Amazon shipping, commodity flows and urban economic development: the case of Belém and Manaus

This paper addresses the fraught relationships among commodity trade, urban economic development and the environment in the world’s largest rainforest reserve, in a historical narrative fashion. The conceptual framework in which we position this narrative is provided by Hesse (2010), in the “site” and “situation” dimensions of the interaction between places or locales on the one hand, and material flows or global value chains on the other. It is argued that the assemblage of both site and situation is what shapes the wealth of cities. The case study of Manaus and Belém shows how the rapid urbanization of the Amazon rainforest is accompanied by the growth of shipping as “new” commodities are being extracted from the jungle interior.