioned
above, the two rationalities are necessarily interrelated and comple-
mentary (Foucault, 2003). What needs to be accounted for, therefore,
is not the incompatibility of authoritarianism with a ‘will to improve’,
but rather how these two contradictory logics are made to coexist,soas
to guarantee that the developmental promise of biopolitics is not
undermined by the necessity of violence. As Foucault (2003, p. 257)
asked in relation to colonialism, “if you are functioning in the biopower
mode, how can you justify the need to kill people, to kill populations, to
kill civilisations?”. In other words, how to explain that a developmental
project, ostensibly centred on improving population wellbeing, is pred-
icated on violence, on the sovereign's right to make die, rather than on a
biopolitical duty to promote life?
As Foucault (2003, pp. 254–255) explains, the key to understanding
this is racism. In biopolitical terms, racism for Foucault has two func-
tions. First, it is “a way of introducing a break into the domain of life
that is under power's control: the break between what must live and
what must die”. Second, it allows “the establishment of a positive rela-
tion of this type: ... ‘The very fact that you let more die will allow you
to live more’”. Thus, racism allows both the suspension of the state's
duty to promote life, upon which its legitimacy depends; and the repre-
sentation of its need to ‘make die’as necessary for the greater good of
the population (Dean, 2010, pp. 163–173; Lemke, 2011, pp. 40–44).
Here, ‘to die’is not meant in a strictly literal sense. Similarly, ‘racism’
does not necessarily refer to race in biological or ethnic terms, but it
could be any reiﬁed division inscribed into the population (Foucault,
2003, p. 261) and a characteristic ascribed to a segment of it. Foucault
uses the word ‘racism’to emphasise the origin of this form of thinking
in evolutionary biology. The relevance of this for contemporary devel-
opment conﬂicts should not be underestimated (aren't ‘development’
and ‘growth’too, after all, biological metaphors?). Yet, it is perhaps
less ambiguous and less confusing to refer to this broader process as
‘othering’(Carabine, 2001, p. 302). Othering allows the state to frame
parts of the population as different and exclude them from the domain
of responsibility of the ruler. To the extent that this other is also an
enemy which blocks ‘improvement’for the rest of the population, this
legitimises his or her repression.
In the rest ofthe paper, we will show how these discursive strategies
are mobilised to legitimise repression in the case of resistance to oil de-
velopment in the Peruvian Amazon. First, however, we'll discusshow an
eco-governmentality logic is at play in the naturalisation of resource-
based development as the ‘greater good’.
3. ‘Improving’Through Resource Extraction in Peru
Between 2002 and 2013, Peru underwent a period of sustained GDP
growth, emerging as one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin
America. Primary commodity exports were pivotal to achieving such a
strong performance (Arellano-Yanguas, 2008). In this period, thanks
to high international prices for primary commodities, the country expe-
rienced an extractive ‘boom’which helped reduce debts and contribut-
ed to reducing poverty and inequality rates (CEPAL, 2013). While both
the country's resource wealth and favourable international conditions
were necessary conditions for Peru's economic success, the expansion
of resource exports was enabled through a profound, and
transnationally-led, political economic restructuring, started in the
97D. Andreucci, G. Kallis / Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
The reforms promoted under the authoritarian governments of
Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000) entailed a series of aggressive
liberalisation and privatisation policies for the promotion of foreign di-
rect investment. These were enshrined in a new constitution approved
in 1992 and protected by shutting down the parliament in Fujimori's
(in)famous ‘auto-golpe’—self-inﬂicted coup—the same year (Bury,
2005). This economic approach posed the bases for Peru's integration
in the global economy as a neoliberal poster-child and an ideal target
for transnational extractive investment. By dismantling the inward-ori-
ented model started in the late 1960s, this reform process remade Peru
into an export-led, extractivist economy (Bury, 2005). The country's ex-
tractive sector underwent a profound process of economic
liberalisation. In line with global developments (Bridge, 2004), Peru
changed its mining and hydrocarbon laws in order to facilitate foreign
investment in extractives (Arellano-Yanguas, 2008). At the same time,
aggressive privatisation was carried out, justiﬁed as necessary to gener-
ate revenues and promote the country's image and competitiveness
(Bury, 2005). These reforms prepared the ground for the expansion of
primary exports in the following decade.
The way that the World Bank framed and justiﬁed such reforms of-
fers an example of the effort and political work that went into present-
ing transnationally-led resource exploitation as the key to the country's
‘development’. We do not mean to imply that there is a complete coin-
cidence between the Bank's policy discourse and goals and those of the
government of Peru; there are, however, “striking commonalities”
between the two, recognised by both parts (World Bank, 2006, p. 1;in-
terview withWorld Bank representative, 06/09/2011), which justify our
attention to the Bank's approach and discourse—to which we now turn.
3.1. World Bank's Involvement and Approach
The World Bank proactively endorsed, guided and funded the
restructuring of Peru's extractive sector. This restructuring entailed the
privatisation of previously state-owned mining and hydrocarbon ﬁrms
as well as the reorganisation of related legal frameworks so as to foster
foreign direct investment (World Bank, 1999, 1993). Through its corpo-
rate arm, moreover—the International Financial Corporation (IFC)—the
Bank entered in direct partnerships as investor in some of the largest
and most controversial extractive projects in the country, such as the
Camisea gas ﬁeld and open-pit mines in Yanacocha and Conga (EJAtlas,
2016; Hallman and Olivera, 2015; Oxfam America, 2008; World Bank,
Beyond restructuring, the Bank increasingly invested in the
‘stabilisation’of Peru's model of resource-based development (see
Himley, 2013). ‘Sustainability’was one of the main keywords behind
this stabilisation effort, which tried to recompose the fundamental frac-
ture between its (and the Peruvian state's) version of a biopolitical ‘will
to improve’and the negative socio-environmental implications of natural
Starting in the 1990s, ‘sustainability’has been at the centre of a shift in
global discourse and policy (Bernstein, 2001), observed in the extractive
industries as well (Himley, 2010). As a response to criticism for the nega-
tive socio-environmental impacts of its large infrastructural projects and
‘structural adjustment’programmes, the World Bank also underwent a
process of internal reform which gave sustainability increased centrality
(Goldman, 2005). The Bank took a leading role in institutionalising the
‘mantra’of sustainability and placing it at the centre of the global develop-
ment agenda (World Bank, 1992). Thus, if at the beginning of the reform
process environmental concerns were expected to limit signiﬁcantly the
Bank's activity, the opposite actually happened: the Bank found itself “in
the enviable position of having an expanding loan portfolio and aglobally
adopted environmental agenda, which it calls environmentally sustain-
able development”(Goldman 2005, p. 154, original emphasis).
Adopted from the second half of the 1990s, the revised World Bank
agenda—called ‘comprehensive development framework’—was based
on substitution of ‘structural adjustment’with ‘poverty reduction
strategies’, and favoured the adoption of principles such ‘civil society par-
2004; Goldman, 2005; Peet, 2009). Sustainability was central to this
turn. The reform process also involved the Bank's approach to resource
extraction, particularly with the launch of a broad ‘Extractive Industries
Review’in the early 2000s. A central achievement of reform was to
allow the World Bank to deepen its intervention into the affairs of
borrowing countries (Cammack, 2004, p. 197). This entailed a much
more proactive role in managing how states and populations think and
act vis-à-vis resources and the environment (Goldman, 2001). In other
words, by concerning itself with people's welfare and environmental
issues—by infusing its approach with a biopolitical ‘will to improve’—the
Bank transformed itself into a much more proactive agent of (eco-
3.2. Rendering Extraction ‘Sustainable’
This new approach is at work in the World Bank's involvement in
Peru. Poverty reduction and, later, inclusiveness and equality occupied
an increasingly central place in the Bank's development agenda for the
country (World Bank, 2011b). Sustainability was also central to the
Bank's strategy for Peru (World Bank, 2007, 2005). Emphasis on ‘mak-
ing growth sustainable’is present as a concern in all the ‘Country Assis-
tance Strategy’papers since the early 1990s, and increasingly from the
2000s on (World Bank, 2006, 2002, 1997, 1994).
In 2007, following a two-year-long process of ‘Country Environmen-
tal Analysis’, the Bank published a long report called Environmental Sus-
tainability:Key to Poverty Reduction in Peru. Here, the Bank's concern for
the environment is justiﬁed on two grounds. First, natural resources are
economically important: “if managed sustainably, Peru's profuse en-
dowment of natural resources could become a pillar of an increasingly
diversiﬁed and robust economy”(World Bank, 2007, p. 2). Second, the
Bank is aware that an economy based on resource extraction is likely
to create environmental destruction and conﬂicts. Therefore, it proposes
a set of guidelines
to help design and implement policies to (a) improve the effective-
ness and efﬁciency of Peru's environmental management system;
and (b) integrate principles of sustainable development into keysec-
tor policies, with an emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable
groups (World Bank, 2007, p. 2).
Following the report, a series of three ‘environmental development
policy loans’(one of which speciﬁcally dedicated to mining), for a
total disbursement of $425 million, was approved in 2009. This project
helped to ﬁnance and organise Peru's ﬁrst Ministry of the Environment,
as well as other environmental development projects and institutional
changes (World Bank, 2009).
In the Bank's policy agenda for remaking the Peruvian extractive
sector, it is possible to detect a tension between the need to support
continued expansion of the extractive sector and a degree of awareness
of the environmental and social risks associated with such a strategy.
The Bank staff were at pains to present extractivism and sustainability
not only as compatible, but indeed as mutually reinforcing.First,sustain-
ability is presented as necessary for extractive sector expansion, as
“those countries with competent environmental management have an
advantage in the attraction of new investment”(World Bank, 1996, p.
63). Second, and most interesting, extractive industries are presented
as key to promoting sustainability (Liebenthal et al., 2005, p. x):
Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs. Given that ﬁscal revenues constitute a major source of net
beneﬁts... obtained from the extraction of mineral resources, the in-
terests of future generations can be protected through the efﬁcient
utilization of these revenues for people in the host country.
98 D. Andreucci, G. Kallis / Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
In this imaginative rephrasing of the classic, Rio Declaration deﬁni-
tion of sustainability (see Bernstein, 2001), the Bank operates a conﬂa-
tion of proﬁtability and environmental sustainable development.
Population ‘improvement’, in other words, is expected to take place
through transnationally-driven, export-oriented nature's capitalisation.
While this strategy partly paid off in economic terms, it did not come
4. Oil, Violence and ‘Othering’in the Peruvian Amazon
The aggressive promotion of resource extraction in Peru has been a
hotly contested process. Perhaps most signiﬁcant in this sense are the
years of the government of Alan García Pérez (2006–2011), at once
the most economically successful period and the one which registered
the highest levels of conﬂictuality in the country's recent history.
Much of the extraction-driven ‘development’did not reach signiﬁcant
parts of Peru's population, most notably highland and rainforest com-
munities that are most affected by the negative socio-environmental
impacts of extraction (Bebbington and Bury, 2009; Drinot, 2011, pp.
184–185). As several scholars and activists, drawing on data of Peru's
Ombudsman for Human Rights, have pointed out, during Garcia's ad-
ministration there was a surge in socio-environmental conﬂicts, a
large percentage of which related to extractive projects
(Merino-Acuña, 2015; Orta-Martínez and Finer, 2010).
A large share of these conﬂicts took place—in this conjuncture—in
the rainforest regions east of the Andes, where a large number of indig-
enous peoples live, but which also contains vast untapped oil and gas re-
serves. Since the mid-2000s, the Peruvian Amazon experienced a boom
in hydrocarbon activities (Finer and Orta-Martínez, 2010). Between
2004 and 2006, the surface of the region zoned for oil and gas explora-
tions grew from about 13% to a staggering 72%. As (Finer et al., 2008, p.
2932) explain, “at least 58 of the 64 zoning blocks created overlay lands
titled to Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, 17 blocks overlap areas that
have proposed or created reserves for Indigenous groups in voluntary
isolation”.Thesurgeofconﬂicts which ensued was therefore highly
The hydrocarbon boom resulted from a combination of a sharp rise
in oil prices and the Peruvian state's efforts to open the sector to foreign
direct investment. As the already favourable terms provided by neolib-
eral restructuring in the 1990s proved insufﬁcient to foster signiﬁcant
hydrocarbon discoveries, in 2003, the government of Alejandro Toledo
(2001–2006) further lowered royalties on new contracts (from 30% to
13.8%) and introduced a series of other incentives (Mayorga-Alva,
2006, pp. 387–389). According to a 2007 World Bank report, the key
to Peru's hydrocarbon boom was in “the high prices and the incoming
risk capital investments attracted by both geological potential and a se-
cure legal framework”(Mayorga-Alva, 2006, p. 391)—secure, of course,
for foreign capital. Two recommendations follow in the report. First, to
further “tailor incentives to the challenge of exploring frontier areas”;
second, to resist “the regional populist political wage and the tempta-
tion of contesting contracts [so as to] preserve Peru's competitive posi-
tion”. (We will show later why this latter point is important).
4.1. From Resistance to Repression
The promotion of extractive investment in the Amazon continued
during the García administration. In 2008, following the ratiﬁcation of
a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, the Peruvian gov-
ernment issued a legislative package aimed at further liberalising in-
vestment, referred to by critics as the ‘Law of the Jungle’(Ley de la
Selva). The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian
Rainforest (AIDESEP)—the main network of Amazonian indigenous
organisations—denounced that some of these decrees were particularly
harmful for local populations. Speciﬁcally, they a) facilitated private in-
vestors' acquisition of land and resources titled to native communities;
b) allowed the state to control indigenous territory deemed idle or
unproductive; c) suspended, in case of lands for mining use and the ex-
ploitation of oil and gas, indigenous peoples' constitutional rights to
‘free, prior and informed consent’(Alimonda et al., 2009, pp. 148–150;
Merino-Acuña, 2015, p. 90). This created an unprecedented wave of
protests and conﬂicts, culminating in what has come to be known as
the Bagua massacre (or Baguazo).
The indigenous revolt of 2008–2009—a ten-month long series of
demonstrations, including road and river blockades and occupation of
oil company facilities—was themost important instance of pan-Amazo-
nian indigenous struggle in Peru's recent history (Alimonda et al., 2009,
p. 25). It was the culmination of a long trajectory of indigenous organi-
sation in the Amazon region (Greene, 2009). Signiﬁcantly, indigenous
resistance opposed not a single extractive project, but resource-based
development more broadly. The movement had a tragic end. In April
2009, pushing for the repeal of some of the decrees, hundreds of protes-
tors blockaded a motorway, in a stretch of road known as the ‘devil's
curve’(curva del diablo), near Bagua, in the departamento (district) of
Amazonas. On 5th of June, with negotiations between indigenous orga-
nisations and the parliament still ongoing, the military police were sent
in to disperse the blockade—an operation which resulted in 33 deaths
and over 200 injured (Amnesty International, 2009, p. 7).
The clashes in Bagua were the result of a double suspension of dem-
ocratic rule. The ﬁrst was a three-month period of special powers given
to García in December 2007 in order to pass laws by decree—that is,
without the parliament's approval—related the with provisions of the
FTA with the US (Alimonda et al., 2009, p. 85). The second was the de-
claring of a 60-day state of emergency in the Amazon, in May-June
2009, to contain the increasing indigenous mobilisation (Amnesty
International, 2009, n. 24).
The Bagua massacre was not an isolated
case. Between 2009 and 2010 only, the government recurred six times
to declaring the state of emergency and to deploying armed forces,
two of which were for cases of extraction conﬂict (Coordinadora
Nacional de Derechos Humanos, 2011, pp. 34–37). In terms of state vio-
lence, the record of the García administration is particularly grim, hav-
ing resulted in 191 deaths related to social and ecological conﬂicts (El
Comercio, 2011). This hardly ﬁts with declared ambitions of sustainabil-
ity and inclusiveness.
4.2. The ‘Internal Enemy’
García's attempt to recompose the contradiction between develop-
ment and violence at the centre of Peru's growth strategy was predicat-
ed on depicting indigenous groups resisting extraction as enemies of
‘the people’(Drinot, 2011). In a series of notorious editorials, García
used the image of the ‘dog in the manger’to target indigenous groups
(García-Pérez, 2007a, 2007b, 2008). Like the dog in Aesop's fable—who
can't eat from the manger, yet doesn't let other animals eat either—the
indigenous have no use for the Amazon's abundant natural resources,
yet they don't let anyone else exploit them. “[They are] opposed to in-
vestment, and incapable of explaining how, with a poor agriculture, it
is possible to make a leap towards greater levels of development”
(García-Pérez, 2007a; all translations are by the authors). By hindering
development, indigenous peoples condemn themselves and the rest of
the country to poverty and backwardness. These “artiﬁcial communi-
ties”, as García calls them, “own 200,000 hectares on paper but only
farm 10,000 hectares, while the rest is idle property, unused”.They
Severe violations of human rights occurred during and after the police operation. This
included the use of ﬁrearms against protestors and bystanders, including children; denial
of access to legal and medical aid and illegal detention, ill-treatment and torture of pro-
testers.Indigenous leadersnot present in Bagua were also detained illegally, chargedwith
“apologyof crimes against the publicorder”. These accusations targeted especially Alberto
Pizango, leader of AIDESEP, who was also accused of rebellion, sedition and conspiracy
against the state and the constitutional order (Amnesty International 2009).
Under the state of emergency, the rights to freedom and free movement, inviolability
of the home and freedom of assembly were suspended, while the armed forces took re-
sponsibility for maintaining public order (Amnesty International 2009).
99D. Andreucci, G. Kallis / Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
have invented the “ﬁgure of the uncontacted tribe”, so that “millions of
hectares cannot be explored, and Peru's petroleum must remain under-
ground while the world is paying $US 90 per barrel”(García-Pérez,
García's is, in its way, a development discourse, of (eco-
)governmentality as ‘will to improve’based on correctly managing rela-
tions between ‘people and things’. His narrative is ﬁrst and foremost one
of ‘underutilised resources’, which Peru is unable to mobilise due to ‘ir-
rational’social opposition. It is clear that, for García, putting natural re-
sources to proﬁtable use means rendering them amenable to capitalist
valorisation, “because if the land is unproductive for [indigenous com-
munities] it could be productive with a high level of investment or
know-how brought in by a new buyer”(García-Pérez, 2007a). Especial-
ly for larger-scale projects—García mentions oil, mining and large dams
among other examples—this “has to be done by large private or interna-
tional capital that needs very long-term security to invest billions and to
be able to recover the investment”(García-Pérez, 2007a).
In relation to mining, the reference to an understanding of ‘sustain-
ability’similar to that of the World Bank is clear. Despite the country's
large mineral endowment, he argues, “only one tenth of these resources
are being developed, because we are still arguing over whether mining
technologies destroy the environment”(García-Pérez, 2007a). Howev-
er, for García,
This is an issue of the past century. Of course, mining did once de-
stroy it and today's environmental problems are basically due to
yesterday's mines, but today mines live alongside cities without
any problems; and, in any case, it all depends on how strict the State
is in its technology demands of mining companies and in negotiating
agreaterﬁnancial and employment share for the departments
where the mines are located (García-Pérez, 2007a).
We see here a similar conﬂation of sustainability and proﬁtability to
that discussed above, in relation to the Bank's eco-governmentality ap-
proach (Section 3.2;World Bank, 2005). This is a discourse of neoliberal,
‘sustainable development’, whereby the main agent of supposed ‘im-
provement’is private property and investment, particularly by transna-
tional capital, capable of valorising the country's untapped resources.
The other side of this narrative is García's conﬂating of socio-envi-
ronmental opposition with socialist ‘statism’. Resources are left
because [of] the old anti-capitalist communist of the nineteenth cen-
tury dressed up as the protectionist in the twentieth century and
changes his colours again inthe twenty-ﬁrst century to that of an en-
vironmentalist. But it is always anticapitalist, against investment,
without explaining how, with poor farming, the leap can be made
to greater development (García-Pérez, 2007a).
In a later intervention, García draws an interesting association be-
tween indigenous protesters and environmentalists with a wider net-
work of ‘antisystemic’movements aligned with the (then ascendant)
Latin American left. While these opponents of ‘modernity’and ‘prosper-
ity’do not have sufﬁcient force to oppose development, they are
favouring the penetration of foreign forces, of dictatorial statism. The
reference to Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales is clear here: “we live a
cold war in which foreign rulers participate. For now, those who repre-
sent external penetration are losing”(García-Pérez, 2009). In this con-
text, the conﬂict in Bagua is presented as a deliberate and
premeditated attempt by antisystemic movements to destabilise the
country and undermine its achievements.
Lastly, García's is equally, and without contradiction, a racist dis-
course, in Foucault's sense described above: a discourse of ‘us’versus
‘them’, those who want development against those who block it. In an
editorial entitled A la fe de la inmensa mayoría—‘To the faith of the vast
majority’—García-Pérez (2009) opposes the silent majority of good,
working people who beneﬁt from the government's projectand support
its defence of ‘democracy’and ‘openness’, with a minority of anti-sys-
temic, green, indigenous and anticapitalist movements. They are a mi-
nority, and the only way they have to gain visibility is to block roads,
But they are wrong because the immense majority thinks differently
from them […] So all they can do is present 50,000 people protesting
in different places as if it was the whole country. […] But they shall
not pass. Because the democratic and rational majority is immense
even though it is silent (García-Pérez, 2009).
The othering of indigenous peoples, and those who support them, is
thus coterminous with García's depiction of them as ‘enemies of the
The violence which sustains extraction is therefore implicitly
justiﬁed as the necessary condition of possibility of the country's
5. Governmentality, Extraction and Conﬂicts
The two stories above—about the World Bank's development and
sustainability narrative and García's discursive othering of indigenous
movements and their supporters—reveal an uneasy relationship be-
tween two governmental rationalities, biopolitics and sovereignty. On
the one hand,there is a logic of eco-governmentality as ‘will to improve’,
understood as a way of managing the population centred on optimising
society-environment relations. On the other hand, we have a territorial
and developmental logic which runs in the opposite direction, one
which produces fragmentary, conﬂictual and highly unequal spaces,
and is conducive of forms of rule based on violence, racism and
While these rationalities appear as antithetic, they should be consid-
ered not only as coexisting, but indeed as complementary. The very
logic of development—or biopolitical ‘improvement’, via the optimisa-
tion of society-nature relations—generates the need for ‘sovereign’vio-
lence. No matter how green-washed, the extractive development of
Peru's hydrocarbons requires monumental material transformations of
territories, and inevitably meets resistance from those who suffer its im-
pacts. Violence to repress those who stand in the way of extraction is
therefore rendered necessary for the purported ‘improvement’to take
place. Hence the importance of ‘racism’or othering, as a discursive strat-
egy whose deployment is key to recomposing the contradiction be-
tween the two logics.
5.1. Taking Discourse Seriously
Seeing extractivism through a ‘governmentality’lens allows us to
expand the conceptualisation of environmental conﬂicts, beyond the
‘materialist’approach of ecological economics. Ecological economists
tend to see these conﬂicts through the lens of distributional (in)justice
in the context of a demand-driven expansion of commodity frontiers
(Martínez-Alier et al., 2010). However, we argue that recognising the
signiﬁcance of governmentality as ‘will to improve’—in its interplay
with sovereignty and ‘othering’—provides an important complement
to this framework.
First, a governmentality approach allows us to take seriously the
‘positive’element of (market-mediated) ‘will to improve’at the heart
of extractivism. Extractivism contains a ‘utopian’aspect (cf. Harvey,
2005, p. 18). It is not just a political economic and ecological project
for supplying industrial centres with raw materials (and rent) extracted
in the world's periphery; it is also, signiﬁcantly, a developmental vision
based on unleashing society's and nature's potential through the mar-
ket. In García's Peru we see a project and discourse of neoliberal devel-
opment, presented as modernising, just and inclusive—a vision which
There are clear parallels here, which we cannot develop in this paper, with Laclau's
(2005) theory of ‘populism’.
100 D. Andreucci, G. Kallis / Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
the World Bank has helped to frame in terms of ‘sustainability’.Thisisof
course extremely problematic, as it assumes that only nature's
capitalisation—the much-contested politics of resource exploitation
and communities' dispossession—can lead to sustainability, develop-
ment and improvement. Yet, this positive or utopian element should
not be dismissed as rhetorical. Taking it seriously can perhaps help us
to account for the incredible ‘resilience’of extractivism in the face of
the tensions and contradictions which necessarily accompany its
Second, and relatedly, it allows us to capture the ways that states can
legitimise the objective and subjective violence suffered by communi-
ties that oppose this development model. As we demonstrated in the
case of Peru, not only does ‘racism’or othering suspend the state's
duty to promote life, thus allowing it to ‘let die’a part of the population
with no contradiction; it also justiﬁes such a violence as necessary for
the greater good of the population: the need to sacriﬁce the internal
other/enemy for the beneﬁt of the majority's development (Drinot,
2011). In this way, the state can maintain, in most cases, a degree of le-
gitimacy and support which seems inexplicable when seen from the
point of view of those who resist.
Writing on the ‘global environmental justice movement’,Martínez-
Alier et al. (2016, p. 15) argue that what Naomi Klein (2014, chap. 9)
called the ‘blockadia’movement—the movement that struggles to stop
fossil fuel (and other mineral) extraction projects—is a key actor in a
transition to a more socially and environmentally just world. Ecological
economists working on ‘ecological distribution conﬂicts’have long fo-
cused their attention onto the ‘material’causes of conﬂicts, their roots
in the social metabolism of the global economy. Their proposed solu-
tions have also been primarily centred on this natural-material base: a
more just distribution of environmental beneﬁts and burdens, recogni-
tion of ecological debts and unequal exchange, reduction of the social
metabolism through leaving oil (and other minerals) ‘in the soil’and,
more broadly, through promoting ‘post-extractivism’and ‘degrowth’
While there is value in these proposals, we hope to have shown the
importance of focusing on the discursive strategies that are mobilised by
states and international organisations with the aim of depoliticising re-
source-based development as ‘the greater good’, despite the enormous
impacts and conﬂicts it generates. As it emerges clearly from the em-
blematic case presented in our article, as in many others across the
globe, those who oppose extraction and related forms of dispossession
are likely to meet state (or state-sanctioned) violence and repression.
This, most strikingly, and despite notable exceptions, happens with
the support of the ‘silent majorities’praised by the likes of Alan García.
This contributes to delegitimising and politically isolating socio-envi-
ronmental movements, whose achievements seldom go beyond ‘resis-
tance’to the expansion of capitalist relations and commodity frontiers.
Whether blockadia and the global environmental justice movement
will succeed, therefore, depends on how well these struggles manage
to articulate into a broader project of emancipatory socio-environmen-
tal transformation that concerns not only affected territories, but a
broader bloc of eco-territorial, class and popular-democratic struggles
(Calvário and Kallis, 2016). To this end, it is important to take seriously
the political work of discourse in naturalising capitalist development
and legitimising the violence which sustains it.
5.2. Extractivism and Othering
Our empirical exploration of the interplay of improvement and vio-
lence in ‘resource-based development’enables us to add to current
conceptualisations of governmentality in political ecology. The comple-
mentarily between biopolitics and sovereignty is not of course speciﬁc
to the extractivist projects. Yet, there are some speciﬁcities in the
mode of articulation between the two in the extractive ‘periphery’,which
deserve further research and theorisation.
First, this dialectics of improvement and violence expresses itself, to
an important extent, in spatial terms. The uneven development patterns
resulting from the political economy of extractivism become inscribed
in, and reproduced by, the type of imaginaries mobilised in Alan García's
discourse. Geographies of resource extraction, therefore, interplay with
the state's ‘imaginative geographies’(Said, 2003), or processes of dis-
cursive production of certain spaces as ‘other’. Commodity frontiers, as
any frontier, are distant and far-way, spatially the ‘other’of the centres
where urban populations reside. As exceptional spaces are produced,
where the expectation of ‘improvement’is suspended, the people who
reside there are reframed as recalcitrant ‘others’, as a different part of
the population, which is not like ‘us’, the silent, democratic majority,
and which does not deserve the same treatment. In this way, Foucault's
notion of racism-as-othering takes on a geographical dimension: spaces
of extraction come to shape, or become intertwined with, the very limits
of the life-promoting duties of the state, deﬁning affected communities
as populations which can be ‘left to die’(or even ‘made to die’) in the
name of development (Banerjee, 2008).
Second, in resource-rich, post-colonial contexts such as Peru,
‘othering’does often assume a biological-racial dimension, whereby
features such as backwardness, inability to develop and make use of re-
sources are inscribed into an essentialised image of indigenous popula-
tions, drawing on deep-seated cultural perceptions. Here racism can be
partly be understood in a literal sense (even though, as we have seen in
García's discourse, othering is much broader and conﬂates political with
ethnic referents). Indeed, For Drinot (2011, p. 190), through racism,
García operates a conﬂation of the political adversary with the
what García invokes when he refers to communists, protectionists
and environmentalists, that is when he refers to a recalcitrant anti-
capitalist Other, is Peru's indigenous population, or, more precisely,
that whichthe indigenous population is seen torepresent in the pro-
ject of rule: “backwardness”. What the fear expresses is the belief
that indigeneity is a block to national advancement (Drinot, 2011,
The same association between ethic and political ‘architectures of
enmity’(Gregory, 2004, p. 20) can take place in contexts with different
political conditions. In Bolivia, for instance, despite a progressive and os-
tensibly pro-indigenous presidency, indigenous organisations opposing
natural resource extraction have been targeted, using a very similar dis-
cursive logic to that of Alan García's (Andreucci and Radhuber, 2015).
Though with different political referents—no longer communists in dis-
guise but ‘agents of imperialism’and ‘green Trotskyists’—indigenous
groups are similarly associated with backwardness and accused of
blocking development for the ‘rest of us’(e.g., Laing, 2012; Pellegrini
and Ribera Arismendi, 2012).
This is of course a much broader dynamic and a strikingly common
discursive logic, which is systematically mobilised in instances of
socio-environmental conﬂicts, without necessarily drawing on racial
content in a strict sense.
The third and last speciﬁcity of governmentality in the resource-rich
‘periphery’, and in the ‘global south’more generally, is that the process-
es of state remaking of the type described in this paper are
transnationally-directed. When we introduced the deﬁnition of
governmentality in section two, we noted that one of the meanings of
the term proposed by Foucault is the “process by which the state …
was gradually ‘governmentalized”(2007, pp. 108–109); that is, the his-
torical process through which biopolitical knowledges and technologies
of rule have been appropriated by states. For Foucault, whose focus was
on Western Europe, this is was more or less ‘endogenous' process, a his-
torical co-evolution of the state form and biopower. As we have shown,
however, the governmentalisation of the Peruvian state—the way it
On degrowth as an eme rging political paradigm, see D'Alisa et al. (2014);on
degrowth-related debates in ecological economics, see Kallis (2011).
101D. Andreucci, G. Kallis / Ecological Economics 134 (2017) 95–103
assimilated green-neoliberal rationalities of ‘improvement’—happened
through the active intervention of the World Bank and other transna-
(cf. Goldman, 2001). Above and beyond attention to
micro-processes of ‘subject-making’, therefore, Foucauldian insights
could be further mobilised in political ecology for analysing the geneal-
ogy of environmental states in the ‘global north’as well as for under-
standing the transnationally-led production of ‘extractivist’states in
This paper contributed to ecological economic literatures on ecolog-
ical distribution conﬂicts in context of expansion of resource extraction
activities, by analysing and theorising the interplay of development and
violence with narratives of ‘sustainability’and processes of discursive
‘othering’. We argued that while, in ecological economics, the violence
of extraction is observed and documented, and related to increases in
the global ‘social metabolism’, it is not analysed and explained in ways
that speak to broader conceptual debates. In particular, there is little en-
gagement with and theorisation of how violence is sanctioned, justiﬁed
and legitimated by the state. In this paper, through mobilising an analyt-
ical framework drawn from a ‘governmentality’approach, and using the
emblematic case of struggles over resource-based development in Peru
under Alan García (2006–2011) asan entry point, we explored the ten-
sion-fraught relationship between the promise of inclusive,
modernising development—enabled by transnationally-driven natural
resource exploitation—and the repression and violence this extractive-
led growth model is necessarily predicated upon.
We showed that a discourse of ‘improvement’fuelled by extraction-
based development is necessarily in contradiction with the negative
socio-environmental impacts it inﬂicts on those who live along the ex-
tractive frontiers. Such unevenness is an intrinsic feature of capitalist
development, and generates resistance and reaction, which threatens
to destabilise and hinder the unfolding of extractivism. This shows
that the purported benign character of development requires substan-
tial ‘political work’in order to elicit support and neutralise potentially
destabilising critiques. At the same time, as extractivist development
shifts costs spatially onto those who live in marginal areas, along
expanding commodity frontiers, it relies on imaginaries that separate
these ‘others’from the majority of the population, justifying the excep-
tional use of violence against them. We claimed, therefore, that taking
seriously the workings of institutional discourses of ‘improvement’,
and the governmental rationalities that underpin them, can help to ac-
count for the paradoxical resilience and broad acceptance of resource-
based development, despite its severe socio-environmental impacts
and the widespread conﬂicts it generates.
Fieldwork in Peru was funded through a Research Travel Bursary of
the National University of Ireland, Galway (2010 −2011). We wish to
acknowledge funding from the Galway Doctoral Scholarship scheme
of the National University of Ireland, Galway and from the People Pro-
gramme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union Seventh Frame-
work Programme, under REA agreement No. 289374 –“ENTITLE”.
Were indebted to Juli Hazlewood, Stefano Varese and all those whopar-
ticipated in and supported our research in Peru.Thanks also to Terrence
McDonough, Federico Demaria, Gavin Bridge, Maura Benegiamo and
two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on previous versions
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