Radical ruralities in practice: Negotiating buen vivir in a Colombian network of sustainability

M.C. Chaves*, Thomas Macintyre, G.M. Verschoor, A.E.J. Wals

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the emerging concept of buen vivir – interpreted as integrative and collective well-being – as it is being envisioned and practiced by a network of sustainability initiatives in Colombia. As an example of a transition narrative currently taking place in Latin America and beyond, buen vivir represents a turn towards a more biocentric, relational and collective means of understanding and being in the world. Yet despite the many discourses into buen vivir (many of which tout it as an alternative to neoliberal models of development), there is a general lack of research into its varied forms of application, especially in terms of lived experiences. Drawing on the new ruralities literature, this paper explores the extent to which buen vivir visions and practices represent radical new ruralities – so-called alternatives to development. Data were collected from individuals and ecological communities in predominantly rural areas who are members of the Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas (CASA), a network which promotes many of the principles of buen vivir. Through participatory methods, results demonstrate that CASA visions are based on constructing territorial relations through intercultural knowledge exchange and experimentation into alternative lifestyles. Despite the substantial challenges and contradictions of putting these visions into practice, we argue that lived experiences promote processes of self-reflection on what buen vivir really is or could be. We hold that the inclusive nature of buen vivir offers opportunities for diverse peoples to cohere around shared meanings of the 'good life,' while providing the freedom to live variations depending on social and ecological context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-162
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date8 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Buen vivir
  • Colombia
  • New ruralities
  • Radical ruralities
  • Sustainability
  • Territoriality


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