La Frontera

Forests and Ecological Conflict in Chile’s Frontier Territory

La Frontera

Radical Perspectives

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Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 13 photos, 3 maps Published: April 2014

Environmental Studies, Geography, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

In La Frontera, Thomas Miller Klubock offers a pioneering social and environmental history of southern Chile, exploring the origins of today’s forestry "miracle" in Chile. Although Chile's forestry boom is often attributed to the free-market policies of the Pinochet dictatorship, La Frontera shows that forestry development began in the early twentieth century when Chilean governments turned to forestry science and plantations of the North American Monterey pine to establish their governance of the frontier's natural and social worlds. Klubock demonstrates that modern conservationist policies and scientific forestry drove the enclosure of frontier commons occupied by indigenous and non-indigenous peasants who were defined as a threat to both native forests and tree plantations. La Frontera narrates the century-long struggles among peasants, Mapuche indigenous communities, large landowners, and the state over access to forest commons in the frontier territory. It traces the shifting social meanings of environmentalism by showing how, during the 1990s, rural laborers and Mapuches, once vilified by conservationists and foresters, drew on the language of modern environmentalism to critique the social dislocations produced by Chile's much vaunted neoliberal economic model, linking a more just social order to the biodiversity of native forests.


"La Frontera: Forests and Ecological Conflict in Chile's Frontier Territory tells the compelling backstory to Chile's forestry boom. Indigenous people, settlers and foresters were pushed out through enclosure and fraud, as temperate rainforest was burned to make way first for agriculture, then sterile plantations of Monterey pine." — Patience Schell, Times Higher Education

 "A much-needed analysis of a region the history of which has been understudied."  — Claudio Robles-Ortiz, Journal of Agrarian Change

La Frontera brings a great deal to the table; individual chapters provide enough fodder for a week’s seminar meeting. Undergraduates might feel overwhelmed, but as that list of themes indicates, they will find in the book many crucial features of the long twentieth century in Latin America as a whole.With Klubock’s telling, we have new ways to understand how Chile experienced those processes.” — Thomas D. Rogers, Hispanic American Historical Review

La Frontera makes its social subjects come alive. It convincingly shows that the debate over the forest has a long history and that we cannot understand forest policy without taking social history into account. This is political ecology at its best.” — Eduardo Silva, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Klubock’s source base for this nuanced and detailed monograph includes diverse archival materials, many of which had not previously been used by historians, as well as oral histories of forestry workers, labour activists and indigenous communities. ... This is an excellent study, addressing an extremely complex history, to which a review of this length cannot do justice. La Frontera  pioneers a new approach to social and environmental history and will be a reference in point for years to come." — Patience A. Schell, Journal of Latin American Studies

“What the book delivers most powerfully is a sense of the profound changes that took place on the southern frontier. … In telling this story, Klubock helps to restore dignity to the communities historically blamed for the destruction of native forests in which the biodiversity once rivaled that of the Amazon, bringing new light to the ‘blood colored history’ that so haunted the lines of Neruda’s most famous poem.” — Kristin Wintersteen, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"La Frontera is an important contribution to a growing literature of historical social ecology." — Jeffery Webber, New Left Review

"In La Frontera, Thomas Miller Klubock offers a well-studied and overwhelming social and environmental history of southern Chile, exposing the origins of today’s forestry 'miracle' in Chile, and its environmental and humanitarian costs." — Jan Kunnas, Electronic Green Journal

"This exceptional book is a rare combination of the best traditions of social history and environmental history in a powerful analysis of Chile’s forestry sector from the late nineteenth century to the present.... Readers interested in the contemporary environmentalist challenge of Mapuche movements today will find La Frontera indispensable. Historians interested in Latin America’s experience of 'enclosing of the commons' will find no better book."  — Heidi Tinsman, The Historian

"Insightful and necessary." — Emily Wakild, Canadian Journal of History

"La Frontera is a unique resource, based on outstanding empirical research. It is the first work that I know of to connect state-building in Chile with the settlement of the country's southern provinces. Thomas Miller Klubock provides a fluid chronological analysis of the social, cultural, and environmental consequences of more than 150 years of different public policies, capturing the complexity of diverse constituencies' demands on forests, water, and other natural resources." — Brian Loveman, author of Chile: The Legacy of Hispanic Capitalism

"La Frontera makes central contributions to Chilean historiography and to scholarship on environmentalism, labor history, and agrarian reform. By putting the forest and the evolving environmental crisis in broad historical perspective, Thomas Miller Klubock shows how deeply and fully environmental degradation was a part of the opening up the frontier. His combination of environmental history with social and revisionist political history is path breaking." — Florencia E. Mallon, author of Decolonizing Native Histories: Collaboration, Knowledge, and Language in the Americas


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Thomas Miller Klubock is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904–1951, and a coeditor of The Chile Reader: History, Culture, Politics, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Maps x

Introduction 1

1. Landed Property and State Sovereignty on the Frontier 29

2. Natural Disorder: Ecological Crisis, the State, and the Origins of Modern Forestry 58

3. Forest Commons and Peasant Protest on the Frontier, 1920s and 1930s 90

4. Changing Landscapes: Tree Plantations, Forestry, and State-Directed Development after 1930 118

5. Peasants, Forests, and the Politics of Social Reform on the Frontier, 1930s-1950s 145

6. Agrarian Reform and State-Directed Forestry Development, 1950s and 1960s 176

7. Agrarian Reform Arrives in the Forests 208

8. Dictatorship and Free-Market Forestry 239

9. Democracy, Environmentalism, and the Mapuche Challenge to Forestry Development 268

Conclusion 298

Notes 309

Bibliography 361

Index 373
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Co-Winner, 2015 Bryce Wood Book Award (presented by the Latin American Studies Association)

Winner, Bolton-Johnson Prize from the Council on Latin American History, American Historical Association

Winner, Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Award, presented by the Forest History Society to the Best Book on forest and conservation history

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5603-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5598-4
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