Affect, Ecofeminism, and Intersectional Struggles in Latin America

A Tribute to Berta Cáceres

by Irune Gabiola (Author)
©2020 Monographs XVI, 184 Pages


Affect, Ecofeminism, and Intersectional Struggles in Latin America: A Tribute to Berta Cáceres examines the power of affect in structuring decolonizing modes of resistance performed by social movements such as COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras). Despite a harsh legacy of colonialism, indigenous communities continue suffering from territorial displacements, dispossession, and human rights abuses due to extractivist projects that are violently destroying their land and, therefore, the environment. In particular, the Lenca communities in Honduras have been negatively affected by Western ideas of "progress" and "development" that have historically eliminated ancestral knowledges and indigenous ecological cosmologies while reinforcing Eurocentrism. Nevertheless, by reflecting on and articulating strategies for resisting neoliberalism, COPINH and its cofounder Berta Cáceres’ commitment to environmental activism, ecofeminism, and intersectional struggles has contributed affectively and effectively to the production of democratic encounters in pursuit of social justice. In homage to Berta, who was brutally assassinated for her activism in 2016, this book takes the reader on an affective journey departing from the violent affects experienced by the Lencas due to colonial disruption, contemporary industrialization, and criminalization, towards COPINH’s political and social intervention fueled by outrage, resistance, transnational solidarity, care, mourning, and hope. In this way, subaltern actors nurture the power to—in line with Brian Massumi’s interpretation of affect—transform necropolitics into natality with the aim of creating a fairer and better world.
The volume is an ideal contribution to environmental studies, cultural studies, and Latin American studies courses focused on social movements, activism, ecofeminism, and postcolonialism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Advance Praise
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: ¡Berta no ha muerto, Berta se ha multiplicado! Paving the Way for an Affective Journey
  • Chapter One: Preserving the Affective Being: Reconsiderations of Affect from a Non-Western Perspective
  • Chapter Two: Indigenous Ecologies: The Relevance of Affect in Ecofeminist Movements
  • Chapter Three: On Violent Affects: A History of Extractivism and Criminalization in Central America
  • Chapter Four: From Outrage to Resistance: Social Movements in Honduras
  • Chapter Five: Affective Solidarity and a Politics of Care: Reflection and Action Beyond Borders
  • Chapter Six: On Mourning and Hope: A Transformational Path Toward Social Justice
  • Conclusion: Utopia: An Affective Work in Progress
  • Index

List of Illustrations

Book Cover

Top: Berta Cáceres with COPINH and Río Blanco community members honoring colleagues killed during the two-year struggle. Honduras’ violent climate is well known to many, but few understand that environmental and human rights activists are its victims. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Bottom: Berta Cáceres and the Lenca community’s efforts successfully kept construction equipment out of the proposed dam site. In late 2013, Sinohydro terminated its contract with DESA, publicly citing ongoing community resistance and outrage following Tomás’ death. Agua Zarca suffered another blow when the IFC withdrew its funding, citing concerns about human rights violations. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)


Fig. Intro.1 Berta Cáceres, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner for South and Central America, receiving her award. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

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Fig. Intro.2 Berta Cáceres with her mother Doña Austra Berta in their home in La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching Berta and her siblings the value of standing up for disenfranchised people. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Chapter 4

Fig. 4.1 Berta Cáceres, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for South and Central America, giving her acceptance speech. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Fig. 4.2 Berta Cáceres founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Fig. 4.3 Berta Cáceres tapes a radio segment in the studio of Radio Guarajambala, a community radio station at COPINH’s office in La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Chapter 5

Fig. 5.1 In 2006, community members from Río Blanco understood that an aggression against the Gualcarque River—place of spiritual importance to the Lenca people—was an act against the community, its free will, and its autonomy. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Chapter 6

Fig. 6.1 Berta Cáceres on the banks of the Gualcarque River in the Río Blanco region of Western Honduras. The river is a source of water, food, medicine, and spiritual identity for the indigenous Lenca people. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

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Fig. 6.2 With mandates from local community members, Berta Cáceres filed complaints against the Agua Zarca Dam with government authorities, bringing along community representatives on trips to Tegucigalpa. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

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I have written this book through a myriad of conflicting affects accompanied by many thousand tears. The time devoted to the production of a book is often insurmountable due to extra life and work duties along the way. However, in this case, the timing was timely. The composition of this book was intermittently interrupted by social media and breaking news notifications on environmental disasters, on the increasing number of environmental activists killed, on more injustice enacted throughout Berta’s trial, on the burning of the Amazons, on climate change, global warming, and on the reality of unaffected governments characterized by tremendous greed and corruption. The main idea erupted for the love of an incredible woman whose power, persistence, brilliance, and devotion to social justice was suddenly shattered on the night of March 2nd, 2016. The tremendous affect of Berta’s death led me to embark on a personal affective journey that echoes the capacity to affect and to spread affection of social and environmental movements such as COPINH. During the process, I have often cried watching interviews with Berta and listening to her daughters’ words full of outrage and indignation because of the extreme levels of corruption and political impunity in Honduras. Nevertheless, their frustration often brought contagious energy and strength full of tenderness, love, care, and hope invested in their endless struggle for social justice. All the tears and sadness activated my desire to contribute, with this book, to action; to ←xiii | xiv→continue the legacy of Berta and to “move” and “touch” as many people as possible, so one day we can inhabit a better and fairer world.

I am grateful to Butler University for the instructional and on-campus internationalization grants I obtained to develop courses on ecofeminism, allowing me the time to research what became the origin of this book. Similarly, the research grant was essential for in-depth reflection and the elaboration of the last chapters. I am also fortunate to have had the constant support of friends and colleagues such as Mar Soria López, Sholeh Shahrokhi, Ann Savage, and Terri Carney whose trust, friendship, and acts of care are boundless. The talented insights of my students with thought-provoking comments constantly enrich my own interpretations of current events and illuminate new perspectives on diversity, and on challenging topics such as violence, environmental racism, neoliberalism, etc. I have been able to incorporate photographs of Berta, Austra, and copines thanks to the Goldman Environmental Foundation that granted me access to use as many pictures as I desired. Thank you Edwina Dueñas for providing me with these beautiful images of Berta because an image speaks a thousand words and its affective capacity moves far beyond language.

My personal and intellectual affective journey would have never been possible without the unconditional love of my mother, Begoña, and my brother, Asier, whose daily words of encouragement fill the voids I feel, navigating an interstitial identity split between Bilbao and Indianapolis. I will be forever thankful for those endearing moments I spend with them during my trips back home and their visits to Indy; full of inspiring conversations and emotional support, they are the home I inhabit everywhere I go. Lastly, I am beyond thankful to my life partner Bridget O’Ryan; this book would have never seen the light without your infinite love and appreciation. Your tender, serene, and patient personality affects me in extraordinary and powerful ways I would have never thought possible. Thank you for irradiating so much abundance, and, above all, for sharing my passion for nature—my nature romantic.

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¡Berta no ha muerto, Berta se ha multiplicado! Paving the Way for an Affective Journey

“Berta no luchó por un río, su trabajo no era local. Murió por algo de lo que todos somos responsables: por la biodiversidad del planeta. No podemos dar la espalda a su causa.”

(Berta did not fight for a river, her work was not local. She died for something we all are responsible for: the Earth’s biodiversity. We cannot turn our backs to this cause.)



XVI, 184
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVI, 184 pp., 8 color ill.

Biographical notes

Irune Gabiola (Author)

Irune del Rio Gabiola is Associate Professor of Spanish at Butler University. She is the author of Resistant Bodies in the Cultural Productions of Transnational Hispanic Caribbean Women: Re/imagining Queer Identity as well as numerous articles on feminist, postcolonial, and queer studies in the Caribbean.


Title: Affect, Ecofeminism, and Intersectional Struggles in Latin America