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Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology / University of Arizona Library


Based upon twelve months of anthropological fieldwork in Cabo Pulmo, Baja California Sur, Mexico, this article uses political ecology and theoretical work on ideology to examine how local residents use the concept of sustainability to advocate for alternative visions of development. Conceptually, the idea of sustainability has a long, often conflicted history. As political ecologists have pointed out, sustainability can be everything from a tool of dominance and pacification to a strident defense of environment, place, and local rights. Between 2010 and 2012, the residents of Cabo Pulmo waged a campaign against a large-scale tourism development that was perceived as a threat to local livelihoods and environmental health. They deployed the concept of sustainability during this campaign, and afterwards, as a way to build local solidarity in the face of increasing development pressures. Sustainability works as a temporary ideological tool that transcends internal disputes during intense conflicts over the meaning of development.


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