Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
In February 2012, the region of Aysen in Chile's far south rose up against Chile’s central government, blockading all points of entry for three weeks in the face of the state’s highly militarized response. The protestors claimed that they were defending the territory of Patagonia and their identity as patagones. Patagonia is the name of an imaginary land that cover the far south of both Chile and Argentina. Until the late 19th century, the claim of these states to sovereignty over this remote and challenging terrain was also largely imaginary, but no less hotly contested for being so. In 1881, after much sabre-rattling the two countries agreed to fix their border where the continental waters divide, in theory at the peak of the Andean cordillera. But this limit proved unstable, both because the movements of rivers do not always respect this theory and because human beings and the livestock on which they depended moved freely across this largely unpoliced line, making the Patagonian borderlands a site of enduring governance and sovereignty troubles for both states. In this paper, I explore how the imaginary of flows and blockages enabled by this fluid riparian, human, and animal geographies played out in the 2012 uprising, and what projects for a Patagonian sovereignty otherwise are immanent within it.