The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

The making of a conservation frontier: Nation-building, green productivism, and environmentalism in Patagonia


Piergiorgio de Giminiani

Elliott Oakley


In Patagonia, emerging concerns over environmental degradation in frontier territories suggest the constitution of a new type of frontier—the conservation frontier—in which nature is an object of consumption rather than extraction. Conservation frontiers are made through disputed forms of spatialization, in which wilderness can be a refuge, a source of capital accumulation, and a new space for political experimentation. Three overlapping yet conflicting processes constitute the conservation frontier: nation-building, green productivism, and environmentalism. The material and discursive making of a conservation frontier illustrates how environmental conservation both disrupts and extends settler projects of territorialization.