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Abstract

Changing fire regimes in the context of climate change call for new understandings of their diversity, use, policies, practices and politics. While catastrophic fires are redoubling calls for suppression, new political ecologies debate fire prohibition politics and emphasise understanding and incorporating local knowledge into management decisions. Latin American countries are characterised by strong regional tensions associated with environmental policies, agriculture and infrastructure development that often compete with local livelihoods, traditional management and a range of resource use practices. Landscape knowledge systems that inform customary use, access and resource interventions have become a new node of contestation; these are added to the perennial question of land rights, especially as carbon politics and other environmental services become more important in the structuring of autonomy over land uses. This themed section presents research conducted in different countries and biomes in Latin America and explores the historical and current tensions around the development of the science of burning by local populations. Research outlines the contradictions and tensions between fire control policies and rural livelihoods, and the emergent political factors and ideologies that inherent in fire conflicts and could help shape solutions. Our four case studies in different regions of south America (Amazon, Cerrado, Chiquitana), explore the production, application and circulation of knowledge about fire and its consequences using an array of methods: classical descriptive models, analytics from political ecology, and the complex arena of science and technology studies. The latter help us to understand the conflictual dynamics associated with "new fire management," which relies on more technological means of fire control as well as legislation, payments, and new governmentalities to transform traditional practices. Overall, the papers place fire management in its new active political and ecological framing, namely at the heart of current development debates in the Latin American tropics.

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