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  • global development
  • Global Development
  • Department of Global Development
  • Climate Change

This event is supported by the Department of Global Development in the Social, Political, and Ethical Dimensions of Technology in Development job talk series. 

Talk abstract

Amazonia is a central region for climate change action and development goals. With higher proportions of primary forest cover and carbon storage, as well as lower rates of deforestation, Indigenous territories are gaining notoriety in that context. However, Indigenous peoples and their territories also face growing threats from extractive development models in the region. As such, Indigenous organizations are increasingly interested in creating climate change initiatives that respond to their own definitions of a good life. Building from my collaborative research with Indigenous organizations in Amazonia, Sylvia Cifuentes argues that their climate initiatives are founded on integral territorial ontologies–or on common conceptions of territories as indivisible entities or lifeworlds that encompass multiple relationships among humans and more-than-human beings. For them, climate justice can thus be defined as territorial defense.  

To illustrate that, Cifuentes analyzes forest monitoring programs and ‘Smart Earth’ technologies in Amazonia, drawing from science and technology studies, digital geography, and decolonial studies. Cifuentes argues that these programs and technologies co-produce forms of climate and territorial politics. Through forest monitoring programs, Indigenous leaders and organizations imagine and enact territorial defense, or a politics founded on integral territorial ontologies. That is, they see the programs as tools to strengthen their autonomy, and the use of technologies as an avenue to make Indigenous cosmovisions or ancestral knowledges visible. However, these reinforce politics (of NGOs) where territories are spaces with strict boundaries and exclusive rights, which can threaten Indigenous autonomy. Cifuentes thus discusses the intrinsically contradictory impact of Smart-Earth technologies, and concludes by highlighting the importance of attending to Indigenous territorial politics to understand the many implications of climate and technological initiatives on justice issues.  


Sylvia Cifuentes is Assistant Professor of Environmental and Social Equity and Justice at Mount Holyoke College.

Date & Time

March 11, 2024
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Headshot of Sylvia Cifuentes

More information about this event.

Contact Information

Lacey Lattin, Assistant to the Chair, Global Development

  • ll984 [at]


Sylvia Cifuentes, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Social Equity and Justice


Department of Global Development

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