chapter  16
A ‘European Valley’ in South America: regionalisation, colonisation and environmental inequalities in Santa
ByCatarina, Brazil
Pages 14

The Brazilian state of Santa Catarina is widely viewed as being the most European of the Brazilian states, due to the nineteenth-century colonisation by European immigrants. Nevertheless, the construction of the regional identity as ‘European’ implies the invisibility of other sociocultural and ethnic identities that have been historically subalternised or excluded, resulting in inequities that usually remain unrecognised. In this chapter we analyse how the tourist regionalisation process known as the ‘European Valley’ updates and reinforces these inequities, thus contributing to the maintenance of a colonial relationship. We base our reflections here on the territorialisation process of the state of Santa Catarina by analysing the colonisation process and the state government’s construction of regional divisions. Regionalisation is considered here as a form of territorialisation. The analysis focuses on the symbolic and institutional dimension of territorialisation; the latter is expressed in the drawing of administrative policy boundaries on behalf of the state. We use the term ‘territorialisation’ to refer to the process by which the territory has been defined and reified over the course of history, thereby rooting the communities’ cultural identities. In our case study, the territorialisation process is described as highly conflict-laden owing to the colonial occupation of indigenous peoples’ territories. The conjunction between colonisation and the territorial configuration process resulted in the stereotypical opposition between social groups identified as ‘Brazilian’ and the people of European descent. Although this process appears to have been completed during the nineteenth century, we illustrate how it is still ongoing as revealed through contemporary tourist regionalisation. We argue that the tourist regionalisation labelled as the ‘European Valley’ is a specific form of territoralisation that reifies a naturalised territorial construction which began with a colonisation process characterised by violence against the indigenous peoples of the region. We use reification here in a sociological way meaning ‘to give reality’, which refers to an understanding of regions not as

pre-given but as socially and historically constructed. In Santa Catalina (SC) this regional construction occurred in a context of conflict. This reification maintains and updates the relations typical of coloniality, while at the same time reinforcing the invisibility of regional indigenous concerns. From the indigenous peoples’ point of view, the fundamental problem is the disastrous effects of the state’s flood-control policy as exemplified in the dam built on indigenous territory. The dam’s construction and its effect on the indigenous people is just one of the unrecognised inequalities (in this case, an environmental one) represented in the state of Santa Catarina.