Acts of Growth
Development and the Politics of Abundance in Peru
Eric Hirsch



The Richest Country in the World

“NATURAL!” SEÑORA ELENA CALLED, over the music of the brass band, her voice hoarse. “And typical!” Next to her, fellow villagers from Taya danced for the competition judges, flowing skirts and ponchos accentuating their movements through the open plaza of the market town of Chivay, in southern Peru. Elena continued her narration: “This is how we dance in Taya!”

I stood in the crowd gathered for that day’s entrepreneurship contest, taking in the sights, sounds, and scents that made the scene about so much more than business plans. This atmosphere was engineered to overwhelm the senses. I saw Elena, microphone in hand, beside her fellow villagers, singing and narrating to make sure we in the audience felt the joy of Taya’s annual Carnival celebration. She wore a yellow scarf decorated with multicolored confetti ribbons over a bright orange blouse that cut through the cool blue Andean morning.

Elena,1 a beekeeper and Taya entrepreneurial leader, held the floor before project staff and hundreds of villagers, regional leaders, and other visitors. The three-year state-funded Sierra Sur (Southern Highlands) investment in rural entrepreneurs was drawing to a close. To celebrate, its staff held a spectacular competition, compelling participants to perform a sense of newfound plenitude. What explains Elena’s tired voice? Just before leading the dance, she also had to give a sober technocratic presentation of the income-generating opportunities that project staff taught Taya residents to squeeze out of the “natural resources” that, as staff framed it, they did not even know surrounded them. Elena repeated the words natural and typical across her presentation, pitching Taya as a place rich in environmental and cultural assets. Here was Elena’s inventory of how Taya residents were transforming newly discovered resources into income:

Guinea pig care, beekeeping, quinoa seeding, dairy products . . . fried guinea pig (cuy chactado), which is Taya’s typical, natural dish. So with Sierra Sur’s support for raising our guinea pigs, we have improved . . . and over there [pointing to her village’s booth at the edge of the plaza], we have prepared it for you to taste.

I later found Elena standing by that emblematic dish, where she asked me to take her team’s picture (Figure I.1). It was part of Taya’s entry into the gastronomy portion of the contest, which represented the conspicuous result of a transformation from raw material into potential profit—from “natural” and “typical” into “marketable”—in a moment of high global demand for Peruvian food. Elena was beaming over a sumptuous spread from Taya that hardly fit the table: hot orange peppers, apples, pears, juices, chewy cheeses encased in a salt-rich red skin, honey, toasted corn kernels, samples of different quinoa strains, a hulking cake covered in sweet creamy frosting, and two indulgent platters of fried guinea pig that luxuriated over a bed of fried eggs.

FIGURE I.1: Señora Elena (center) and the Taya team.

Imagine how Taya’s displays overwhelmed the senses. Now multiply this across fourteen village teams who brought bullet-point presentations, dances, fragrant delicacies, and other diverse emblems of a rural abundance. By engineering scenes that inundated the senses, scenes where economic growth could be felt, Sierra Sur staff members were sending a message: The rural Andes is teeming with riches. And it is Andeans’ responsibility to make use of them. In project director Lilia Samayani’s words, their work was to make sure that villagers “are maximizing the resource potential of their region.” Given the resource potential surrounding even infrastructurally marginalized villages such as Taya, the message went, there was no reason to redistribute national wealth to aid rural Peruvians. Instead, all development agents had to do was teach villagers how to extract the riches that would unleash their own growth.

Looking more closely, I could see how much work this supposed unleashing actually entailed. Making use of apparently undiscovered treasure in their midst often meant engaging in exhausting physical labor. Performing a sense of growth and abundance before a public audience involved even more affective labor. Even the energetic Elena was drained as she embodied, at once, the figure of traditional dancer, capable entrepreneur, and master chef.

Development projects and state programs had been working to alleviate poverty here in the Andes’ Caylloma Province since the 1970s, when rural modernization projects proliferated all over Peru under the imperative of “market penetration.”2 But in 2014 the Sierra Sur project did not see any poverty left to alleviate. According to project staff, villagers were already wealthy. The drought-prone southern Andes was not a site of unforgiving cold, reluctant earth, and climate change but a terrain full of potential, teeming with future capital capable of extending Peru’s already spectacular growth.

I could not escape that same message when, during my fieldwork five years later, and right down the street from Chivay’s plaza, a mining lobby representative invited me to tour a temporary exhibition on the benefits of formal mining. Open to the public, the exhibition was staged by Peru’s national extractives lobby in a brand new, elegantly appointed building. Consisting of sleek infographics, videos, and ore samples, this display also told its audience that Peru was full of riches. The exhibition signaled that Caylloma was an emerging frontier of mining. Indeed, new concessions granted to Buenaventura, Peru’s largest mining company, surround Chivay and extend west along the Colca River. Mining operations have just begun in the downriver village of Tapay. Espinar Province, immediately to Caylloma’s north, is home to the expanding Tintaya copper mine. As they drive Peru’s astronomical but uneven national growth, mining companies are aggressively exploring these terrains, approaching the southern Andes much like Sierra Sur does: as a source of latent prosperity, a “bench of gold” whose inhabitants are, inexplicably, living like paupers.3 Carla, the staff member who guided me on my tour, walked me through displays that expressed how vital Peru’s mines are for almost anyone who has used an Apple computer or a shovel or fertilizer. Other graphics conveyed just how important mining profits are for Andean jobs and municipal budgets. One display showed how mining companies’ generous corporate social responsibility programs happily supported entrepreneurial activities, such as weaving, ecotourism, and gastronomy, foregrounding “typical” emblems of local ethnic identities for the market.

In both encounters, growth was staged. Staff on these seemingly distinct projects curated the southern Andes as a space of wealth. As they did so, they privileged a new kind of wealth extractor: the Indigenous entrepreneur, empowered to search out the “natural” resources in their midst and transform “typical” dimensions of daily life into sources of income. Any indicators I had seen that suggested high poverty or inequality in the southern Andes were, staff asserted, actually signs that wealth had not been extracted yet.4 This insistence draws on a neoliberal logic made famous around the world by Peruvian economist (and 2021 presidential candidate) Hernando de Soto. De Soto found apparently poor countries such as his native Peru to be “teeming with entrepreneurs,” but “their assets [were] dead capital,”5 seemingly going to waste in Peru’s vast informal economy. Representing the everyday world as an inexhaustible bundle of resources and painting rural dwellers of the Andes as its future extractors, these projects intertwined the extractive and productive dimensions of Peru’s economy in unexpected ways.

The approach that staff at both the development contest and the mining exhibit took to staging Peruvian wealth as potent but latent reflects the influence of a national branding campaign that plays on the country’s long-standing historical association with raw material. Launched in 2011 out of the high-end New York advertising firm McCann-Erickson, Marca Perú (which can be translated into English as “Peru Brand” or “PeruTM”) sells the country’s multicultural heritage, sensuous gastronomy, bountiful geology, and vast biodiversity to tourists, foodies, and foreign investors alike. To convey Peru’s unique wealth, Marca Perú relies on emblems of Andean indigeneity, such as guinea pigs and alpaca fashion.6 Peru is not merely a promising emerging market but rather, according to the brand, an “Empire of Hidden Treasures” and, in the words of a more recent slogan, “The Richest Country in the World.”

Development in these encounters, then, was not really a way to help poor people or the means to equitably distribute a nation’s bounty. It was a method for unearthing wealth that already existed. This book follows that unearthing. Scholars have critiqued sustainability projects and ethnicity-focused entrepreneurship for their narrow focus on capitalist solutions to systemic problems. Critical development researchers find that such projects often perpetuate the poverty that they are ostensibly trying to alleviate.7 Environmental studies scholars, meanwhile, attend to the impoverishing violence of extractivism,8 and some political scientists read mass deprivation in resource-rich countries as an inevitable result of the so-called resource curse.9 In this book I offer a distinct approach to the structural inequalities of boom-time capitalism by moving beyond questions of poverty. How might our understanding of development, indigeneity, and capital shift when we start, instead, from the problematic of wealth?

This book is an ethnography of growth. It takes place at the expanding edges of Peru’s mining economy. I followed the daily work of composing a sense that Peru is growing in a rural region where few villagers have seen their lives materially improve during a mining boom. The book is situated in a network of marginalized agricultural villages, such as Taya, in the Andean provinces of Caylloma and Espinar, a frontier of both cultural branding and mineral extraction with the dramatic Colca Valley at its center.10 Residents of Caylloma and Espinar did not previously tend to identify as Indigenous, but between the ethnodevelopment projects and mining ventures of the 2010s, they faced calls to revitalize their pre-Inca Collagua, Cabana, and K’ana heritage as a growth-ready subjectivity, appropriating themselves as new raw material for capitalist prosperity. Locating the book here answers María Elena García’s recent call for scholarship on prosperity and accumulation in Peru to look beyond Lima, the capital city where Peruvian wealth is dramatically concentrated.11 My focus on the hunt for raw material brings me to the distributed rural networks of lopsided bounty and dispossession that characterized Peru in the booming 2010s.

Drawing on fieldwork during Peru’s commodities boom and plateau between 2008 and 2019, I follow the face-to-face interactions that outsiders mobilize to transform small-scale economic development projects into capitalist growth in Peruvian mining country. I also contextualize how attachments to place and the nonhuman world in the southern Andes confront political and emotional attachments to the promises of resource extraction. The first two chapters juxtapose two local arguments about Andean wealth that are continually in tension: the colonial thesis that the Andes is a site of riches to be discovered and appropriated (Chapter 1), and the argument villagers articulated to me that Andean plenty is not a collection of resources to be found but rather a condition earned through cycles of care, labor, and obligation (Chapter 2). Situated within that space of tension over what wealth means, the following three chapters delve into specific investment projects that worked to coax growth into being by extending Peruvian prosperity beyond the mining sector to a new generation of rural entrepreneurs.

I argue that these growth projects had two broad aims. First, they reframed development work from a redistributive effort to alleviate poverty to the management of resource abundance. Second, they worked to fix indigeneity as a way of life complementary to Peru’s mineral-driven wealth instead of as a concept to mobilize against it, in a place where the definition of “Indigenous” was contested. To development workers, a successful Indigenous-branded enterprise should not just coexist with the nearby mine. Rather, it should be the result of a parallel plunder in which every aspect of daily life might be recast as raw material for new growth. In other words, these investments positioned an idealized entrepreneurial Andean indigeneity as the cultural framework for a newly inclusive resource exploitation.

An analysis of development work that starts from wealth instead of poverty opens distinct roads into understanding economic life at the diffuse margins of extractive industry. The capitalization of nature might be one such road. The commodification of culture might be another. However, in this book I focus most directly on the overlooked question of what it means to grow. Growth is a concept that is at once literal, metaphorical, and indexical of capitalist regimes of expertise and accumulation. I want to know how villagers and development workers relate to economic growth, see it, know it, feel it, represent it, critique it, and attempt to embody it. Reading growth as an affective project that requires ongoing physical and emotional labor, I follow staff and villagers through the exhausting work of making an economy look and feel like it is growing. By attending to the face-to-face encounters that development projects engaged in to materially and semiotically transform daily life into a collection of extractable resources, I foreground the everyday contradictions of living at the margins of a mining boom.

Extractive Care

Is extraction empowering? Is empowerment extractive?

In Acts of Growth I find resource extraction and the contemporary effort to empower rural Andeans as entrepreneurs to be fundamentally co-produced endeavors. The projects that I followed worked to extend Peru’s resource wealth beyond its prolific but cloistered mines by building the sense that Peru was a space of abundance. In these projects, some of them funded by mines, I found development agents engaging in a repertoire of face-to-face encounters, including staged competitions, site visits, public exhibitions, and one-on-one counseling sessions. These pedagogical encounters were scenes of compassion. Agents knew their villager participants well. They would offer empowering pep talks and coach them through life choices, genuinely rooting for their success. But the underlying purpose of these validating encounters was the curation of a generation of entrepreneurs skilled in extracting profit from the immediate world around them.

I theorize this approach to development work as a project of extractive care: the nurturing of marginalized bodies, livelihoods, ecosystems, terrains, and worlds in a way that ultimately primes them for extractive capitalism by transforming them into resources. Extractive care entails a hold over someone or something that is at once tender and violent. It is an intimate but ultimately instrumental nurturance that furthers extractive projects. Extractive care can also describe how abundant economies are staged or curated, a word etymologically related to care.

In recent analyses that train scholarly attention to “matters of care,”12 María Puig de la Bellacasa, Michelle Murphy, and other scholars show that care and extraction can be understood as complementary components of broader capitalist processes. They build on a long-standing feminist engagement with care, critiquing how capitalism puts care to work by instrumentalizing identities, feminized skills, kinship relations, environments, and many other aspects of daily life. Care, Murphy argues, “can work with and through the grain of hegemonic structures, rather than against them.”13 One of the several common definitions that Murphy offers for care is this: “to provide for, look after, protect, sustain, and be responsible for something.”14 “Emotional labor,”15 and other affectively embodied efforts that the “work of care” requires,16 is frequently asymmetric and gendered and engages affect to paper over vast power asymmetries. In her reading of antipoverty development in Peru as a matter of care, Tara Cookson shows how professionals worked to curate specific outcomes and forge specific desires by drawing on the compassionate extension of advice, pedagogical tools, and nurturance.17 Care was at the heart of the growth investments I observed in Peru, where one-on-one encounters between project staff members and the aspiring entrepreneurs they supervised could take the form of caring counseling sessions ultimately aimed at motivating villagers to scour their daily lives for extractable resources.

In the context of a multiculturalist development paradigm premised on Peru’s hidden treasures, practices of extractive care positioned villagers either as inheritors of Andean wealth or as irrelevant to Peru’s growth project. This framing extends capitalist resource logics into the daily lives of rural Andeans. Jennifer Wenzel defines resource logics as “ideologies and habits of mind” that position nature as disposed for human use, in a relation where “nature has always-already entered economics as ‘natural resources.’18 The long history of labor exploitation in the southern Andes suggests that resource logics also extend to humans.19 Along with Andean environments and geologies, human subjectivities, bodies, desires, aspirations, and daily lives can also be incorporated into capitalist projects. Anna Tsing calls this incorporation “salvage accumulation,” or the generation of capitalism out of objects, relations, and feelings not created through capitalist processes but found by them.20 My ethnography of interventions working to extend practices of salvage accumulation beyond mining sites reveals that seemingly sustainable development and extractive industrial development are not contradictory. They are complementary components of an underlying material and affective project: to expand the horizons of extractive capitalism by spreading its practices, behaviors, desires, and feelings.

Resource logics are therefore also affective claims. This has important consequences for how we imagine the entanglement of extractive and productive economies. Karl Marx, in Volume 1 of Capital, classically argued that capital’s infinite growth imperative, driven by the perpetual pursuit of surplus value, required an endless search for raw material.21 Peru’s rural Andes is one contemporary site of such a seemingly relentless search. But as its mineral frontier expands, Andean Peru is also seeing an expansion of the very concept of raw material. That makes this a place where conventional understandings of extraction and production invite new ethnographic specificity. Stephen Bunker, in 1985, sought to destabilize the production centrism of development theories of his day, rooting productive economies in their “absolute dependency” on resource extraction.22 He found that productive economies, characterized by the centralized activity of transforming raw materials into consumable goods, were inextricably reliant on the world’s environmentally devastated extractive enclaves, such as the Brazilian Amazon. Such extractive economies tend to be remote and dispersed, where low levels of labor and capital are required in relation to the temporary economic gains they create. Mining in particular involves concentrated labor in open pits or underground mines in remote regions. Peru’s mines provide only a limited number of permanent skilled jobs that tend to draw professionals from outside the community, along with many more temporary local labor contracts.23 As I began to see how powerful the concept of raw material was for development work in Peru during the 2010s, it became clear to me that extraction and production were more than just materially codependent. They were also semiotically and affectively entangled through the emergent promise of Indigenous entrepreneurship. The natural resource became a sign of potentiality and a source of democratized hope as the foundation for a new generation of productive rural citizens.

Through its claims on collective affect in the southern Andes, extractivism has exceeded the mine, taking over as the key mode, metaphor, and financial underwriter of capitalist relations more broadly. Extractivism organized a “neoliberal structure of feeling” in Peruvian development in which faith in a frictionless discovery of valuable things had become the dominant affective trope for contemporary entrepreneurship.24 In the Andes, the fantasy went, the entrepreneur of the future does not simply produce; instead, like Marcel Duchamp’s artist, the Andean entrepreneur is someone who notices and salvages. They strip daily life for parts. They transform found objects into bountiful opportunities. Extending this fantasy and making it palatable required the development agent labor of extractive care.

To access these acts of care and the broader contexts where they intervened, I lived in the Colca Valley village of Yanque, population about 2,000, with a family who usually identified as campesino (peasant). My host father, Don Gerardo Huaracha, is an 80-year-old farmer and herder who is bilingual in Spanish and Quechua.25 My host mother, Doña Luisa Cutipa, is 83. She speaks only Quechua and cares for the home. Both allowed me to accompany them in their daily labors when I visited them periodically between 2008 and 2019, with a sustained visit between 2013 and 2015. Gerardo and Luisa had participated in development projects but were much more engaged in communal activities beyond the reach of outsider initiatives. From 2013 to 2015 I also accompanied development agents and villager participants in their work with the state-supported Sierra Sur project and the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Desco (Center for Studies and Promotion of Development). Return visits in 2017 and 2019 gave me the chance to join professionals in Espinar employed by the private Tintaya Mine’s corporate social responsibility program and to learn more about the meteoric rise of mining in southern Peru. Many staff on these projects were born in the same villages where they worked, frequently after they left the region for education in Arequipa or Lima.

The communities where I lived and worked exemplify uneven development in rural Peru. Many residents of Caylloma and Espinar Provinces work as smallholder agriculturalists, pastoralists, and market vendors. Some work in tourism or in prized hospitality jobs at one of the several luxury hotels tucked into isolated, enclosed properties in the Colca Valley’s hillsides. Others leave to labor in mines near and far. And others live at least part-time in Arequipa, Peru’s second city of 1 million inhabitants, four hours from Yanque by bus. There are stark disparities in income, health care, education, and services compared with Arequipa. Caylloma’s communities have populations ranging from Chivay’s 7,688 to Madrigal’s 498. My work in Espinar Province took me to its central town, also called Espinar (or Yauri), of 33,242 residents, and the rural homes and terrains surrounding the Tintaya Mine just outside of town.26

Growth as an Affective Project

One of the premises of this book is that growth is made. Like capitalism more broadly, growth is an ongoing project that involves affective labor and, often, tiring physical effort. Scholars have suggested that economic models and theories do not merely represent the economy but actualize it, “performing” it into being.27 Anthropologists have built on that foundational work, showing how capitalist markets are engineered to serve asymmetric power relations.28 Researchers pay ample attention to the economy as a constructed cultural form and social project. Growth, however, is rarely subjected to the same analytical scrutiny. Among even the most critical scholars, economic growth is all too frequently treated as an objective empirical reality, a measurable phenomenon that is either happening or not happening, uneven or egalitarian, unsustainable or sustainable. I suggest that growth is not an objective description but an aspirational composition, a public feeling rendered palpable through specific socially constituted evidence that is actively orchestrated, deliberately staged, and constantly managed.

Growth has multiple meanings. When it follows the adjective economic, growth in capitalist contexts usually refers to the literal enlargement of a bounded system of accumulation and exchange. It can also take on other, more figurative valences. Researchers have long studied how economists and policymakers mobilize figurative language to make sense of and enact “the national economy form.”29 They authorize and fetishize the figure of the economy as a system that has clear boundaries and functions according to predictable laws, drawing metaphors from fields such as physics30 and evolutionary biology.31 Thinkers ranging from Marx to contemporary degrowth scholars have framed economic life as a “metabolism.”32 However, although scholars have explored metaphors surrounding the economy, many overlook the figurative work of growth.

Certainly, growth references the literal increase of a statistical aggregate; it is nonmetaphorical insofar as that aggregate is real.33 But growth also carries a positive feeling beyond the idea of simple increase. Growing is, of course, what biological beings do. The word calls forth not just augmentation but an emergent natural order coming to life. It stands for the satisfying culmination of that which is inevitable and good; the seed, germ, or embryo has already mapped out the full potential of the living being it will eventually become.34 Similarly, maturity is the act of coming into one’s own. If growth indexes a sense of happy expansion, the term can also function as what Michael Silverstein calls a second-order index.35 Uttering the word in contexts of development indexes not just expansion but also a specialized capitalist sense of well-being rooted in resource accumulation. In the word’s literal, metaphorical, and indexical resonances, growth connotes a sense of organic inevitability. In this capitalist framing, growth is perpetual. Death is not growth’s ultimate end point but its opposite.

Neoliberal development discourses position growth as a condition that, under the right circumstances, is unleashed. Michelle Murphy observes how a Nike Foundation campaign frames the act of one crucial investment in an imagined impoverished girl as releasing a “cascade” of win-win outcomes. As the campaign put it, “Invest in a girl and she will do the rest.”36 By buying into this framing, Murphy suggests, philanthropists avoid concerning themselves with the hard work of dismantling systemic gender injustices. Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson argue that frictionless growth is a fantasy from neoliberal boosters committed to the claim that markets are responsible for “smoothing out the world.”37 Anna Tsing suggests that the fantasy of growth is itself a highly mediated spectacle, a “conjuring” that is constitutive of global finance capital.38 And, underlying such “leveling technologies of globalization,” Macarena Gómez-Barris finds both the dispossessing violence of extractive capitalist and settler logics of elimination, and strategic logics of incorporation.39 With the help of these scholars, I found that I had to unlearn my own association of growth with the positive inevitabilities it connotes in order to see growth as a specific material arrangement, a performative repertoire, and a feeling that is actively curated.

The Gens collective, a feminist scholarly collaboration led by Laura Bear, Karen Ho, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako, makes a similar argument for unlearning received ideas about capitalism.40 They suggest that reading capitalism exclusively as a globally dominant, overpowering logic misses the ordinary ways it is generated in daily life through messy, intersectional, and uneven co-laboring between multiple actors, ideologies, sentiments, and nonhuman things. By tracking growth as an affective project within resource-based capitalism, I found that it too is generated in heterogeneous networks of power and activity and that it is frequently underlain and activated by unseen feminized labor. In the Sierra Sur competition, for example, Lilia, the development agent, was constantly expending emotional labor to ensure that contestants felt validated and confident in their public claims to capitalist success. Meanwhile, Elena, the contestant, engaged in the enervating labor of meeting staff expectations for a well-rounded, resource-extracting, Indigenous entrepreneurial woman. Sara Ahmed suggests that “emotions involve subjects and objects, but without residing positively within them.”41 Here, I ask how emotions centered on growth unevenly involve Andean villagers. In the scenes that populate this book, growth is a feeling generated in interactions staged according to the institutional fantasy that figures the market as an expanding frictionless trade in assets and resources.

Investments were essential material and rhetorical devices for stage-managing the growth projects that I followed in Peru. Investment is commonly defined as the act of taking on a financial stake in an asset, anticipating that its value will increase. The term is central to the contemporary global lexicon of neoliberal governance as an act that links leaders and the governed: Citizens who were once entitled to state protections or benefits are reframed as entrepreneurs that the state might choose to invest in.42 Investment can also be read as a kind of extractive care. With its root in “clothe” (as in vest or investiture), investment means contact. It entails aligning with or placing a claim on something or someone in the hope of reaping a return. It calls for a speculative attachment. In the projects that populate this book, investments were both financial and affective. Beyond just monetary supports for promising entrepreneurs, they configured face-to-face interactions to seed promises of a vibrant economy and to extract specific behaviors and feelings. Affect smoothed over many of the frictions of financial investment, especially given that the money dispensed to villagers was usually minimal. I found that investing in the imagined figure of the growth-ready Andean entrepreneur meant pairing meager funds with elaborate “moral support” (as one project participant put it) that usually came from development staff members who were women.

If market frictionlessness is a fantasy, I found that everyday representations of that fantasy were vital to the affective labor of making growth feel real in Caylloma and Espinar Provinces. Carlos Gutierrez, a freelance development consultant based in Yanque, voiced his version of the fantasy when he told me in an interview, “I don’t work with poor people. I work with entrepreneurs.” He suggested that success in enterprise comes to people who want it. Other development workers I spent time with framed growth as something villagers could achieve by working against a supposedly inertial dependence on others, which they called asistencialismo (assistance addiction). Staff argued that aid may suit a crisis, but, like the clichéd gift of a fish, material support fails to bring about fundamental transformation.43 Instead, small investments, they argued, provided just enough support to spur the salutary motivation for villagers to recognize their own resource wealth and build a growth-ready enterprise. In contrast to a handout, with an investment the entrepreneur would “do the rest.” Staff practices of disparaging dependence as a growth inhibitor ignored the interdependence, mutual legitimation, and friction-riddled micropolitics that accompanied their actually existing growth projects.


1. Unless otherwise indicated, I use real names throughout this book, as my interlocutors usually asked to be on record. I indicate where I use a pseudonym.

2. Benavides (1983).

3. “Bench of gold” is a phrase from Peruvian Italian explorer Antonio Raimondi (1824–1890) that circulated widely in urban Peruvian public life. According to Fabiana Li (2015), the idea “placed the blame on Peruvians who seemed unwilling or unable to make effective use of the country’s bountiful resources” (13). A related notion is ex-president Alan García’s famously indignant descriptions of anti-extraction environmentalists and villagers as “the dog in the manger, who prays: ‘If I don’t do it, let nobody do it’” (García Pérez 2007).

4. According to the Ministry of Economy and Finance poverty mapping initiative, the 2018 monetary poverty rate for Caylloma Province was between 14.4% and 20% (INEI 2020), and its extreme monetary poverty was 6.1% (CEPLAN 2017). Monetary poverty in Espinar Province ranged between 23.9% and 38% (INEI 2020), with an extreme monetary poverty rate of 5.2% (CEPLAN 2017).

5. De Soto (2000), 4, 6.

6. Lossio Chávez (2018).

7. Beck (2017); Bornstein (2005); Ferguson (1990); Mosse (2005); Radcliffe (2015).

8. Nixon (2011).

9. See Ross (2001) for a paradigmatic example of the resource curse framework. Appel (2019) critiques this literature, as does a robust tradition of scholarship in political ecology. See, in particular, Tubb (2020), Watts (2004), and Watts and Peluso (2014).

10. I use village as a translation of the Spanish villa or pueblo, used in the region to designate a settlement that has a name, whether that means a municipal district (such as Yanque) or an autonomous annex to a district (such as Taya).

11. García (2021).

12. Puig de la Bellacasa (2017).

13. Murphy (2015), 719.

14. Murphy (2015), 721.

15. Hochschild (1983), 7.

16. Salazar Parreñas (2018), 6.

17. Cookson (2018).

18. Wenzel (2020), 148. See also Escobar (1999) and N. Smith (2010). Jason Moore (2016) scales this framework up to capitalism as a whole, which he reads as a means of organizing nature.

19. Galeano (1973).

20. Tsing (2015b).

21. Marx (1990), 727.

22. Bunker (1985), 20.

23. Himley (2012).

24. Freeman (2014, 57) mobilizes this concept, based on Raymond Williams’s “structures of feeling” (1977, 132), to track how the categories, desires, and marginalizations of neoliberal capitalism press into the intimate texture of everyday life in Barbados.

25. Ethnographic quotations in this book were originally uttered in Spanish unless noted otherwise.

26. (2020).

27. Callon (1998).

28. Appel (2019); Ho (2009).

29. Appel (2019), 212.

30. Mirowski (1989).

31. Hodgson (2005).

32. Marx (1990); Paulson (2017), 428.

33. Chertkovskaya and Paulsson (2016) identify three dimensions of contemporary growth: increasing biophysical throughput, capital accumulation, and the imperative for national economies to expand.

34. This resonates with Claudia Castañeda’s (2002) analysis of the figure of the child. See next section.

35. Silverstein (1998).

36. Murphy (2017), 117.

37. Mezzadra and Neilson (2015), 7.

38. Tsing (2000).

39. Gómez-Barris (2017), xvii. See also Simpson (2014) and TallBear (2019).

40. Bear et al. (2015). For examples of research into the continual and often unseen labor of generating capitalism, see also Bear (2015), Rofel and Yanagisako (2019), Schuster (2015), Tsing (2015a), and Yanagisako (2002). Gibson-Graham (2006) was influential in these inquiries, offering a framework for economic diversity that actively resists “capitalocentric” economic discourse.

41. Ahmed (2004), 119.

42. W. Brown (2015); Morton (2015).

43. Ferguson (2015).