Diana Córdoba

Diana Córdoba

Assistant Professor

PhD (Social Sciences), Wageningen University

Mackintosh-Corry Hall, A404

Global Development Studies

Queen's University

People Directory Affiliation Category

Curriculum Vitae (PDF 201 KB)

My research focuses on the study of social and environmental impacts of new practices, technologies, and models of rural and territorial development and the role played by the state, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social movements and agrarian organizations in the implementation of these initiatives. It seeks to advance the theoretical and empirical understandings of the interlinked global challenges of agrarian transformation, social justice, and environmental sustainability. I draw on critical agrarian studies and political ecology approaches to emphasize the interactions between local situations and wider economic and political processes in which power influences the (uneven) distribution of resources and shapes development discourses, interventions and institutions. I have thus far focused on Latin America, specifically Bolivia, Brazil, and Colombia, and in recent years I have initiated research efforts in Argentina, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

A key focal area of my research efforts includes the role of the state and models of collective action of different excluded sectors (peasants, indigenous and Afro-descendent communities), vis-à-vis neoliberal politics. My research in Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil investigates whether the ascendance to power of progressive governments supported by social movements create ‘post-neoliberal’ alternatives for implementing development approaches, or whether, on the contrary, they too continue with the reproduction of neoliberalism. In Mexico, a textbook example of successive neoliberal governments, I study the implementation of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes in the state of Veracruz. In contrast to the critical literature that portray PES schemes as neoliberal models, my work shows how these schemes merged, shaped and strengthened local institutions but also fostered new ways of water governance at the local level towards social transformation.

Another focus of my research is on the role of non-state actors in promoting and implementing non-state interventions, and their complex engagements with the state and rural organizations.  Particularly, I have focused on social technologies —often adopted as managerial tool for project development efficiency in rural interventions— such as participatory approaches and methodologies used by agricultural and environmental NGOs in Bolivia and the deployment of Fair Trade certification schemes in Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru, both intended to promote participation and empowerment of marginalized actors. My research demonstrates that these social technologies are not neutral mechanisms, but rather highly political tools used to govern resource sectors in particular ways. Furthermore, I show that participation and empowerment processes are not only about power but also about finding a balance with the material conditions and expertise fundamental for project implementation and success.

I welcome students in the areas of political ecology and rural studies.

You are welcome to brainstorm about your interests or the following topics: political ecology of natural resource management; expansion of commodity crops; sustainability standards and fair trade; conflicts and struggles in the agrarian frontier; state formation and citizenship; participatory approaches for agrarian development; social justice, and technology.

For a full list of academic publications, see my Google Scholar or Researchgate page.

*If you do not have free access and want to read something, feel free to contact me via email.


2014   Córdoba, D. Participation, Politics, and Technology: Agrarian development in post-neoliberal Bolivia. Wageningen School of Social Sciences: Wageningen, the Netherlands (ISBN 978-74-6257-066).

Refereed Journal Articles

2021    Córdoba, D., Peredo, A. and P. Chaves. Shaping Alternatives to Development: Solidarity and Reciprocity in The Andes During COVID-19. World Development.

2020    Córdoba, D., Pischke, E. C., Selfa, T., Jones, K. W., & Avila-Foucat, S. (2020). When Payment for Ecosystem Services Meets Culture: A Culture Theory Perspective. Society & Natural Resources, 1-19.

2019    Córdoba, D., Juen, L., Selfa, T., Peredo, A.M., Fogaça-Montag L., and Sombra, D. Understanding Local Perceptions of the Impacts of Large-Scale Oil Palm Plantations on Ecosystem Services in the Brazilian Amazon. Forest Policy and Economics, 109.

2018   Nava-López, M., Selfa, T., Córdoba, D., Pischke, E. C., Torrez, D., Ávila-Foucat S., Halvorsen K., and Maganda C. Decentralizing Payments for Hydrological Services Programs in Veracruz, Mexico: Challenges and Implications for Long-term Sustainability, Society and Natural Resources

2018   Córdoba, D. Selfa, T., Abrams, J. and Sombra, D. Family Farming, Agribusiness and the State: Building consent around oil palm expansion in post-neoliberal Brazil. Journal of Rural Studies 57, 147-156

2018   Córdoba, D., Chiappe, M. Abrams, J., and Selfa, T. Fueling social inclusion? Neo-extractivism, state-society relations and biofuel policies in Latin America’s Southern Cone. Development and Change, 41 (9)

2017   Córdoba, D. Politicization, participation and innovation: Socializing agricultural research in Bolivia. Apuntes 81, 131-160. Special Issue in Science and Technology in Latin America.

2017  Córdoba, D., Jansen, K., and González, C. Empowerment through articulations between post-neoliberal politics and neoliberalism: value chain alliances in Bolivia. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 38 (1).

2016  Tejada, G., Dalla-Nora, E., Córdoba, D., Lafortezza, R., Ovando, A., Assis, T., and Aguiar, A. Deforestation scenarios for the Bolivian lowlands. Environmental Research, 144, 49-63.

2016  Córdoba, D. and Jansen, K. Realigning the political and the technical: NGOs and the politicization of agrarian development in Bolivia. European Journal of Development Research, 28 (3) 447–464

2014  Córdoba, D. and Jansen, K. The Malleability of participation: The politics of agricultural research under neoliberalism in Bolivia. Development and Change, 45 (6), 1284-1309.

2014  Córdoba, D. and Jansen, K. Same disease—different research strategies: Bananas and Black Sigatoka in Brazil and Colombia. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 35 (3), 345-361.

2014  Mundet, C., Córdoba, D., Alvarez, S., and Cittadini, E.D. Participatory analysis of the sweet cherry sector in Argentinian South Patagonia. Acta Horticulturae, Vol. 1020: 529-535.

2014  Mundet, C., Baltuska, N., Córdoba, D., Sanz, C., and Cittadini, E.D. Deriving socio-economic indicators for sustainability assessment of sweet cherry farming systems in South. Acta Horticulturae, Vol. 1020: 523-528.

2013  Córdoba, D. and Jansen, K. The Return of the State: Neocollectivism, Agrarian Politics and Images of Technological Progress in the MAS Era in Bolivia. Journal of Agrarian Change, 14: 480–500.

2010 Alvarez S., Douthwaite B., Mackay R., Córdoba, D., and Tehelen, K. Participatory impact pathways analysis: a practical method for project planning and evaluation. Development in Practice, 20(8): 946-958.

Book chapters

2019    Pischke, E. C., Berry, C., Kolka, R. K., Salcone, J., Córdoba, D., Shinbrot, X., Lopez-Ramirez, S. M., Jones, K., Congalton, R. G., Manson, R. H., Von Thaden-Ugalde, J. J., Selfa, T., Avila, S., Asbjornsen, H. Lessons Learned About Collaborating Across Coupled Human-Natural Systems Research on Mexico’s Payments for Hydrological Services Program. In Stephen Pérez Ed. Collaboration Across Boundaries for Interdisciplinary Environmental Systems Science: Experiences Around the World. Palgrave Macmillan Book

2019    Abrams, J., Córdoba, D., Sidortsov, R., Schelly, C., and Gorman, H. Power within and beyond the state: Understanding how power relations shape environmental management. In: Halvorsen, K., Schelly, C., Handler, R., and J. Knowlton. A Research Agenda for Environmental Management, Research Agenda Series, Edward Elgar Publishing. 2018