Over the Ruins of Amazonia: colonial violence and decolonial resistance at the frontiers of climate change

Tavares, Paolo. 2016. Over the Ruins of Amazonia: colonial violence and decolonial resistance at the frontiers of climate change. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study investigates the history of the modern colonization of Amazonia from the early twentieth century until the neoliberal present, tracing the relations between spatial designs, political violence and the social and environmental destruction that characterized this historical process. In parallel, it narrates the history of resistance of local communities and the forest itself, showing how more than five hundred years of colonialism and anti-colonial struggles have shaped and re-shaped the material and imagined landscapes of Amazonia.

More specifically, this study focuses on the analysis of the spatial strategies of occupation and colonization that were implemented in Amazonia during the military dictatorships of the late twentieth century (particularly in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador), asking how the environmental transformations generated by these designs constituted means of perpetrating violence and rights violations against local communities. Each chapter addresses a different context that reflects a paradigmatic moment in the colonial modern history of Amazonia, and through the examination of these situated histories they describe broader political processes as they manifest in transformations of the social, territorial and ecological-climatic dynamics of the forest. In so doing, the thesis interprets the environment as an evidentiary material through which histories of conflict, violence and rights violations are documented and narrated, and by critically analyzing this material argues that, in the post-climate change world order, the constitution of universal rights is increasingly intertwined with the contested role of nature in contemporary cultural, legal, political, and epistemic systems.

Combining various environmental medias, historical research, fieldwork incursions, and cartographic tools, the study explores these histories to show how nature and modes of representing and knowing nature, in its multiplicity of elements and forms, constitute sites of power, struggle and resistance. In tracing the connections and synergies between spatial designs, colonial violence and environmental destruction in the frontiers of Amazonia, it also attempts to draw a critical history of climate change, describing how the foundations of the ongoing destruction and destabilization of the Earth System––what it refers to as the post-climate change/Anthropocene condition––are intertwined with colonial histories in Amazonia.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Additional Information:

Full text of the thesis is permanently embargoed for copyright reasons.


Amazonia, conflict, ecology, spatial planning, architecture, environmental history

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures > Centre for Research Architecture


30 April 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 May 2016 14:22

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:11



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