Colonialism, Land Use Planning, and Indigenous Rights: Using Institutional Ethnography to Understand the Colonial Rationalities of Planning in 21st Century Chile

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Magdalena UGARTE , University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
This paper shares some initial findings of a theoretical and methodological exploration, in which I use institutional ethnography (IE) to examine the role played by planning in the dispossession of Indigenous peoples in Chile. Over the past fifteen years, the planning literature started to recognize the complicity of the discipline with colonial domination and imperial aspirations of territorial expansion, in particular how land use planning has been one of the main mechanisms used by European settlers to appropriate Indigenous lands. Starting from the premise that planning processes are embedded in complex and broader institutional structures, I further argue that planning has contributed to the reproduction and perpetuation of colonial injustices until this day, in part through the existence of institutional, legal, and decision-making frameworks that are colonial legacies.

Although IE has not been widely used by planning scholars, I claim that to understand how colonial rationalities are reproduced through everyday planning practice it is critical to look at how written texts –especially plans, legal documents, regulations, and policies– shape planning action and help reveal colonial ruling relations. To answer this empirical question, I draw on in-depth interviews and document reviews, discussing how the daily actions of government planners in Chile bring to life colonial visions and understandings, although in subtler and more invisible ways than in the past. I use as an example the planning and implementation of the first Consultation on Indigenous Institutions, led by the Chilean Government in 2011, which was developed in the context of the recent endorsement of ILO Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This exploration shows how the recognition of Indigenous rights challenges Indigenous/State relations and simultaneously reinforces colonial notions of state sovereignty, Lockean ideas of land use and property rights, and liberal understandings of human rights.