Agricultural heterotopia The Soybean Republic(s) of South America

Gladys Pierpauli, Mariano Turzi
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This chapter contends that global agribusiness, the current model of international agriculture, is reorganising national territorial boundaries, reasserting space, and folding countries into a single regional structure: the “Soybean Republic.” This structure corresponds with Foucault’s interpretation of heterotopia as the spatial articulation of a discursive order. Through the imposition of an economic model, geographical and political space in Paraguay has been transformed. Global agriculture has empowered transnational corporate actors and brasiguayos – Brazilian producers and their descendants, who dominate soybean production and land ownership in Paraguay at the expense of economically dispossessed and socially disenfranchised peasants. Understanding discourse as a contentious social narrative that is imposed by power, this chapter examines the discursive construction of the Soybean Republic. Dominant discourses in Paraguay emphasise how two antagonistic social groups dispute economic and political space: modern, hardworking, and integrated agricultural entrepreneurs, on the one hand, are set in contrast with the backward and lazy peasants, wedded to the subsistence model of family agriculture, on the other. Whereas liberal globalisation might be expected to homogenise agricultural space, global agribusiness has deepened heterotopian difference in the peripheral regions of the world. In the “agro-heterotopia” of the Soybean Republic, the integrating drive of global, liberal, and capitalist agriculture is simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.